Hose Exploration and Some Thoughts on Toddlers Sharing
We say this a lot, but the simplest activities are often the most meaningful for the littlest kids. Pull out your hose, turn it on, and let your children play. We did this first when our kids were about 13 months old. Children love to splash the water, hold the hose, pull it, and drink from the hose. It is a wet, splashy good time. It also happens to fit perfectly with our current interest in Fire Fighters. Remember our trip to the fire station and our walks to the fire hydrants? As I mentioned in these posts, my son is most interested in the hoses and water part of a fire fighters' job. Playing with the hose seems like a natural sensory and pretend play activity for him. As I stated above, very little set up is required here and I generally just let them play and explore with the hose. Sometimes they are fire fighters, sometimes not and that's okay.
Either way, our general issue with the hose and our twins is that there is one hose and two kids. This is where sharing comes into play so I thought I would share some tips about sharing.
Sharing with Toddlers
Teaching infants and toddlers to share seems to be on the forefront of the minds of parents and teachers. Sharing is good. We want our children to get along with others. We want our children to be kind and thoughtful. However, developmentally, toddlers are extremely focused on themselves and their needs. This is normal. It is okay. Overtime, they gradually learn to look outside of themselves and consider others more. In the meantime, there are some ways to help reduce conflicts and begin looking at someone else's perspective.
1. What Needs to be Shared
Everyone has things that they don't share. They belong only to you. My wedding ring, my pillow, my favorite pajama pants come to mind. For everyone these are different, but all adults have something that they do not share. We should respect this right to privacy for our children as well. They should be allowed some things that they do not have to share. We have twins and I believe that for them this is especially important that they have their separate, unique property. Beyond these few items, most things should be shared at some point.
2. Language for Sharing Conflicts
Generally, when a conflict over an item arises someone had it first. Let's call them Toddler A. I usually give Toddler B, the child who wants the items two options. Toddler B can find something else to play with (if there is a similar or identical item now is a great time to point it out) or ask if they can use it. Typically, they want to ask.
When they want a turn with something, now is a great time to teach them language to use. First, I offer Toddler B the phrase "Can I use that?" Generally the answer is No. In that case, because No is an okay answer to a questions, there is a second option. Second, Toddler B can tell Toddler A, "I want to be next." This does not mean that the Toddler A needs to rush, merely it respects that they are using it, but when they are done they should give it to the child who wants to be next. Toddler attention spans are quite short and typically they loose interest in an item within moments and the other child can have a turn.
At first, your toddler(s) might be disappointed that they do not immediately get to use something, but they will catch on. Help them by offering to do something else with them or pointing out two other fun things they could try. If they melt on the floor in tears, say calmly and kindly "You feel really sad because it isn't your turn with the hose". Stay near and offer comfort if that is helpful to your child. If they seem to prefer space, you can remind them that you are nearby if they need you and give them the space to calm down.
When Toddler A is done playing with the hose, I encourage them to give it to their playmate or at least say "I'm done. It's your turn now". As with everything, this gets easier and more natural with practice and age.
3. Special Circumstances
In very rare circumstances, there is something that children are going to want endlessly. The hose is one of those things for us. My son will happily play with the hose until the sun sets and we must go inside. My daughter would never get a chance. In these situations, I use a timer. Usually I just use the timer on my phone. Toddlers do not get the concept of time, but they do understand a statement such as, "When the duck quacks it will be the next person's turn." Perhaps I should clarify that they help me pick the alarm sound on my phone - duck quaking and dog barking being their favorites. I do this rarely, but this is my backup sharing technique.
In most instance, however, we focus on teaching respect. We respect the right of all people, young and old, to have certain special items that they do not have to share. We respect the right of someone to use something until they are done. We respect the message of someone else and share an item when we are done.
How do you teach your toddler about sharing?
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