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The inability or unwillingness to share a toy or other item is not something your child will outgrow naturally. The concept of sharing is an integral part of the Christian faith, and the first century church – as outlined in the book of Acts – set the pace for all believers to have everything in common. Unfortunately, this is not a lesson that is easily supported by playground behavior or play dates. With the help of easy game play, you might be able to get the point across.
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Sharing Hands Book and Activity
This is an exceptional game for the daycare setting. Each child is assigned a “Sharing Hands" book with plenty of free pages. Begin each day with a new sharing exercise for the book. Ask the children to come up with ideas for what they can share today. Pick one suggestion, and encourage the children to either find and glue pictures into their “Sharing Hands" book, or simply draw the item discussed. Act out how sharing this item looks like in practice.
For example, on day one the children might decide that they could share a ball. Each child draws a ball on the first page of their respective “Sharing Hands" books. When the artwork is completed, hand the first child a ball, and ask him to share it with his neighbor. Teach the second child to verbalize that she wants a turn, and model how the first child can verbalize assent. Let this continue around the room.
Identify the toys your toddlers have the hardest time sharing. Purchase one or two of them. Place them in a special trunk with a lock. Declare that this is the sharing box. Only children, who share, may play with the toys inside. As soon as the first child grabs the toy away from another, loudly proclaims “it’s mine!" or simply pushes another child out of the way to get a turn, he is banned from playing with the special toy.
This only works if the toy in the box is better than the other toys your toddlers have. For example, if sharing a ball is a real trial, purchase the shiniest red ball you can find. Frequently throughout the day, declare that it is sharing box time; call the kids together and have a very quick prayer moment emphasizing that you are asking God to help all children to share. Open the box and allow the toddlers to play with the ball, as long as they follow the rules. At the end of each play session, the ball is locked up with a lot of ceremony.
The Loaves and Fishes Game a.k.a. Stone Soup
You probably remember the Biblical story of the loaves and fishes that miraculously fed more than 5,000 onlookers. There is also the secular story of Stone Soup, which inspired – in one version – a whole village to combine their individual offerings for a joint culinary experience.
You need a big pot or sack for this activity. Each child picks one toy s/he expressly plans on sharing today. This means – for this day – s/he commits to giving up that toy at any time, when another child asks for a turn. Do not focus so much on the other toys the toddlers has a hard time sharing, but enforce the sharing commitment for the chosen toy. After about a week, expand the number of toys from one to two or three. Continue on until your toddler commits to share virtually any toy.
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Although Christianity is known for its tenet of sharing, the use of Christian games for the express purpose of teaching a youngster to share does not guarantee success. That being said, these game ideas are not limited to participants of the Christian faith.
Finally, it is important to point out that even though sharing is a desirable trait, there also needs to be a counter balance that respects a child’s need for having some toy(s) that are special to her/him, which s/he would not like to share. You can tell the difference by noting that the toddler’s unwillingness to share is tied to the specific object rather than the class of objects. For example, s/he may be willing to share stuffed toys, except the one stuffed toy, which she received from a beloved grandparent. This is an early form of boundary formation that needs to be respected by you and other children as well.
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- Sharing Hands book templates: http://www.mssscrafts.com/crafts/hands/
Learning to Share: Three Christian Toddler Games
Helping children internalize the tenets of the Christian faith is oftentimes done via extensive curricula and carefully designed Sunday school lessons. You may be surprised to learn that occasionally the little interludes and unplanned filler games have more of an impact.