To share or not to share—it’s a hot topic among childcare providers and parents today. While all of us want children to develop qualities like generosity and empathy, making them share toys may not be the best way to do it.
True goodwill must come voluntarily from a child, and we can work on developing thoughtfulness in other ways that are more effective. Moreover, it is not respectful to a child to force him to share toys and doing so often interrupts his mental engagement.
Generally, personal toys belong at home and should not be brought to daycare or preschool. This will avoid issues with sharing and it will help create a classroom community where the materials belong to all of the children and therefore must be taken care of well. In preschool, there is no need to bring one’s own set of colored pencils and scissors, for example.
There are going to be exceptions to this rule, and when it happens, it’s best to gently explain to little ones that all of us get to decide whether we want to share our own belongings. There are surely some personal possessions that teachers bring along each day and would prefer not share, like a purse or a favorite ring. Children deserve the same level of respect.
Young children as a whole lack the ability to moderate their own turn-taking. At least, they are not good at knowing how long is appropriate to use a material so that everyone can get a chance. However, instead of jumping in and moderating turn-taking for them, Montessori takes a completely different approach.
In the Montessori classroom, students are free to work with a chosen material for as long as they desire.
Assuming that they are using the material for its intended purpose, there are no two minute timers and there is no limit on how many times a single puzzle can be completed, broken apart, and completed again.
We do not force children to stop working because Maria Montessor reminds us that we should never interrupt a child who is focused and engaged in their work. Allowing their concentration to last as long as it naturally will is the very best way to help them increase their attention span. This lets kids master skills right on time through each sensitive period. We “follow the child” because the Montessori philosophy rests on the concept that children are made to lead their own learning.
What About Hogging?
So what happens if one child uses the same material all day every day for an extended period of time? What about others in that same sensitive period? In the ideal world a child who is “stuck” on a material will repeat it with fervor and just as suddenly, she will move on to another work. Realistically, this can sometimes cause an issue in the classroom.
The best way to solve this problem is to let the children come up with a solution. This would be done at a class meeting and with the amount of teacher guidance needed for the age level. Another way is to set up a system where the kids can use one material for an entire work period or day, but choose something different the next work period or day.
How Will They Learn to Share?
Children learn to be kind and generous when they see the adults and older children in their lives modeling behavior that exemplifies these values. This is one reason why Montessori schools have mixed age classrooms. However, the teacher’s example is most powerful. Live your values mindfully and watch your children become authentically generous over time.