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Holiday Giving: The Super Sharing Season

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | December 22, 2011 | Child Development

Any parent of a preschooler knows the subject of sharing warrants an entire how-to manual. So although our four-part series on sharing is all wrapped up today, just in time for the holidays, we hope you’ll refer back to it – and print and upload our adorable sharing activities – throughout 2012.  But first, check out how The Two Bears work out their holiday gift-giving dilemma.

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Sometimes, we have unrealistic expectations of our little ones. Preschoolers are tricky that way. One minute they seem so grown up – then suddenly, they’re like the unpredictable, wacky toddlers they were just a few short months ago.  They’re moving targets for our lessons on sharing – not an easy task.

Luckily, they come prewired to care for others. But it’s a long stretch in development and experience before they can actually put themselves in their friends’ shoes, turning caring into empathy – and empathy into sharing a favorite treat with a sad friend. Soon, they’ll learn that sharing – and giving – feel pretty great, too.

But it doesn’t stop there. Kindness, empathy, and sharing grow over time and blossom into altruism – the unselfish concern for other people. Altruism, one of the most powerful and uniquely human traits, is in great demand these days. So just think: The next time you give your preschooler a lesson in sharing, you’re giving a gift to humanity. How’s that for holiday gift-giving?

Here are a few more tips for your little gift to humanity:

  • Giving – not Getting. Make the holidays about giving. Preschoolers love making and giving things for special others. That makes the “getting” part a fun bonus.
  • Gratitude. Focus on thankfulness for what the family does have, and for any gifts received. Make a big deal out of personalized thank-you projects, encouraging your kids’ contributions to the effort.
  • Manage expectations. Don’t get sucked in to images of holiday perfection. Stressed parents = stressed kids. Relax and enjoy family, friends, food, and fun. Have the kids pass out holiday treats to prove just how popular “givers” can be!
  • Just say “No, thanks.” Allow your kids NOT to share. Some things hold a special place in your child’s heart, and it’s your job to help her learn how to protect those things. As long as she’s making progress with sharing, support her when she has important things to keep to herself, too.
  • Perspective. Help your kids learn about those who have less. Even preschoolers can help organize canned goods at food banks, and collect donations from family friends to make donations. Make altruism a regular part of family life.

I’m grateful to be able to connect with so many parents all year long. Have a wonderful holiday – and Happy 2012!