How to Teach Your Child to Take Turns

Taking turns is an important skill for all preschoolers to master. Children who do not learn turn-taking skills often struggle with developing and maintaining friendships in preschool and beyond. Fortunately, there are many healthy and creative ways you can teach your child to learn to take turns.

Give Your Child Time to Practice

splash pad3Give your child time to practice taking turns with other children of the same age. Play groups, play dates, structured activities, classes, and even a simple trip to the park can give your child the opportunity to learn to take turns with other children.

If practicing outside the home isn’t enough, encourage your child to practice at home with siblings. Play games that require cooperation and turn taking in order to be played successfully. You may even consider having your child share a room with siblings. According to an article in the LA times, many child psychology experts believe that children who share a room with siblings learn important life skills like sharing and cooperation, both key components of turn taking.

Read Turn-Taking Themed Books

Young children respond well to board books and simple picture books that describe appropriate turn taking behavior. When reading a book together, it helps to highlight the moments when turn taking is featured in the book. Point out the way that this desired behavior helps the characters have fun with friends.

Take Turns Together

Taking turns with a parent can help children learn turn taking in a low-key, fun environment. Have your child take turns with you while you spending quiet time together playing with favorite toy. As you take turns, be sure to discuss what you are doing and why.

Use Positive Encouragement

taking-turns-readingWhen your child is successful at taking turns, either in practice with you or in playing with peers, be sure to give lots of praise and tell your child specifically what he or she is doing that you like. For example, you could say “You are doing a great job waiting patiently while your friends go down the slide. I can tell you are excited to take your turn. You are being a kind friend to wait so patiently. Good work!”

Know How to Handle Undesired Behavior

If your child still struggles taking turns, continue to practice frequently. If your child becomes disruptive or aggressive in activities with peers, remove him or her from the activity, provide an opportunity to calm down and then explain in clear language why he or she had to leave the group. “You were having a hard time taking turns with your friends and you were not being safe, so you needed to take a break. We can try again now that you’re calm. If you can take turns, you can play with your friends.”

Remember that taking turns is a difficult skill for many young children to master. It may take a lot of time and patience for your child to fully understand how to take turns. With time and practice, your child will learn successful turn taking. For more tips and information about how you can raise your child to get along with others, check back at the Kids Harbor in the days and weeks to come!

Parent Resources

Even simple games can encourage turn taking. For example, toss a ball back and forth with your child as each of you declares “My turn!” when your turn has come.

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