At two-years-old, your child will naturally be very self-centered. Their ability to comprehend the needs of others is just starting to develop, so things like taking turns and sharing can be difficult at the start. And this is to be expected! They're inundated by new information and feelings each day and so they're still learning to navigate the big world as a little person. Add the feelings and needs of others to the mix? Well… it's going to take some time and practice. But have no fear! With a few tips and consistent application, your child will be well on their way to mastering this very important social skill!
- Model turn-taking behavior: Children learn best by watching and imitating the behavior of others. As a parent, make sure you model turn-taking behavior yourself. For example, when playing a game with your child, take turns and encourage your child to do the same. At the dinner table or any other place where conversation may be flowing, wait your turn to talk and don't cut others off, including your child! If you're waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store, model patience and say things like, "I know we've been in line for awhile, but see how everyone is waiting their turn? Our turn will eventually come." Trust and believe that your child will emulate the way you handle even the most mundane situations.
- Use a timer: Using a timer can help make turn-taking more concrete for your child. Set a timer for a specific amount of time, and when the timer goes off, it’s time for the other person to take their turn. This can help your child understand that they will get a turn, but they need to wait their turn.
- Use positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for shaping behavior. But this doesn't mean you need to give them a treat or a toy each time you catch them taking turns. When your child takes turns successfully, simply praise them and let them know that they did a good job. This will encourage them to continue taking turns in the future.
- Make turn-taking fun: Turn-taking doesn’t have to be boring. Try to make it fun by incorporating games or activities that require taking turns. For example, play a game of catch or take turns building with blocks. Even simple board games like Candy Land will help your child practice this skill.
- Use visual aids: Using visual aids, such as a picture chart or a token system, can help your child understand the concept of turn-taking. A picture chart can show who’s turn it is and when it’s their turn, while a token system can help your child understand how many turns they have left.
- Start small: Toddlers have a limited attention span and may become frustrated if they are asked to take turns for too long. Start with short activities, such as taking turns with a toy or taking turns saying a word or phrase.
- Be patient: Learning to take turns is a process, and it may take some time for your child to master this skill. Be patient and continue to reinforce positive behavior.