Sharing is a social skill that isn’t always easy for a young child to master. Toddlers and preschoolers are curious explorers. And with that in mind, they don’t always want the intrusion of a peer taking over their play. In other words, young children aren’t always natural sharers.
Does this mean that your child can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t share? The answer to this question is complex and doesn’t have one straightforward or all-encompassing response. There’s an ever-present ideology in early childhood (whether in the classroom or at home) that pushes children to share without a sense of awareness.
The idea of simply telling a child that they must or have to share isn’t at the root of the Montessori philosophy. With that in mind, take a look at what you need to know about this social skill and your child’s Montessori education.
Respect and Caring
Sharing is a positive social skill, showing that the child has the ability to take other’s perspectives and feel empathy. It requires a sense of caring towards the other person — the child who wants to use the toy or engage in the activity too.
Montessori classrooms provide children with the freedom to discover their own learning process and express their own feelings. But that doesn’t mean they’re encouraged to express their feelings through negative means, such as yelling. Instead, children develop the ability to use polite, respectful words that are courteous and appropriate in the region’s culture.
Even though a child is technically giving up something when they share, in the Montessori classroom, sharing materials, time, and space isn’t a forced issue. Some early childhood education environments prioritize sharing at the cost of the child’s sense of self. Instead of helping the child to develop in a caring community that encourages respect, they require on-demand sharing.
On-demand sharing includes any type of sharing — whether it’s of toys, space, or even the teacher’s time — that an adult imposes on the child. It lacks a basic sense of respect and typically goes without explanation. This type of sharing is the because-I-said-so type of sharing. While it might accomplish a goal, it doesn’t help the child to develop as a whole person.
Forced or on-demand sharing tends to send a message that adults create arbitrary rules that all children must follow. This isn’t the Montessori way. In the Montessori classroom, adults create an environment that promotes voluntary sharing. Instead of coming from outside of the child (from a sudden statement that the teacher requires the child to respond to), sharing comes from within.
Keep in mind, the Montessori classroom doesn’t go without rules. This isn’t a free-for-all type of setting in which children can run the show. Montessori education encourages children to learn by exploring and experimenting with specially prepared materials — at their own pace.
Montessori educators encourage deep exploration, using one material or item at a time. This reduces the likelihood that children will need to give up their material of choice to another child. The in-depth exploration frame for learning provides each child with time to use the item without interruption from peers.
After the child has finished their exploration and use of the material, they are encouraged to return the item to its proper place. This opens up the material for use by another child, without the need to force sharing on anyone.
Young children in Montessori classrooms don’t always have to play in a solitary type of way. If they choose, they may play and work together. The key word here is choose. Working with another child, and sharing the material at hand, is never forced upon the students.
If one child would like to play with the other child, sharing the material, they may ask. It’s up to the child who is using the material to accept the offer or decline it (politely and respectfully). Not only does this help children to share from within, but it also allows them to practice using culturally appropriate social and communication skills.
Are you considering a Montessori education for your child? Contact Miniapple International Montessori Schools for more information.