Sharing is difficult for little kids.  If pressed to explain, adults can’t really explain it either.  When they yell at children to “share!” the subtext seems to be, “Stop having problems that I have to intervene with”.  Sharing seems to mean, “using the same materials with little conflict,” but I prefer the term “taking turns” when it comes to a favored toy, or something which 2 children cannot use simultaneously.  When teachers yell at kids to “share” a book, they can look at it together.  With a ball, they can play catch.  With a computer or a favorite truck, or a prized dolly, this is trickier.  In these cases, “take turns” is much more appropriate. 

With typical children you can help them learn to delay gratification AND ask for a turn.  My choice of phrase is, “When you’re done with it, can I have a turn?”  Unfortunately, most kids I work with cannot handle the length of that sentence nor the conditional nature of the meaning.  In that case, we simplify it to “My turn” or “Can I have a turn?” and then help the kid to do something else while he’s waiting.

My colleague has been working on “sharing” with a little boy who thinks all toys belong to him, all the time.  He hasn’t quite progressed to even “my turn” yet, but he definitely has been listening to his teacher’s pleas to “share”.  This week, my coworker observed him wrenching a toy quite forcefully from another child, screaming, “SHARE!”

He’s on his way.