The rules of sharing

The rules of sharingPlayground season is open in Berlin.

Between now and October, playgrounds will be full of families and there’s a lot of super interesting things happening for my foreign eyes.

First, there are a lot of playgrounds. Off the top of my head, I can count 12 playgrounds on a radius of one kilometer from where we live, including a dragon-themed, a witch-themed, a fire-station-themed and a train-themed playground.

All playgrounds have some place for adults to sit. Parents (mostly mothers during the week, and mostly fathers on Saturdays) sit around, chatting with friends or with other parents, having a coffee, while the kids play. Parents also play with the kids, but not the whole time. Maybe they hang around with the kid making sand castles, then push them on the swing, and then sit down for a bit of a chat, while the kids roam free.

I like how the kids take their toys and play with the sand here. I also like how they learn basic rules forliving in a society in a playful context, and that most parents only intervene if things get ugly (read: physical).

I love observing the kids playing, and how the parents react to different things that happen, and the most interesting thing of all is the sharing of toys.

Imagine The Older One is playing with his toys and a kid comes around and asks for the bucket (or just takes it!!). Of course The Older One, as a normal almost-three year old, takes it back, shouts “Mine” or comes to me for help.

And many parents, me included a while back, would kneel down and tell The Older One: “Yes this is your bucket, but the boy wants to play with it for a little bit and then he will bring it back. All is good, we can share! Maybe the boy also has something you would like to play with?”

And that is what I used to tell him too.

But then…I imagined: I would go out to the park, take some books, some food, maybe some pencils to make some drawings. And an adult would come and just take my pencils and the drawing pad, or a book, or my apple. He could ask, or not, but basically he would take the things I brought on purpose “to play with”.

How would you feel? I would be super mad, and I would probably try to politely tell him “Get away, this is my stuff and I am using it”.

Now back to The Older One, and the bucket.

It is important that The Older One learns that he can share, and that sharing can be a wonderful thing. So now, I tell him: “Yes, these are all your things. Also your bucket. If you let the boy play with that bucket for a bit I am sure he will feel happier and it will be because of you! I think it is lovely to share our toys sometimes and I would love if you would try sharing your bucket with the boy and see how you feel. But it’s your bucket, and it’s your choice!”.

And you know what? It doesn’t always work, The Older One doesn’t always want to share. Easier with friends and even that way we do have some sharing issues sometimes. But that is fine for me, because he knows he can choose to share if he would like and that sharing goes both ways, and at the end of the day that is the most important thing for me.


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