When kids play together, disagreements will arise. By guiding them to solving their own problems instead of figuring it out for them, they learn how to resolve their differences.
One mom told the story of her 4-year-old son Alex and his friend Jake playing in a sandbox together. Alex was using a shovel to fill a bucket with sand. He put the shovel down to dump the bucket of sand on a large pile he was creating.
Jake had been digging a hole with a small rake and took the shovel to continue digging after Alex set it down. When Alex came back, he grabbed the shovel out of Jake’s hands. Jake then tried taking the shovel back and soon both boys were crying.
While this mom could have jumped in and solved the problem for the boys, instead she began by explaining what she saw happen. “Alex set the shovel down and Jake thought he was done using it. However, Alex set it down because he needed to empty the bucket and he still wanted to use it. How do you think you can solve this problem?”
She encouraged the boys to come up with a solution. Some of the ideas they discussed were:
- Develop a new rule that if somebody sets a toy down, it means that someone else is free to use it.
- Each boy can use the shovel for two minutes and then it’s the next person’s turn.
- Find another shovel.
- Put away the shovel so neither one can use it.
Alex and Jake decided to take two-minute turns. They had an egg timer which they set to know when it was time to switch. They are on their way to independently solving their own problems!