Taking Turns

My child struggles with waiting his turn. How can I help him understand that he can’t always be first?

Anyone who has driven on the road knows that this skill is hard even for some adults to master, so obviously a five year old will not always be gracious about taking turns. Kindergarten teachers understand this but also expect their students to develop empathy for their peers by considering other children’s points of views. Your child will be expected to not only be able to take turns when doing group activities and games facilitated by the teacher but also be able to independently decide who goes first in small group settings.

If this is an area where your child struggles, the best way to help your child develop this essential life skill is to practice. Yes, practicing social skills is just as important as practicing academic skills. While your child’s school day will provide multiple opportunities for them to practice taking turns, there’s still a lot you can do at home to help them well before they ever start school.

Now that I know, what do I do?

· Point out taking turns in everyday situations. Show your child how adults also have to take turns when waiting at the doctor’s office, stopping at a red light, waiting for your food at a restaurant. There are numerous situations everyday that you can use to demonstrate to your child the importance of taking turns.

· Sing songs or recite poems. Have your child repeat a line after you. Then switch and have your child sing or recite and you repeat after them. “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?” is a great one to try since your child has to wait for their name in the song, but you don’t have to only use special echo songs or poems. Simply pick any favorite song, nursery rhyme, or poem and get started!

· Play board games. Start first by participating yourself so that you can have an opportunity to model taking turns and developing a system to determine who should go first (rolling dice, rock paper scissors, etc.). After you have sufficiently modeled this, allow your child opportunities to play with siblings, family members, and friends. At first facilitate taking turns by being an active participant in the game, even if you aren’t actually playing. Then give your child a chance to do it on their own and step back to observe. Assist where needed but give your child and others a chance to solve their problems without stepping in. Not only will this help them learn to take turns it will foster their independence and problem solving skills, other important life skills.

· Play active taking turn games. Have your child play simple, fun games that utilize the skill of taking turns, such as Mother May I? or Red Rover.

· Visit a community playground. Where there are a lot of children, there’s always a chance for the practice of taking turns. There will undoubtedly be an opportunity for your child to have to wait to go down the slide or swing on the swing set. Your child may also have to deal with another child who doesn’t want to take turns. This is a great opportunity to have a discussion about how your child felt when the other child would not take turns. This of course is great for building empathy and learning other people’s viewpoints.

Also consider:

By extension taking turns also means raising your hand at school when your child needs attention or to speak. While this is obviously a hard skill to practice at home, having a conversation with your child about raising their hand before the first day of school will make the transition easier.


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