How and when do kids learn to share? New research finds out

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According to a new study, kids naturally learn to cooperate and share as early as...

As parents, we all strive to teach our children valuable lessons at an early age. Of those valuable lessons is cooperation and sharing.

Think about it: when you were younger, one of the first lessons you learned in school (if not from your parents) was the value of sharing, cooperating, and playing nice with others.

Sure, it's important to teach these lessons of civility to our children, but as a new research paper has found out, such characteristics may be innate.

A new paper in the July, 2016 issue of Psychological Science by Alicia Melis, Patricia Grocke, Josefine Kalbitz, and Michael Tomasello aimed to find out how and when kids learn the value of sharing and cooperation.

To conduct this study, the research team tested two separate groups: a group of 3-year-olds, and a group of 5-year-olds.

They sat the children on opposite sides of a table.  In the center of this table was a gap that was connected only by a model car on a track-similar to a bridge. This model car could be moved if both children pulled a string on the same end of the track.  In other words, they had to cooperate in order to get the car to move.

The children were briefed on how to control the device. After that, golden balls were introduced to the device. These golden balls contained stickers--which kids of this age love--so, they were considered a great reward to use in the study.

The children would receive a sticker only if they were able to get the ball to fall in one of the outer holes found on the device placed before them.  If it falls in the inner hole, it is lost.  On the experimental trials, the device was set up so that only one child would get a sticker on each trial.  The question was whether kids would develop a strategy to share rewards.

how and when do kids learn to share

As reported by Psychology Today: "The five-year-olds were quite good at this task.  They tended to play the game so that both children got a fair number of stickers over the course of the game.  They would talk to each other, and the child who had not gotten the sticker on one trial often asked to get the sticker on the next trial.  Most of the pairs developed a strategy to alternate back-and-forth with rewards."

"The three-year-olds were not so good.  They did not really learn the strategy to alternate.  They also talked to each other, but were quite likely to ask to get a sticker right after a trial in which they got one.  This suggests that the ability to share rewards in a systematic way develops some time between the ages of 3 and 5."

The study established that distributing rewards in a task (in a fair manner, albeit) helps to keep people motivated; it encourages people to continue working. Kids seem to understand that by the age of five and will spontaneously develop a strategy to keep everyone engaged.

In summary, this interesting study found that children have the innate ability to develop a sense of cooperation, teamwork, and the value of sharing between the ages of 3 and 5; however, the closer to 5-years-old the children are, the more likely they are to share.

This, however, doesn't mean that we shouldn't teach our children to share. Just because kids are naturally able to learn this ability, doesn't excuse us as parents from teaching them the value of such lessons! Consider it food for thought, though, parents!

Want to learn some great tips and tricks on how to teach our kids to share? Watch this informative video on page two!

READ: Dad teaches cute Korean kids about sharing – Adorable!

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