Let’s Make a Deal: Teaching Children the Art of Trading


“Sharing” is a vague concept for young children.  Most understand that everyone should share with them.  Their egocentric minds interpret their happiness as everyone else’s.  Learning that making others happy can actually help them as well, takes practice.

When a child wants something another child has, the first instinct is just to take it.  That rarely goes over well.  Children need to be taught the skills of social negotiation.  One way is to teach children the script, “Can I play with that when you’re done please?”  But for some children, when they’re asked to share, all they see is what they’ve lost.  In these situations,  teaching the art of the trade is a great way to approach sharing.

My son came to me tearfully during a playdate with his cousin.  “He has my car and it’s special!”  (Most things around here instantly become special when it comes to sharing.)  I explained that just taking it away would not be very polite because his cousin came here to play.  But, maybe together we could find something he did feel OK about sharing and trade with his cousin for the “special” car. 

So we went to the box of cars and selected three really cool cars that he could share.  With all three in hand he went back to his cousin and asked if he could trade for the one.  I sat back as my son extolled the virtues of the three cars, selling his cousin on the trade.  They made a swap and – presto – two happy boys sharing cars.

It seems like an obvious solution.  And it is.  The important thing is that you guide the children through it, so that it becomes a tool they can use independently.  Try not to swoop in and negotiate the trade yourself.  Guide, prompt, and redirect if it fails, but avoid taking over.  Learning to negotiate is a valuable social skill that will benefit children throughout their lives.  Additionally, it requires fantastic language and problem-solving skills.

Teach this technique directly in role-play scenarios, so that children can get the feel for it before they become emotionally charged.  Then watch for opportunities to guide them through it again in real-life play situations.

Before you know it, you’ll have a regular Monty Hall on your hands.

Top photo by jynmeyer.

Center photo by vertige.

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Filed under Article, Learning through Play and Experience, social skills

4 responses to “Let’s Make a Deal: Teaching Children the Art of Trading

  1. what a beautiful blog and book! thanks for all of the advice. i have lots of little ones myself. four under the age of 5.

    • notjustcute

      Wow! I have 3 under 6 right now, and I thought that was a challenge! You must be amazing- just the fact that you managed to turn on a computer during your day is an accomplishment! I’m glad you found things useful! Thank you so much for your kind words!

    • notjustcute

      Wow! I just visited your blog – you don’t just “turn on” your computer, you do amazing things on it! I’m in awe!

  2. Pingback: When It Comes to Challenging Child Behaviors, Do You Take the Time to CARE? « Not Just Cute

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