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Help Your Child to "Play Nice"

Preschoolers are often told to "play nice." Parents want their children to cooperate, share and be considerate of others. But children have to learn these social skills. Here are some ways adults can help promote caring, sharing and cooperating:

  • Let children know that it feels good to help others. Provide opportunities for helping other children like passing out snacks or teaching another child something.
  • Set a good example by being kind, considerate and helpful. Children love to imitate parents. The best way to teach children to get along with others is by showing them.
  • Notice positive behavior and tell the child specifics like, "You gave him a tissue, he really needed to wipe his nose" instead of just saying, "That's nice."
  • Encourage children to feel special. Instead of saying, "Sharing is nice" say, "You shared because you're the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can."
  • Help children learn to recognize how other people feel. "How do you think Johnny feels? How did you feel when this happened to you?"
  • Read stories and talk about them. "How did the bear feel when Goldilocks broke his chair? What could Goldilocks do?"
  • Point out the consequences of a child's behavior. "Look, that hurt him! His is crying."
  • Teach children to compromise. Encourage them to think of ways to solve the problem. "Jimmy, Alan is telling you he really wants to use the wagon too. Isn't there some way you can both get something good out of this?"
  • Watch for opportunities that take cooperation. It takes two working together to play catch or teeter on a seesaw.
  • Don't get hung up on "turn taking." When you set up rules you have to constantly referee the turns. Instead, when another child is waiting say, "When you are finished with the swing be sure and tell Ashley. She'd like a turn when you're through." Follow up with "Look how pleased Ashley is that you remembered. She's smiling. I guess you are her friend."

Sources: Wittmer & Honig, "Encouraging Positive Social Development in Young Children," Young Children, July 1994.

Prepared by Deb McClellan, Extension Educator, Family Life.