Teaching Kids to Take Turns

Why Take Turns?

Do you remember growing up and being told to “take turns” or “wait your turn”? Growing up with a sister three years older then me, these were common phrases heard around my house. It wasn’t until I started working with kids that I realized we have lost the art of taking turns.

Learning how to take turns is very important. Besides learning patience – which is in short supply these days – taking turns also teaches you communication skills, how to listen, even how to negotiate and compromise.

This isn’t entirely unexpected. Most forms of entertainment today involve simultaneous play. In the “classic” era of video games, one person played until they died (or beat the level) before the other person got to go. Now, typically, games are built for simultaneous play, no waiting or turn-taking.

I have a small aside on the same topic, dealing with video games. We quite enjoy the recent Lego series of games, where each person controls a character and you both run around breaking things, collecting Lego, and solving puzzles. In the older ones, both people were stuck on the same screen, whereas in the newer games, the screen will split to allow both people to run off and do their own thing.  Which one do you think would cause more frustration?

Our answer, surprisingly, is the latter.  When stuck on one screen, you’re forced to take turns, accomplishing both of your goals; you patiently wait for the other person to finish turning a key/collecting Lego/beating up a bad guy before you politely ask to go left/right/wherever.

With split-screen, the pair of you run off in either direction, do your own thing; while you don’t have to take turns, there is substantially less interaction and sense of playing together, limited visibility (from the split-screen), and more frustration because you never seem to be working towards the same objectives. Just our personal experience in how taking turns can actually makes things more fun.

There are lots of creative, fun ways to teach turn-taking to your kids. It might be a little rocky at first, possibly a few tantrums as kids switch from instant gratification to accepting and enjoying activities and turns.

Turn-Taking Activities for the Whole Family.

Bring Back Board Games:

Board games are the original turn-taking games. Most people were introduced to board games as kids via the common ones that everyone played but few actually enjoyed. While they do have their place (and fans), there are lots of board games out there that appeal to different learning styles. You also don’t need to keep strictly to the rules. If a game isn’t working for your family, change it up, get creative and negotiate your own family rules! Sticking with boring rules will just alienate people – I recently played Monopoly the “proper” way and it was so slow!  Growing up, “our” way was to deal out the properties at the beginning so we could trade and develop and jump to the heart of the game – dodging hotels and hoping everybody else lands on yours!

Playing board games is our weekly entertainment. It is fairly inexpensive; you can usually find up different games at a thrift store and more unique games are great to ask for presents. The initial cost of the game is usually the only expense, meaning the more you play the better a deal it is! Try dinner and games with good friends and family, it’s great fun! My love of board games and some of my best childhood memories were born from weekly family game night.

For a real creative activity, why not create your own family board game? You could base it off of a familiar game and personalize it to fit your family or your hobbies. You never know, it might catch on! For Christmas this year we created a family edition of “Masterpiece,” an old board game where you buy, sell, and auction famous art pieces. We replaced all of the original painting cards with 4″x6″ photos of our family, special events in our lives, and personal art projects. On the back, we wrote a catchy title, a caption, and the artist’s or photographer’s name. We added an extra layer of fun by digitally applying some artistic photo-editing effects such as “oil painting” and “pencil drawing.” This is perhaps one of my favorite Christmas presents ever!

Talking Stone:

Having a visual representation of turn taking can be useful for younger children while they are learning the concept. Get a smooth river stone and decorate it, using non-toxic paint to make it bright and colorful. The idea is simple – leave the Talking Stone in the middle of the table or somewhere that is accessible to everyone. Whoever has the Talking Stone may hold it up and everyone else has to stop and listen. This can also be used as a classroom activity. The routine reinforces the act of taking turns and the idea that it is good behavior to listen and respect the person when it is someone else’s turn to speak.

Incorporate Turn Taking Into Daily Life:

There are plenty of activities you can do every day that incorporates turn taking. Cooking with kids naturally encourages taking turns. Each kid can take turns measuring ingredients, putting them in the bowl, mixing etc. You can customize the tasks to your children’s age and skill level. Kids can also take turns having one-on-one creative time with their parent. You can also focus on turn taking when you have family discussions (The Talking Stone works well for this) or also take turns deciding which creative activity the family does next.

There are many ways you can incorporate turn taking into your play and daily life. How do you take turns in your family? Please share!

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1 comment to Teaching Kids to Take Turns

  • Fae

    “With split-screen, the pair of you run off in either direction, do your own thing; while you don’t have to take turns, there is substantially less interaction and sense of playing together, limited visibility (from the split-screen), and more frustration because you never seem to be working towards the same objectives.”

    In some cases, I don’t see how a split screen is a hindrance for some kiddos; it takes less effort to play at your own pace and to pursue your own goals. It’s more time consuming to lead vs. follow, learn to clearly give instructions, to compromise, and then to pair all that with hand-eye coordination.

    It’s important to note that turn taking can be more fun when developed under guidance, if you will. Modeling that turn-taking can get you a better and more fulfilling result and a fun process experience instead of always working independently is important. But the motivation and value has to be present. The value of turn-taking in video games seems less explicit to me, but I don’t consider myself a gamer.

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