Soccer, Sharing, and Social Growth

Young children often struggle with the skill of sharing with others. It’s a theme that parents see again and again. Teaching kids to do it well is a big part of helping them to find success in school and beyond. While sharing seems simple enough, it’s actually a marvellously complex part of child development.

Child Development and Sharing

The world is a concrete, black-­and­-white place for young children. Everything has a sense of permanence. So for a young child, having a toy is something that isn’t just for this moment, it goes on forever. By that same token, if they were to give that toy to another child, then it would belong to that other child forever.
The reason that most all children struggle with sharing is because it is wired into the brain. It’s only after kids are repeatedly exposed to object permanence that they realise that sharing or taking turns doesn’t mean losing an object forever. Sharing comes more easily the more children are exposed to it.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean forcing a child to share. This is particularly true of children who are struggling with the concept of sharing. It’s important that adults don’t push the idea. Allow kids to learn to share with objects that do not directly belong to them, giving them an “in-between” kind of space to explore the ideas associated with sharing. Forcing a child to share a beloved object, if they aren’t ready, only causes a cascade of unneeded heartache.

Soccer Helps Social Growth

One of the best parts about soccer is that kids grow socially as they practise and play, and one major area that playing helps them to develop is in sharing. A soccer ball is a perfect transition object because it doesn’t belong to anyone, and yet everyone is called to use it. So when kids are asked to share it, the threat of something dear to them being taken away isn’t nearly so much of an issue as it is with other objects that might belong solely to each child.
An essential part of the game of soccer is that it requires kids to pass the ball back and forth in order to succeed. Soccer drills often involve practising passing the ball back and forth, over and over again. Kids quickly learn that sharing the ball makes the game a lot more fun, and that kind of joy in the act of sharing transfers to other parts of life! When a child learns through soccer that it feels good when everyone has a turn, they’re more willing to take turns at home, at school, and on the playground.

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