When I taught first grade, some of my favorite lessons to teach focused on life skills. My students and I explored all sorts of topics, ranging from manners and dealing with difficult emotions to sharing and taking turns.
To help my first graders understand the importance of taking turns, we decided to head into the school kitchen and whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I gave every student a job. For example, one boy was in charge of cracking eggs, after which another whisked them up. Each child had to patiently wait their turn until the recipe called for their personal piece to the puzzle.
Once the cookies came out of the oven, my students had gained two things: delicious cookies and an understanding that it’s okay to patiently wait your turn.
My students were pretty receptive, but teaching kids how to wait their turn isn’t always a walk in the park. Every child learns at their own pace, and it sometimes takes a while for kids to understand the benefits of working together. If you’re looking for some fun ways to keep your kids engaged while introducing them to the wonders of turn taking, then this post is for you.
Let’s take a look at ten of the best turn-taking activities for preschoolers.
1. Play the Add-On Drawing Game
Sitting down and cranking out a craft with your child is a great way to help them learn about taking turns—and there’s no better way to do this than by playing the Add-On Drawing Game.
Here’s how it works: You and your child are going to work together to make a creative masterpiece. Take out a piece of paper and your child’s drawing utensils of choice (my personal favorites are crayons).
Let your child begin the game by drawing a line or shape anywhere on the page. Now it’s your turn! Either add on to your child’s shape or create a new line elsewhere on the page. Keep taking turns and adding elements to the picture until your masterpiece is complete.
The zanier the end result, the better. Just make sure to hang it on the fridge when you’re done!
2. Sing a Sharing Song
Research shows that learning through music is one of the most effective ways for kids to develop important life skills like sharing. Singing ignites the parts of the brain that are closely associated with memory. Thus, singing works like a kind of mnemonic device. When kids sing along, they remember lessons quicker and more completely.
With this thought in mind, you can help your preschooler understand turn-taking by singing a sharing song. The Internet is full of catchy tunes, like this one from Sesame Street. Check out this page from Bits of Positivity for more.
You could even take this activity one step further and create your own song! Choose a common tune like Old McDonald’s Farm and work together with your child to craft your own sharing-related lyrics.
3. Build a Block Tower Together
Blocks are an essential part of every childhood toy chest. Not only are they fun to play with, but parents can also use them to teach all sorts of valuable lessons, including the importance of taking turns.
Using building blocks with a partner helps kids practice taking turns by giving them the chance to work together on a common project. Participants can take turns selecting blocks, deciding where to place them, and helping each other put blocks in the right place. By working together and achieving a common goal through taking turns, kids can gain a positive and rewarding experience that they are more likely to replicate in other areas of their lives.
For this activity, take out a set of blocks and divide them into two piles: your pile and your child’s pile. Then, take turns placing blocks on the tower however you see fit. Continue going back and forth until all the blocks are depleted or the tower falls down—whichever comes first!
4. Take Turns Reading
Reading is one of the best activities kids can participate in. It strengthens memory, improves language comprehension, and, mostly, it’s just plain fun! That’s not all: reading can also help younger kids learn how to take turns.
Reading stories that involve characters taking turns, sharing, or waiting for their turn can help children understand and internalize these concepts. For example, a story about two friends taking turns while playing a game can show a child the value of patience and fairness.
Additionally, reading together with a parent or caregiver can provide opportunities for children to practice taking turns. Try alternating reading pages or sentences and asking each other questions about the story. If your child is a new reader, don’t hesitate to take the difficulty down a notch and take turns sounding out words!
5. Fill in the Story
As far as turn-taking activities for preschoolers go, this one’s pretty fun. It’s a lot like the Add-On Drawing Game, but with more of a literary flair. Instead of creating an artistic masterpiece, you and your children can practice taking turns by telling a shared story.
Here’s how it works: One participant begins the storytelling process with an opening line. For example: “Once upon a time, there lived a knight in a huge castle.” The next storyteller then continues the story by adding their own sentence, maybe something like, “The knight was sad because a wicked witch had turned her into a capybara!” Then, the cycle repeats until the story reaches a satisfying conclusion.
Beware: Your kiddo could have so much fun creating their story that they keep adding on without ever reaching the end!
6. Do a Puzzle
We at Troomi are big fans of puzzles—and it’s easy to see why! Completing a good, ol’ fashioned puzzle has a plethora of benefits for any age group, including helping kids understand the value of sharing.
As Troomi writer Paige Bradshaw puts it, “When working on a puzzle with other children, an environment of cooperation and communication is encouraged—and sharing is essential! As group puzzle play grows, so will a child’s attention span, patience, and self-control.”
7. Play a Board Game
When I was a kid, playing board games with my family was one of my favorite pastimes. Gathering around the table for a game is a great way to bond with family while also helping kids practice taking turns.
Most board games have rules that require players to wait patiently until it’s their turn to play. Adhering to these rules helps kids practice taking turns and developing patience while they play.
While many board games have complicated rules that are better geared towards older players, there are a ton of games that younger players can enjoy learning from. Try some of my students’ favorites, like Candyland, Shoots and Ladders, or Connect Four. If you and your kids are feeling crafty, you could even make your own set of Memory cards!
8. Go Bowling
Thus far, most of our turn-taking activities for preschoolers have been focused on the home. If you’re looking for a fun way to get out of the house while teaching your kids about the value of taking turns, look no further than a good ol’ fashioned game of bowling.
Like many board games, the rules of bowling require players to take turns as they play. Because of its nature as a turn-based activity, bowling is a great way to help younger kids understand the importance of waiting their turn and respecting others as they play.
The best part: bowling is fun for the whole family, so parents and older kids can get a kick out of the game too!
9. Get Outside and Play Catch
Ah, catch. A classic American pastime—and a great turn-taking activity for preschoolers.
Playing catch is an activity with turn-taking built in. While playing, children learn to wait for their turn to throw and catch. Playing catch is doubly fun because it keeps kids engaged by giving them a consistent task to focus on: when they’re not throwing, they’re catching, and when they’re not catching, they’re throwing! Playing catch also teaches kids the value of cooperation and working together with a friend to achieve a common goal.
10. Cook Together
Looking for turn-taking activities for preschoolers that come with a reward? Try cooking together! Spending time with kids in the kitchen is a great way to introduce them to all sorts of important concepts, including the value of taking turns (and having a little treat together is pretty great, too!).
Try this: Sit down with your child and choose a recipe together. If you’re stumped, try leafing through a cookbook or doing a quick Google search. Then, divide the tasks between the two of you. Make sure to give your child the easy tasks like pouring; keep the messy tasks like cracking eggs to yourself. Finally, begin the cooking process! When it’s your child’s turn to work on the recipe, help them finish their task, then remind them to wait patiently until it’s their turn again.
Once you’re finished, don’t forget to take turns savoring your creation!
Take Turns with Technology, Too!
Learning how to take turns is one of the most valuable life skills that a child can develop. They’ll use it in every aspect of life, including play and conversation. With these ten turn-taking activities for preschoolers, your child will be a turn-taking expert in no time.
Taking turns is also important when it comes to technology. Teach your child to share their time between the screen and real life with a kid-friendly smartphone from Troomi Wireless. With airtight security, optional parental controls, and a horde of safe games and apps, a Troomi phone is the ideal option to help your child develop a positive relationship with technology. Check out our mission to learn more!