Are There Rules on Taking Turns?

First kid grabs a toy and all the other kids want THAT same toy even if there are tons of other beautiful toys around to choose from. Sounds familiar? Second kid finally decides to grab a different toy and they all of sudden ditch the first toy and go with the new grab. Why kids, why? LOL.

This always happens to us whenever we hold or attend playdates. The kids gravitate to a favorite and fight over it. ALWAYS. If they can’t resolve it on their own, we break them apart and tell them to take turns.

But how exactly is turn taking done? When does one’s turn end and start?

I haven’t given this much thought until I read a post from PopSugar Moms that narrates how some preschools handle this differently than how I thought it should be.

In one mommy blogger’s co-op:

The policy is that a child can keep a toy as long as they want to. If another child wants the toy, they have to wait until the first child is done with it.

Makes sense. But what if a child hogs and takes long turns?

We’ll even “save” toys for the child if they have to go to the bathroom, go to the snack table, etc. so that it won’t get taken before they’re done. This applies to anything in the yard or school that can be played with, including swings and monkey bars.

Uhm, I’m not sure if we can do that around here.

There is no way to save the swing or the monkey bars. Or is there?

We’ve been to several parks and the unspoken rule is to patiently wait for your turn. It pains us when one child won’t leave the swing but WE STILL WAIT. Sometimes, when it seems that they won’t ever give others a chance, we negotiate. If they’re not cooperative, we go to the slides while WAITING.

BUT the minute they leave, everybody runs and races to be next!

The swing is on a first come, first served basis tied to a “once you get up, you’ve given it up” thing.

Correct me if I’m wrong but here’s how I imagined their policy in action.

20 excitedly energetic kids all rush to the playground that can only accommodate 10 kiddos at a time. What will the other 10 do when the other half has already saved their posts and won’t give it up all afternoon? Wait for their chance the next day? Go read in the mean time?

And then when one child takes a bathroom break of say 30 minutes to poop (including getting cleaned up and dressed), the swing will stay empty for that same amount of time and all other kids on the side will just stare at it?


In social settings, say in school, in playgrounds, or in playhouses, where none of the toys solely belongs to one child and time is often limited to only a few hours of stay, I believe kids should really learn to take turns.

Taking turns teaches kids to wait, to care, and to coexist.

It may be difficult to teach this to very young children, but if we do, we hit so many birds with one stone at the same time. Aside from PATIENCE in waiting, I see all these other values and traits coming in!

CONSIDERATION. Awareness that they affect other kids when they keep a toy for a long time.

ASSERTIVENESS. They learn to stand up for themselves and say, “I’m still playing with it. I’ll share when I’m done or when my time is up.”

RESPECT & KINDNESS. They learn it’s wrong to bully and grab toys from somebody else’s hand.

COEXISTENCE. They are not the only ones on earth. It’s a much happier world if they share!

FRIENDLINESS & COOPERATION. Hello social interaction! It would be lonely if they have many toys but no one to play with.

Long turns vs. Short turns

Long turns sound unfair. But after researching on how it actually meets children’s need for focus, security, or control, I’m now convinced that they are okay. I’ve read some teachers use TIMERS or WAITING LISTS to manage this. I haven’t tried it so please feel free to share if it worked for you.

When some kids take LONG turns though, I think it’s best to tell ours not to wait on them and go play with something else.

Or we equip them with lines to use so they can sort it out themselves.

Can I borrow?

You’ve been hugging that doll all day. Can I have a turn?

I’m waiting for you to be done.

I feel bad that you’re not sharing.

Can you pass it to me when you’re finished?

Not a guarantee that they won’t end up crying but they might just do better the next time around.

SHORT turns, on the other hand, are very useful when there are lots of kids involved. It gives them enough time to enjoy the toy and that would roughly be the same enough time to practice patience to those waiting in line.

But how long is too long and how short is too short?

For me, it depends on the allotted playtime hours and number of kids. If kids have whole day access on the play area, then 30 minutes per child may not be a long turn. However, if they only have an hour of playtime, then 30 minutes becomes too much for one child.

How about you, what do you think?

If you’re a preschool teacher or a daycare provider, I am curious to know your different styles in handling this. We would love to get some tips!