Dear Polly, I seem to spend a great deal of time in my preschool dealing with an increasing number of sharing problems. One child, Toni, has a particularly difficult time sharing anything we have in the classroom, along with things she brings from home. This "I won't share" feeling spreads among the other children. What should I do?

It is important to remember that some things are easier to share than others. Let's look at some "sharing" situations. Sharing Classroom Toys and Turns. Imagine: Toni wheels her baby around in the carriage. Tina grabs the carriage, claiming she had it first. What's a teacher to do? Squat down to children's eye level and say, "You both want turns. Let's figure this out together."

Ask Toni why she thinks it is her turn. You might learn that Toni was using the carriage, left it, and Tina took it.

Help Toni and Tina explain the facts as they see them. Help Tina explain that she thought Toni was finished with the carriage. Show that you understand both points of view.

Say, "Let's think about how we can solve this problem so both of you get turns." Consult each girl, indicating that you expect each to listen thoughtfully to the other. Often, the children come up with their own solution.

Sometimes teachers need to make judgment calls. To me, the quality of a teacher's judgment-and her willingness to use it-measures the excellence of her work.

"Toni, you were busy, and you parked the carriage for such a long time that Tina thought it was O.K. to take a turn. We'll let her finish walking her baby. Tina, when you're finished, please give the carriage to Toni."

"Tina, your baby needed the carriage. You didn't notice that Toni was still using it, she just parked it for a minute. We'll let Toni finish her turn. I'll tell you when it's your turn."

It is important for teachers to take the time for this. Helping young children get along with others while finding ways to get their own needs met should be a priority.

Sharing Friends. Some pairs of friends play particularly well together. Their play is deeply engrossing. It may or may not be possible for them to include another child without ruining their activity.

A teacher can help the child seeking to join in. She can either work with the players to find a role for the newcomer, or she can encourage the players to say: "I can't play with you right now, but I'll play with you later."

Teachers need to take children's special friendships and intense play seriously. This is a way to demonstrate respect for individual children.

Sharing Personal Possessions. I don't expect a child to share a personal possession. Some teachers welcome a brief group-time sharing and then require that the special possession be put in the owner's cubby. (Unless it's a precious cuddle blanket or other beloved security object.)

Sharing Feelings. This is the one area where we must ask ourselves: Is my classroom a safe place for sharing feelings? Do I help each child express them in a positive way? Helping each child learn to express his feelings in words, not deeds, and listen to his adversary's feelings, can help children feel like sharing.

Dear Reader: What troublesome issues are you dealing with in your program? Write to us at Early Childhood Today, 555 Broadway, New York. NY, 100 12 and we'll do our best to provide you with helpful advice and "try it now" problem-solving strategies from our experts.