This investigation focused on early school-aged children's ability to negotiate shared reference in a task-oriented communication game. Conversational partners worked together on initiating and refining mutually acceptable referential labels for a series of abstract figures. Each child participated as both a sender and a matcher. In Experiment 1, developmental trends in the use of conversational strategies such as utterance-contingent queries, acknowledgments, and negations were observed. However, communicative efficiency was disrupted when the children switched dyadic roles. They reintroduced figures with novel labels when switching to a speaking role from a previous matching role, and vice versa. In Experiment 2, communicative efficiency was again disrupted at the point of role switch, even when the children were given feedback designed to minimize cross-role inconsistency. Interestingly, in both experiments, communicative inefficiency did not reduce a dyad's overall communicative success. These results suggest that, while children are in the process of learning how best to coordinate the use of conversational strategies and procedural rules, they still manage effective communication, albeit with a little extra effort.