It can be difficult to teach toddlers the importance of sharing their toys with their friends, and it’s only natural that they won’t want to do it! Teaching toddlers to understand the concept of sharing is difficult due to its complexity.
Consider this: you ask your child to share their snacks with their friend – they don’t get them back later. So, when you ask your toddler to share their favorite toys, it’s natural that they’ll be a little worried. Here, we have some helpful tips which can be useful when teaching your little one to share, and what to do when they won’t co-operate.
Don’t force your child to share their special possessions
Your child probably has at least one toy which is very special to them. It could be a favorite teddy bear or even a little figure which seems small and insignificant. If you are hosting a playdate, let your child know who is coming and ask them if they would like to put their special toys away.
Ensure there are enough things to share
If your child has a friend over to play, leave out toys which are great for sharing. A tub full of crayons or pens and lots of paper is a great idea. Play dough with plenty tools for rolling and cutting shapes is also a good toy for a few children to play with together.
Often, toddlers grab and snatch because they don’t understand how they are feeling. For example, they might be worried they won’t get the toy back, but can’t explain that feeling using words. It’s a good idea to help explain to your toddler how they are feeling at other times too or ask them how they think characters in books or on TV are feeling, so they get used to the language used to describe emotions.
Distract and divert
If you can see that your child is about to have a meltdown over a particular toy, quickly distract them with something else. Find another interesting toy or look for something out the window like a car or an animal. Toddlers have a short attention span, so will probably forget what they were about to have a tantrum over!
Ask older kids how they’ll fix the problem
If you can see that two older children are not sharing, ask them ‘how are you going to fix this?’. Help them come up with a solution for themselves, and they will learn how to solve problems and share without requiring intervention all the time.
Ensure older kids are polite and respectful
Preschoolers and older children should ask the owner before playing with a toy. Kids can also learn to ask ‘please can I play with this once you’re finished?’ or say ‘I’m not finishing playing with this toy yet’. Encourage your child to use their words rather than grabbing or having a tantrum. The older your child gets, the more likely they are to be OK with waiting their turn for a toy.
Lead by example
Toddlers love to copy mom and dad, so it’s a good idea to show your child how you share your belongings. Use the word ‘share’ often, so your child gets used to what the term means and involves. Let them share your food or try on your clothes. Or, let them use something of yours as part of a game they are playing. You should find that your toddler is more likely to let you share their things after you have shared yours.
Remember, all young children find it difficult to share, but this is just a phase which will pass as your child gets older and learns about empathy.
About the Author
Emily Dick has recently graduated with an Honors Degree from the Open University in the field of social science. She currently creates content for Buzzparent.com, where she enjoys writing about a range of topics such as parenting tips and advice, and reviewing the latest toys and games for children.
Emily is currently raising her two-year-old daughter, and two pet cats. She is working on plans to open a children’s soft play and activity center in her local town, as well as coming up with ideas for children’s picture books with her daughter.