Written By: Psychologist Natasha Tanic
Your two-year-old is playing in the sandbox alongside other kids her age. “No! Mine!”, she shouts suddenly grabbing a bucket from her playmate.
This is a pattern that repeats each time your toddler plays with other children.
You are anxious that your child will have no friends if she carries on with this behavior.
Moreover, you are worried that your little one will grow into a selfish, possessive, and bossy adult.
However, difficulty sharing with others is a normal part of your child’s development.
Understanding this is vital in teaching your toddler to share toys and in encouraging her to grow up as a generous and kind person.
What does Sharing Behavior Involve?
Sharing is a complex behavior.
It involves lending or giving and requires an understanding that the possession will or will not be returned later (the playmate will return the bucket later/the playmate will take my bucket home).
Sharing also involves an understanding and accepting that, while the toy is theirs, another child is presently in possession of it (the bucket is mine, but Sarah is currently playing with it).
It is important to understand that many toddlers are not developmentally ready to share.
Sharing behavior takes a lot of reasoning and predicting.
While they can play side by side with other kids (they are still too young to play together with other children!), give-and-take behavior takes some time to learn and master.
Your toddler’s unwillingness to share toys is a natural part of his understanding that he is the center of the world and that his possessions (especially his favorite object that he always carries with him) are an extension of himself.
His toys are something that he has control over, and therefore, something that is not to be shared with others.
At the age of two, children begin to develop a strong sense of self and to understand possession, so for most toddlers sharing their belongings may be a big challenge.
Why is Sharing Important?
Sharing is a vital life skill. Sharing teaches children about cooperation, fairness, and kindness.
Through sharing, kids learn about reciprocity and mutual benefits of exchanging things.
Sharing toys teaches your toddler how to take turns, how to be patient, and how to negotiate.
It also helps her learn how to manage frustration and cope with stress.
As these are important aspects of your toddler’s social and emotional development, it is important to teach your child the advantages of sharing from their earliest age.
How to Teach Your Toddler to Share Toys
Don’t worry, your child will learn to share. Helping kids master the skill of sharing takes practice and patience though.
Here are a few tips on how to teach your toddler to share toys.
Be a Good Role Model
The best way for your child to learn selflessness is to observe it. So lead by example and share things with your toddler.
Offer him half of your apple, or your hat to wear, and ask if you can have his toy car.
Use the word share to describe the activity and let your child see how you share with others.
See more tips in the practical tips article.
When to Step In
When a toy quarrel begins, try not to intervene right away, but allow for self-learning.
Observe the children and give them some time and space to work the problem out themselves.
However, if the situation is escalating, then interfere.
Distract your child or remove him from the situation until he calms down.
Sharing is a complex skill that children learn.
To teach your toddler to share toys, set a good example and encourage sharing.
Use words to explore emotions related to sharing and praise each small step towards sharing that your toddler makes.
Yes, it does take time, but your toddler will get there.
Just be patient and persistent.