Toddlers and sharing

Sharing is not a skill babies are born with, but you can help you toddler learn. Photo: Janet McKnight

SILVER SPRING, Md, April 20, 2013 – Mine! The word is the battle cry of toddlers the world over. Aside from wanting everything for himself, a toddler’s lack of understanding of sharing can lead to tantrums during play dates, fights between siblings, and meltdowns in stores when a coveted object is removed from the greedy hands that had taken it from the shelf in the first place.

The concept of sharing really does not develop until around age 3. When your child is a toddler parallel play, or playing near each other rather than with each other, is the norm. Since the sense of sharing does not develop until preschool age, try not to scold or punish toddlers who are not sharing the way you would want. They will not understand why they are being punished. Instead, acknowledge that they are worried about getting their toy back, or that they want to play with it. Try to explain why we need to share our toys or snack.

Photo by Elisa Self.


Language skills are also developing during this time, so not only will your child not understand the concept of sharing, he will not understand the word “share,” either. For this reason it is important to explain when you are demonstrating that good behavior. If you are sharing some food, with him, tell him what you are doing. Similarly, if he offers you something, say, “Thank you for sharing,” so he hears the word again and beginning to understand that you approve of this type of behavior.

Since language is still developing and can be a sticking point with young children, try making the concept of sharing easier for them to understand by asking your child to “take turns” with toys.  With playdates you can let your child hide a few of his favorite toys that he does not want others to play with before hand, but tell him that everything else you expect him to share. Explain that sharing his toys at a playdate does not mean that his friends get to keep them. Similarly, before going to another house, explain that he can share some of the toys while you are visiting, but that does not mean he gets to take them home.

If your child tries to take something from another child, gently explain that it is not his turn, and that when the other child is finished playing with it he can have a turn. It might be helpful to play games that have definite turns so that the toys do switch hands. You can offer a trade for toys. Give your child an alternative to keep him busy, or ask if your child can have a turn with the desired toy while offering something else as an alternative.

Photo by Valentina Powers.


Remember to be a good role model. Children learn by watching the behaviors of others, so if they see you sharing, they are more likely to start copying that good behavior themselves. Find ways you can point out sharing in daily activities so that they can get more practice with the concept of sharing. Share with you child and try to make a show of sharing with other adults when you can get your child’s attention. This way he learns that sharing is the normal and expected behavior.

When you finally start having success, do not forget to reinforce the good behavior. Tell your little one “good job,” “thank you for sharing,” or give a high five. Make sure you acknowledge the sharing so he knows he is doing the right thing and he is also aware that you noticed his behavior. At this age, children seek out recognition and approval.

Above all, remain patient. Just because sharing is not a skill that children are not born with, does not mean they will not learn. It just takes repetition and reinforcement. Before you know it, your sweet little one will be coming to share his snack or favorite toy with you.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+. She also writes picture book reviews at Big Reads For Little Hands. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Parenting The First Time Through
blog comments powered by Disqus
Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


Contact Brighid Moret


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus