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Teaching toddlers to share

toddlers and sharing toys

Teaching toddlers to share their toys with other toddlers can be an ongoing battle of wills. But, believe it or not, your toddler is not snatching toys away from other toddlers and not sharing with other children to be difficult.

Sharing is a skill that takes years for your toddler to develop (and lets face it, some people never grasp the concept at all). As your toddler goes into toddlerhood, they begin to understand the world differently and will begin speaking and formal social friendships.

Improve your toddlers behaviour and
encourage your toddler to share.

When this social language begins, your toddler will display it by marking their territory. Everything they believe to be theirs (rightfully or not) will be labelled as “mine”. If someone new enters their territory, (for example picking up one of your toddlers toys) your toddler will respond by shouting “mine” and the other toddler will respond by shouting “no, mine” (as possession is nine tenths of the law).

Teaching toddlers to share

Teaching toddlers to share is a difficult task so you need to set a good example. Your toddler learns through watching other people and imitation, so you should go out of your way to show your toddler that sharing is good.

Let your toddler try some of your meal or allow them to have a toy you are playing with. When your toddler sees this behaviour, let them know that you are sharing with them (that way your toddler learns they can also gain from sharing – they are not just giving away their toys all the time).

When your toddler sees you sharing they will attempt to copy your behaviour. Every attempt your toddler makes at sharing (no matter how small) should be praised. This way your toddler will try and repeat their behaviour to please you.

Your opinion is very important to your toddler. Therefore try not to get angry when your toddler is reluctant to share. Instead make it clear that you are disappointed and sad that your toddler will not share, rather than get angry (we all know that disappointment is so much worse than being shouted at).

Toddlers and sharing

Toddlers and sharing can be an uphill battle, but it is important to remember that your toddler is not being difficult, they are learning and you need to be patient. Getting yourself wound up is not going to help the situation.

To start with, your toddler will often show their toy to another person or child, but will be reluctant to let go. Getting your toddler to show their toys is important, as it is the first step in the right direction. When your toddler shows their toys, you should praise them so they repeat this behaviour.

Understand the terrible twos and
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Toddler sharing on a play date

Once your toddler has marked their territory, getting children sharing toys is going to be very difficult. Here are a few ideas for encouraging your toddler to share and play nicely with other children.

Toddlers and sharing: before a play date

Carefully and simply explain to your toddler that another toddler will be coming over to play with their toys and you. At this point it is important to stress to your toddler that their play date will only be playing with their toys for a little while, then will go home and wont be taking any of your toddlers toys home with them.

You may want to let your toddler hide their most favourite toys if they don’t want them to get broken. If you allow this, you must stress that it means your toddler must share all remaining toys with their friend.

Teaching your toddler to share on a play date

It does not matter which child has it now, the question is which had it first?

If one toddler has acquired a toy by snatching it off the other, the toy should be returned, whilst reminding both toddlers:

  • Both toddlers must wait for their turn with the toy
  • You will help set up turns so both toddlers can play if they ask you to
  • They need to ask the other child's permission to have the toy before they take it
  • One toddler can offer the other toddler a trade if they so wish.

If grabbing and snatching occur, you should step in quickly and firmly to rectify the situation, but should try not to get angry (your toddler is just learning).

If all else fails try distracting your toddler with another toy. If you find something interesting, your toddler is more likely to be distracted.

Toddlers and sharing

If children sharing toys is to much of a problem for your toddler, why not set the toddlers up with a project such as cooking or arts and crafts. This will allow your toddler to learn social boundaries where neither toddler owns what is in front of them.

You could also try taking your toddler and their play date to a mutual place, for example a playgroup and provide them with a mix of both toddlers’ toys to play with. This allows your toddler to establish skills with out feeling they are losing their territory.

Teaching children to share toys is not going to be an easy battle and you will definitely go through at least a few months of your toddler grabbing and snatching toys from other children, but it is not going to last forever. After a few months, it should start calming down (although you will probably see it every now and again for the next few years).