There are so many adjectives to describe your toddler – funny, fierce, sweet, sassy, loving, compassionate and oh so independent. Toddlers like things their way… they love the word “mine” and don’t like to hear the word “no.” This is the phase where we pick and choose our battles. Now, there are some battles you can choose not to tackle today, like whether or not their outfit matches, there are some battles that are important to tackle. Learning how to share is one of those important life lessons that is tough to learn, so often turns into a battle.
How do you even teach toddlers to share? The same way you taught your toddler their colors or how to use a straw – with patience and practice. There are some tips you can keep in mind though, as you begin working on the lesson in sharing.
Children won’t sit and listen to you lecture them about sharing for any length of time, but they will sit and listen to a book with colorful pictures and age-appropriate language. There are some really great books on the market about sharing, all of which will help encourage some meaningful conversation between you and your little one. Look for general books about sharing or search for a specific character your child likes, below are a few good options.
While you are cuddling up and reading about sharing, use this time to also talk about sharing with your child. Discuss things like:
- Why do we share? (Everyone likes to have fun!)
- How does it make your friends feel when you share with them? How does it make you feel?
- What are some things you can share with your siblings/friends at home/school?
- What can you say or do if you don’t want to share?
Model What Sharing Looks Like
When you play with your child, show what it means to share. Talk about what sharing is, as you’re doing it. Children learn best through play, so use this to your advantage, and teach these important lessons while having fun. Let the animals at the farm share their food, or have their favorite figurines take turns playing with a toy.
Also remember that children are watching and absorbing what you are doing all of the time, so model what sharing looks like even if you’re not directly teaching a lesson- like sharing dessert with your partner, or taking turns picking what to watch on TV.
Give your little one a chance to practice sharing on their own. You can do this by setting up a play date, bringing your little one to a play group or play space, or encouraging your child to play with their siblings. As with any other skill, your child can’t master anything without practicing it.
Don’t expect this to happen overnight, because it won’t. Even with weekly play dates, or joining a play group that meets often – it most likely will take months to even years for a child to fully understand what sharing is and how to do it. Don’t lose hope though because the more you practice, the less jarring those ‘battles’ will become when you ask your little one to give up a toy they have been keeping from everyone else.
Use a Timer
As you are teaching your little one what it means to share, discuss what it means to ‘take turns.’ This is hard for toddlers to grasp, as in their world, they are the only ones to exist. When teaching what it means to take turns, I recommend using a timer of some kind.
A sand timer is best, so children can visualize the passing of time. Teach your child that when the timer is done (all of the sand is at the bottom) it is their turn to play with a particular toy, but you will start the timer again and this time when time is done, they share the toy with their friend. These sand timers are worth it because you will certainly find many other uses for them too!
Praise & Encourage Your Child
Sharing is hard for toddlers, this is a big concept with some big feelings attached to it. When you see your toddler doing the right thing, (even attempting to do the right thing) praise them! Encourage that positive behavior, and tell them how proud you are.
Rather than saying things like “you are a good girl” use specific, age appropriate language when praising your little one for sharing. Some examples of this include:
- “I am so proud of you for sharing the farm animals with your friend. Look at the smile on his face!”
- “I feel so happy when I see you sharing your blocks with your brother. Thank you!”
- “Thank you for sharing your books with your sister, I know that was very hard to do.”
- “Wow, you took turns sharing the tea set with your friend all on your own! I am proud of you!”
Sharing does not come naturally to a toddler, it is something they need to be taught. It is best to start teaching this lesson early, even if it is as simple as passing a toy back and forth between the two of you, “taking turns” holding the toy. It is, after all, one of the oldest lessons in the parenting book – sharing is caring.