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How to teach toddlers to share?

We live in a world where sharing is often an unrealistic expectation of young children, given their emotional stage and age. Children under 4 for example are primarily focused on their own feelings and thoughts, and they’re thinking, “I want those toys, and I want them now!” This behavior may embarrass and frustrate parents, but an unwillingness to share is perfectly normal at this age!

Learning to play and get along with others is something we can do with toddlers but they don’t really develop a concept of sharing with other kids/siblings until the age of four or four and a half. Any younger than that, the child doesn’t quite understand the language around sharing. Sharing between toddlers and young children can be a source of stress for children and parents alike. Even at four or five years of age, it is fair to expect selective sharing. A child may reserve a few precious possessions just for himself/herself.

It is however important to highlight something we may not realize. Selfishness coms before sharing. The growing child develops attachments to things as well as persons. This ability to form strong attachments is important to being an emotionally healthy person. They are initially very attached to their mother especially in the first year of their life.  Then they transfer this attachment to their other favourite possessions, toys.

It may not prove effective to force a child to share either. Instead try to create a space that encourages your child to do this on their own.. There is power in possession. To you, they’re only toys. To a child, they’re a valuable, prized collection that has taken years to assemble. As every child is different it is best to watch how your child operates in a group play setting — you’ll learn a lot about your child and about what kind of guidance he’ll need. Feedback from daycare or kindergarten is also very useful if you are not able to watch them yourself.

And remember what works best? Monkey see, monkey do. If big monkey shares, so will little monkey. When someone asks to borrow one of your “toys,” make this a teachable moment: “Mommy is sharing her book with her friend.” Let your sharing shine. Share with your children: “Want some of my popcorn?” “Come sit with us — we’ll make room for you.” Also, playing cooperative games with your child is a great way to reinforce the concept of sharing in a fun, relaxed environment.  For example, taking turns while playing a board game or putting together a puzzle can give children practice sharing with others.

And repeat. Like with everything else. Toddlers need repetition.


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