At a young age, the concept of sharing is unusual to most children. Whether it’s letting a friend play with one of their toys or sharing a sweet treat with a sibling, it can often be difficult for toddlers to understand why sharing is necessary. Consequently, when asked to share, children can become agitated or upset and may feel like they’ve lost something that they consider to be ‘theirs’. However, learning to share is an integral part of every child’s development; here are some ways to encourage your little one and teach them to share:
Begin as Soon as Possible
By encouraging sharing from a young age, your child will progress knowing that this behaviour is normal and expected of them. As soon as they can hold an object, teach your toddler to share by taking it in turns to hold that object and verbalising the concept by saying “your go, my go”. Not only will this teach them to be less protective of certain items such as toys but, being their parent, it will also demonstrate to them the idea that sharing is connected with love.
Use a Timer
If your little one is finding it hard to give away an item, use a timer to signify when it’s time to let someone else have a turn. Before setting the timer, be sure to make it clear to your child that they will have a certain amount of time to have/play with an object. Then, when the buzzer rings, retrieve that object and give it someone else but tell your toddler that they can have it back afterwards. This will help them to understand that sharing doesn’t mean losing something altogether.
It is common for children to see another child’s toy and immediately want to play with it, especially during playdates. To avoid this, set a theme for the playdate so that all the children in attendance will be playing with similar toys, thus limiting the possibility of arguments. For instance, you could ask parents to bring cuddly toys, toy vehicles or blue toys depending on what you think will be the most popular.
Children often look to their parents as role models and imitate their behaviour. As such, show your toddler that, while you expect them to share, you are also happy to share your things with them too! Try asking them if they would like a bite of your food or to join you on the sofa for a kiss and a cuddle. Similarly, use your partner to demonstrate the act of sharing by taking it in turns to watch the television or use a particular item in front of your little one.
Remember their Favourites
While sharing is important, there will be certain items that are special to your child, whether it’s a brand-new toy or a years-old teddy bear. Consequently, asking them to share those items with someone else is rather unfair as being an adult, you would not be expected to do the same. It’s fine for your toddler to have their favourites; however, make sure you keep them hidden away during playdates to avoid upset!
Finally, always remember to praise your little one for sharing something with someone else. Sharing something you consider to be ‘yours’ is a big step and ultimately, an act of kindness, so don’t let it go unnoticed. Show your child that you are pleased with their behaviour by verbalising their achievement and telling them how they’ve made someone else happy.
Here at St Peter’s, we encourage our pupils to share from a young age. Not only does learning to share help children become more selfless but it can also help them form new friendships and settle in quicker, especially for pupils attending our private preschool. For more advice about toddlers’ learning or to discover more about consistent parenting, please visit our blog.