Do you have problems with your toddler sharing at play dates? Are you dealing with territorial battles? Problems with sharing are part of normal development in toddlers, but parents can foster sharing skills in young children with a few learning opportunities and offering praise along the way. Since toddlers naturally want to mimic adults, begin early by modeling behavior. As an example, if you are eating a cookie, break it in half and give part to your toddler while explaining that you are sharing this cookie with him. The key word is sharing and hopefully by repetition he begins to associate the word with the action. As a former early childhood teacher, mother and now grandmother, I would like to give you some ideas on ways to foster toddler sharing skills with your child.
Tips on Teaching About Sharing
Begin your lessons early, even though toddlers can’t cognitively grasp this concept of sharing until the age of 3 to 4, you can still teach lessons along the way. Say for example, you are at a play date or even a park. Your toddler begins to fight with another child wanting the same toy or wants the slide to himself. As a parent, you can step in and stop the battle. Look at your toddler straight in the eyes and explain in a firm but loving tone that the slide and/or toy is for everyone to share and engage in helping the children take turns with your guidance.
- Pretend and use imaginative play, which can provide powerful lessons in sharing. Puppets are great tools to teach toddlers about sharing. Place a puppet on each hand and have the two provide a dialogue about sharing scenes. Then invite your toddler to join in. Let him choose a puppet to wear and converse together.
- Have a talk before play dates. Remind your child how much fun it is to play with his friends. Tell him he will need to share his toys before the meeting. You may let him choose which toys to include in the occasion where he shares with other children and allow him to leave a special toy at home or in a safe place. Even adults have special things that they don’t want others to touch.
- If possible have some duplicate toys on hand during a play date. Remember we are trying to teach toddlers to share, but this doesn’t happen overnight. Having a few duplicates is helpful during play dates where children can play alongside one another and avoid an altercation.
- Include some cooperative activities. Group projects such as drawing, painting, or playing with play dough can be used to teach sharing skills. Even though they are doing their own work, they are still using the art materials and working as a group. Praise how well they are playing together.
- Promote with praise. When you see your toddler sharing, bring it to his attention. Children want to please their parents so be sure to offer plenty of love and praise. From time to time, participate with the children in their group so you can support them being kind and sharing with each other.
- Create opportunities for children to share. This helps them to develop empathy and sharing skills. For example, when you bake a batch of cookies, let your toddler pass them around to friends and family. Or encourage him to draw a picture to make for a friend or family member.
- Read books about toddler sharing. There are many books about sharing that can be obtained at libraries and bookstores. As you read the story, relate it to a past experience, for example say, “Do you remember when you shared your blocks with Sarah yesterday? That is what the children are doing in this story."
- Handle tantrums wisely. If your toddler grabs a toy from another child, tell him he must give it back and wait for his turn. Offer an alternative toy as a distraction. If a tantrum arises, remove your toddler from the situation until he calms down.
Remember sharing problems are normal and part of growing up. I don’t think there are many adults that haven’t outgrown sharing issues. At least I don’t think so!
Suggested Books to Read:
Let’s Share by P.K. Hallinan
Mine! Mine! Mine! By Shelly Becker
Share and Take Turns by Cheri J. Meiners M.Ed.
Sharing: How Kindness Grows by Fran Shaw
We Share Everything! By Robert N. Munsch
TodaysParent.com, How to get your kid to share: An age-by-age guide
AskDrSears.com, 11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share
Books found on Amazon.com