Tips & Tricks: Teaching Toddlers How to Share

Sharing is an essential life skill that’s far from natural. If you’ve spent time with little ones, then you know encouraging toddlers to share with others can be a challenge. It’s a lot of work, but small steps and clear examples will turn kiddos into sharing experts. Check ‘em out!

Sharing Stories

Like most things in life, sharing is better caught than taught. A great way to start introducing sharing to reluctant kiddos is with a good story. It’s a non-threatening method that doesn’t involve taking any of their toys away and encourages them to use their imagination to picture scenarios and anticipate their feelings. Some kid-friendly stories about sharing include Gossie (ages 2-5), That’s (Not) Mine (ages 3-6), and We Found a Hat (ages 4-8).

If your kiddo has siblings, reading stories aloud is an opportunity to show how one thing (a book) can be enjoyed while sharing it with others. Stories – on any subject! – are just one example of things that are improved by sharing!

Don’t Just Say It, Show It

Children model the behavior they see, and kids see their parents a lot. So, it’s crucial that they see you sharing – with them and others! This can be especially tough with preschoolers because it’s possible for them to interpret your keeping a smartphone, remote control, or potential dangers out of reach as a refusal to share.

One strategy parents can use is making a show of sharing at the dinner table or during playtime. “May I use your napkin, please?” “Do you mind if I play with your phone, dear?” Modelling good sharing etiquette in daily situations (including giving borrowed things back) will help kids see that sharing is normal and non-threatening. A toy shared is not a toy lost!

Sharing Takes Practice

Learning good habits requires practicing those habits over and over (and over) again. That’s the way habits work for kiddos as well as adults! So, it’s important to practice patience and practice sharing patiently. One helpful method to try is the timed swap. Set a timer and explain that it’s time to share the toy when it beeps. You can do this with two children or participate yourself, and it helps to start with shorter times (1 minute) and work up to longer sharing times (5 minutes). This method slowly shows toddlers that they don’t lose anything by sharing.

Of course, not everything must be shared. Allowing children to keep a toy or comfort item to themselves isn’t wrong – especially if they’re willing to share other things! In fact, kiddos can warm up to sharing faster if they know that they don’t have to share everything all the time. So, don’t be afraid to let them have a special item that doesn’t come out during playdates and that siblings know is off-limits.

Sharing takes practice, practice, practice! With a combination of modeling, stories that help them imagine the goodness of sharing, and lots of gentle repetition, there’s sure to be sharing master in the making! Do you have a sharing success story that can encourage other parents? Let us know @battattoys!