teaching toddlers to share

Toddlers Sharing with each other

No,” “mine”, “my”, and “me” are some of the words that get more and more common in our little ones, especially in their toddlerhood and preschool years. These words are accompanied by behaviours such as screaming, pulling, pushing, snatching their toys, hugging them dearly, and not wanting to share their things with anyone. Even though it is a normal developmental phase, it might make many parents worried. Sharing is an extremely important social skill that helps toddlers build friendships, develop empathy, and be a part of social interactions. However, for toddlers and preschoolers, learning to share can be a little challenging. In this blog, our child development expert, Dr. Clara Guru, will tell us why it happens and how we can inculcate the habit of sharing in our toddlers.

Why is it difficult for toddlers to share?

it is important to understand that toddlers don’t do this intentionally. It is extremely normal for toddlers to struggle with sharing. This behaviour arises from various developmental reasons and psychological factors that are typical for their age group. For parents, it becomes more important to understand why children find it difficult to share, as it can help them understand and approach this behavior with empathy and effective strategies. Let’s read about the reasons:

  • Sense of Ownership and Possessiveness

At this stage, toddler’s cognitive abilities are enhanced, and they are beginning to understand the concept of possession. They feel a strong attachment to their belongings and see them as a part of themselves. This sense of ownership makes it difficult for them to part with their toys or other items.

  • Independence and Autonomy

your toddler is learning new skills every day and they are becoming more and more independent. This makes them want to assert their independence and ownership. Saying “mine”, and “no” and refusing to share are ways for them to exercise control over their environment and express their autonomy.

  • Lack of Impulse Control and Immediate Gratification

Toddlers are extremely impulsive and often tend to seek immediate gratification. Their impulse control does not fully develop till the age of 5. They have a limited understanding of delayed rewards and want things there and then. 

  • Limited Emotional Regulation

Toddlers are still learning about their emotions and are developing their emotional regulation skills. When they are asked to share, they might feel a strong emotional response, such as frustration or anxiety, because they are not yet able to manage their emotions effectively.

  • Egocentrism

 Toddlers are naturally egocentric. This means that they see the world primarily from their own perspective. They have not yet developed the ability to fully understand that others have thoughts, feelings, and needs separate from their own. They feel that everybody has the same perspective as theirs, making it more difficult for them to share. 

References from Mine or Yours? Development of Sharing in Toddlers in Relation to Ownership Understanding and How to Teach Toddlers to Share

Strategies to Encourage Sharing

Sharing is not an innate skill but a learned process and it can take its own time. For toddlers, learning to share can be challenging. Here are some effective strategies to help inculcate the habit of sharing in little ones:

  • Model Sharing Behavior

Children learn by observing the adults around them, especially their parents. It is important to demonstrate sharing in your daily actions. For example, share your food or belongings with your child or offer to share your belongings with other family members. Narrate your actions: “I’m sharing my orange with you because sharing is kind.” It is important to mention these so that your toddler knows what you are doing and teaching.

  • Let’s Make Sharing Fun

Turn sharing into a playtime activity or a fun game. Create fun activities where taking turns is necessary, like passing a ball or playing a shared musical instrument. You can play with building blocks or stacking games. When you both complete or make something, talk about how great it was to share that activity with your toddler. This helps children associate sharing with positive experiences and enjoyment.

  • Encourage Turn-Taking

Teach your toddler about turn-taking as a form of sharing. Sit together in a group to play. Use a timer to make turns fair and clear. Explain that everyone gets a turn, and waiting patiently is part of the fun. This helps children understand the concept of fairness and the importance of waiting their turn. For example, set a timer and explain when the timer goes off, it’s time to let the other family member or child have a turn. When your toddler sees that he will get his car back, he may be more likely to give it up in the future. You can also take their favorite soft toy to hug and kiss it, and then give it to your little one to do the same. Then ask him to give it to someone else to do the same. This will teach him about turn-taking and sharing. 

  • Read Stories About Sharing

Stories can be powerful tools for teaching kids social skills. Choose or create stories that talk about the importance of sharing and discuss them with your toddler. Ask questions like, “How did the characters feel when they shared?” or “What happened when they didn’t share?”

  • Exceptions Can Be There

If they have a favourite toy, don’t force them to share that. It is okay for them to not let go of some of their belongings and we should not cross their boundaries. If we force them to share, they might develop a negative feeling towards this act. When you arrange a get-together, ask them about their favorite toy that they don’t want others to have and keep it in a special place. Keep all the other things out for sharing, and tell him that you will be sharing these things with others.

  • Always Praise Sharing

Praise your child when they share. Ask your toddler any object that they are holding and when they give it to you, praise them with smiles and claps. Say that, “you shared this remote with me, thank you. Very good” Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging repeated behavior. Be specific in your praise: “I really liked how you shared your toy with your friend. That was very kind of you.”

  • Point Out Sharing When You see It

When you witness sharing in real life, point it out to your toddler. Did he share his toy with her? Wow, that is very good”. This will help your toddler learn that sharing is a good thing and it gets praised again and again, motivating them to repeat it themselves.

References from How to Teach Toddlers to Share

Final thoughts by Dr. Clara Guru

It is common and developmentally normal for our toddlers to resist sharing. This behavior is a part of their natural development as they learn about possession, control, and social interactions. By understanding the developmental reasons behind their reluctance to share and using effective strategies to encourage sharing, parents and caregivers can help children develop this important social skill over time. Sharing is a skill that is to be learned by our toddlers. Dr. Clara Guru, our development expert says that inculcating the habit of sharing in little ones requires a combination of modeling behavior, creating opportunities, and reinforcing positive actions. Every small step towards sharing is a significant milestone in your toddler’s social development!

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