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Teach Toddlers to Share

May 26, 2015

Article and Photograph by Nikki Cecala

Teach Toddlers to Share | Young children might not be able to understand why they should share, but you can teach them how to share in the meantime. | The author's son Seth and nephew Daniel get along on the playground.

On a rainy Saturday afternoon at my sister’s house, our sons, who had just turned two, were playing with their new birthday toys. Everything was going well until one of them saw the other having the time of his life with a particular toy. You know where this is going.

My son, Seth, was jumping off a large plastic car (don’t worry, the rug beneath the car kept it in place) when Daniel decided he wanted to jump off of it, too. Seth ran back around, pushed Daniel to the side, and climbed on the car to jump. As you can imagine, this left Daniel sad and crying.

Seth stood near the car with a concerned look on his face. He seemed curious as to why Daniel was crying, but he wasn’t making the connection that it was a result of his actions. Seth gave Daniel a hug, which Daniel accepted, and then attempted to get on the car again. I realized this was a great teachable moment to show the boys how to share nicely, so I used these four tactics to help.

Be patient
Successfully teaching a child to share involves many stages. It’s not something learned quickly, especially for a two year old. While you can teach a toddler to share at this age, he or she likely won’t fully understand the concept or value of sharing for a few more years. You may need to show and tell your child repeatedly how to share, which can take time to learn and change their behavior, so remember to be patient when teaching.

Put it in perspective
Never force a child to share without explaining the reasoning for it. Instead, create an environment that encourages your child to want to share on his or her own. Saying, “Sally, you need to share your doll because your cousin Mark is over,” is not going to teach Sally the importance of sharing when Mark or any other child is at her house. Put sharing in perspective for her by saying, “When you go to Mark’s house, he shares his toys with you so that you can play together. Wouldn’t it be nice to share your toys with Mark so he can play with you here?”

Model positive behavior
As stated in the first book of YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, “Children learn to control their behavior by imitating the behavior of adults around them. They will learn more from what they see you do than they ever will from what you say.” Take the opportunity to demonstrate how you share with your partner, grandma, or a neighbor. It may not seem like much, but your child is observing and learning how to behave, which can make a big impact.

Encourage them
When encouraging Seth and Daniel to take turns, I always told them whose turn it was and cheered the other on when he completed the jump.

“Good job Seth! Now it’s Daniel’s turn to jump.”

This strategy worked out well because although they were antsy waiting for their turns, they knew to wait until the other was done based on the name I was announcing. It kept them more calm and orderly. Are the boys excellent sharers now? No, about an hour later they were bickering over a new toy, but jumping in and guiding the situation helped a lot. We took the first step in learning how and why to share, and they were both more willing to because of our earlier experience.

How do you encourage sharing with your children? Tell me your story in the comments below.

Do you want more lessons that develop your child's social and emotional well-being? Check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon

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