Until they’re about three years old, toddlers think that the world revolves around them. Basically, it’s not in their nature to share! But sharing can be learnt through teaching and practise, and having a good example to follow. Here are some simple ways to show your tot that sharing is caring…
1. Start early
Early toys provide first sharing opportunities, so practise taking turns with your child right from babyhood. For example, you might give your baby a rattle to shake then take it, shake it yourself and return it to him. This helps teach your little one that he can share and still have fun. Continue sharing with him when he’s a toddler, being verbal and giving lots of praise (“Can Mummy have a turn? Thanks for sharing...”). Keep things positive, trying not to give in to tantrums or get angry when he doesn’t want to hand things over. Be patient.
2. Share alike
Sharing your own things builds the concept of sharing, so avoid labelling everything as someone’s. Rather than saying, “That’s Mummy’s, don’t touch!” try saying, “That’s not a toy, no playing with it,” and give your child an alternative toy. Obviously some things are unsafe or precious, but otherwise try to share. Let him play with your keys, drink from your favourite cup or try on your shoes.
3. Family affair
Family playtime can be great preparation for sharing. When your child is playing with blocks, ask him, “Can Mum and Dad have some, too?” If he refuses, remove yourself briefly then try again. This teaches that sharing leads to more engagement and fun play.
4. Group therapy
At snacktime, toddlers tend to snatch, not share. But rather than giving everyone separate plates, cut fruit into pieces and put on one plate, stating, “One for Ty, one for Alex, one for you...” If your child snatches and doesn’t respond to prompting (“That’s right, give one to Ty…”), gently guide his hand to pass to the others, giving praise for sharing.
5. Be prepared
When friends visit for play dates, toddlers will naturally protect what’s ‘theirs’. So it’s best to put favourite toys away and have a ‘share mat’ with toys that can be enjoyed with visitors. Use lots of reminders, like, “Mummy loves sharing, Mummy loves you letting Tim use your crayons.” Don’t expect perfection, and have lots of crayons so sharing isn’t so challenging.
6. Start small
Begin with less-favoured toys, and set firm rules that no sharing means the toys go away (bring them back out saying, “Let’s try again to share...”). This teaches that selfishness allows no fulfilment.
7. Taking turns
Before a trip to the park, remind your child you like everyone taking turns and aren’t happy with pushing in. When he races for the slide, don’t grab him but remind him that everyone has to wait and take turns. This affirms for all kids that sharing and turn-taking is fair play. If he refuses, have a brief time out before sending him back to the slide.
8. Give and take
At mealtimes, offer your child the sauce, saying how sharing is nice. Ask him to pass it to you when he’s done:
“Remember I passed the sauce for you, can you pass it to me now?” This shows sharing is a two-way street.
9. Helping hands
After dinner, share the clean-up. Toddlers don’t need big chores, but simply carrying a plate to the sink teaches sharing duties and helping others. Be encouraging and give praise: “Can you be really helpful, big boy, and carry your plate like Mummy does? Thanks for helping.”
10. The waiting game
When drinks are being offered at picnics or family gatherings, be positive about waiting, being patient and not snatching. Ask your toddler to offer a drink to someone else first: “Can you give this one to Grandpa? He’s thirsty, too. That’s very kind to share first...” Try to avoid getting cranky if he resists, but redirect him: “Grandpa would love it if you could share first...” This encourages your child to be kind and courteous.