From taking over toys to hogging treats, learning to share can be a challenge for toddlers. Since sharing is not a natural habit for young children, it’s important to guide your child through this skill, as this will help them interact, socialise and play with others throughout their childhood. Here are some helpful tips for how to encourage your little one to share.
Set an example and practise at home
Toddlers tend to model the words and behaviours of those around them. Try and incorporate sharing daily and make a conscious effort to explain your actions as you do them. This could be through dividing food with your partner or passing on a toy to your toddler. Try and do this regularly throughout the day so that your toddler learns that this behaviour is normal and to be expected.
Point out sharing in others
If you notice sharing in other situations, point it out to your little one: ‘Wasn’t it nice of Tommy to share his toys with you?’ or ‘Dad halved his sandwich with you. That was kind of him, wasn’t it?’ It may take a while for them to register this fully, but as their emotions continue to develop, the message will start to sink in.
Play games that require taking turns
Play games with your child that involve turn-taking and sharing. Narrate your actions and talk your child through each step, repeating phrases like, ‘Now it’s your turn to add a block to the tower, then it’s my turn’ and ‘I’ll share my blue blocks with you, and you can share your red ones with me!’ This language will eventually help to normalise the behaviour.
Explain and encourage sharing on play dates
Play dates are a great opportunity to encourage sharing. If you are inviting friends or family around to play, explain to your toddler beforehand that they will need to share their toys. Ask them what games and items they’d like to share with their friend. If your child has a few favourite toys they are likely to guard with jealousy, it may be best to keep these out of the way in the meantime.
As soon as you see your toddler sharing or exhibiting generosity, make a point of praising their actions. ‘That was lovely of you to share your ball with Ellie!’ or ‘Thank you for sharing your juice with me. That made me feel really nice.’
Teaching your child to share takes time, effort and patience. With these prompting tactics and a little bit of perseverance, you can help to establish these positive habits early, which will serve them when socialising and forming friendships throughout their childhood and later in life.