Do you lend your friends your car, your computer or your brand new shoes? Isn’t it a bit unrealistic then to expect your toddler to willingly part with his favourite toys whenever a strange child visits – read, invades his territory?
Being able to share is a developmental stage that most children under three simply aren’t ready to manage. Sharing requires quite a few learning steps and lots of patient teaching along the way: before a tot can share, she has to learn what ‘mine’ means. The discovery of this magical word heralds your child’s awareness that there are some things she can move, control and keep. Later, she learns that she can share something that belongs to her without losing it forever.
To encourage sharing:
- If a toy is special, don’t expect your child to share it, even if she has learned the meaning of sharing and taking turns. If you are expecting visitors, help your child put away special toys he finds difficult to share. It can be helpful to bring out ‘sharing’ toys such as blocks and balls, and play with little ones or stay very close and observe carefully to keep them on track as they get used to new friends, so play dates aren’t fraught with squabbles.
- Talk about which toys your child is happy to share, just as you introduce the idea of taking turns: “share for a little while,” then acknowledge and praise your child’s efforts (“good sharing, that is really kind!”) when he does share.
- Teach your toddler about sharing by exaggerating your own sharing – ‘Mummy is sharing her orange with Daddy.’ You can also use encouraging language – “it tastes better when we share,” as you divide food.
- As toddlers get a little older, encourage sharing food by allowing one child to divide and the other to have first choice. This will soon see the chocolate bar meticulously divided down to the last crumb!
- If there is a row over a toy or food, remove it and distract both toddlers.