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How to Teach a Toddler to Share: Why It’s Important & How to Do It

If you’re a parent of a toddler, you must have witnessed at least one playground quarrel and the root cause is usually young kids’ unwillingness to share. Whenever there are toddlers and toys in the mix, disagreements seem inevitable, and they can put a real damper on what was supposed to be a fun playdate. 

Though it may be worrying to realize your little one has trouble sharing, this is a normal developmental stage. Don’t beat yourself up about it since it’s not a consequence of bad parenting or a sign that your child will grow up to be selfish. Toddlers tend to be self-centered because they simply haven’t developed the ability to see the world from another person’s point of view. 

Thankfully, there are excellent ways to deal with this and teach your little ones the joy of sharing. Here’s what to do.

Why is sharing important?

Toddlers have to overcome their natural selfishness and adopt a positive attitude toward sharing because this goes hand in hand with developing empathy. Being able to sympathize with others and put yourself in their shoes will be essential for their adult social life. It plays into many other social skills, such as being able to engage in team work, being ready to compromise, and playing fair. It’s a useful life skill that will help them fit in and make friends, so it’s definitely worth working on.

How do I teach my child the concept of sharing?

If you start teaching your children early, they’ll adopt the concept more readily. Don’t be impatient if it doesn’t work at first because they do need to mature a bit to be able to grasp it fully. Be consistent and use every situation as a learning opportunity whether you’re at a playdate, the park, or a cool indoor playground with many kids around. Here are a few ideas for you to try out:

  • Be an example: Children learn best by modeling their behavior based on what they see the adults in their life do. Their parents are their biggest role models, so make use of this to teach them positive values, such as the importance of sharing. If they see you and your spouse sharing the last piece of cake from the fridge or they see you helping a neighbor carry heavy boxes, they’ll grow used to such acts of kindness and be more likely to practice them themselves.
  • Practice at home: Make sure there’s a general spirit of fairness in your family. For example, show them it’s important to give each person a turn to talk and listen to the other person respectfully even if you disagree. Don’t forget to say “please” when you’d like them to hand something to you and “thank you” when they do as asked. You can also play games that require them to wait for their turn.
  • Talk and read about sharing: Pick out children’s books with the topic of kindness and sharing. Read them together and discuss the theme of the story in simple terms that they can understand. Point out positive examples of sharing when you witness them together.
  • Set expectations: Before they start kindergarten or go on a playdate, tell them how you expect them to behave there. For example, if a playmate is coming over to visit, let them know that they’ll be expected to let the child handle their toys. 
  • Praise them for their progress: When you see them sharing, tell them how great it was and give them your attention. It’ll encourage them to do more of the same in the future.


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