How to Teach Your Child to Share?

Sharing is a staple part of life, and it can be as hard to learn as it is to practice as an adult. As your little one grows and starts grasping onto objects around the house, you can begin introducing the concept of sharing, fostering a healthy personal and social behavior that is so necessary for the future. Teaching kids to share isn’t really that difficult so here is our guideline to show you how to do it easily.

1. Start young

In your child’s youngest years, start playing with the idea of taking turns. During tummy time, introduce a ball into your play set. Roll the ball from your lap toward your baby, explaining ‘my turn, your turn’ along the way. Your baby is not going to grasp onto this idea immediately, but will slowly associate the sharing words with the sharing action.

When you start sharing young, your baby will be more comfortable by toddlerhood with the idea of letting friends and classmates have a turn with toys, craft supplies, and teacher attention. Be careful to not overextend your child’s sharing while you practice. Keep sharing objects limited to generic toys and be sure to extend the sharing favor back to the child. Let your child keep hold of things such as a comforting stuffed animal or pacifier. You want your child to have the security necessary to grow healthily.

Additionally, the earlier you start sharing, the more impressionable is your child and the more she is going to register the ongoing action as sharing. If you ask her to share a ball for a few minutes, follow through with the agreement, giving the ball back after a few minutes. This teaches your child that it is safe to share; that sharing and lending is not permanent.

2. Teach by example

As you experiment with the most effective ways for how to teach toddler to share, nothing is more powerful than your own behavioral example. Take sample opportunities to share with your kids and to share with those around you as your child observes you in social situations.

Bear in mind the reciprocal relationship of sharing while you lead by example. Sharing is not as transactional as asking to borrow a toy or a kitchen utensil and your play or cooking partner offering up the desired object. Asking to borrow comes with hopeful facial expressions, consideration by your partner, a timeline agreement (say, for five minutes), kind facial expressions from your partner and then follow-through with returning the item.

It is important that your child sees all aspects of sharing so that when it comes time to share in real life, he can mimic the ideal scenario as closely as possible and set a good example of sharing for all his classmates and friends.

3. Share more than things

It is important to assign the value to more than tangible possessions and to open up sharing opportunities to some of life’s most beautiful moments. Share your big ideas with your children, offer up a seat on your lap or the chance to flip through the pages of the book in your hands so you can read together. Share your time, your love, attention, and affection so that your children learn to share these quality times, too.

You can ask your child or your family members to share the intangible items to lead by example, too. You can ask your spouse to share a moment of time to help you make a plan or for her attention on a short video a colleague sent over to you.

Sharing items like time and affection present a more complex concept of sharing, because the two people are likely not sharing time for time or reciprocating the sharing right away. The sharing of time, love and attention might be relayed later on in the day.

This is will be a tricky concept for your child to grasp, so you can explain the situation as you show the sharing act: “Mommy is going to share her time with me now so I can get to work on time, and then we can both have really fun days. Then I will share some of my time, later.” While you explain this type of intangible sharing, be sure to pay back your spouse or sharing partner later on so your child perceives an honest and balanced dynamic.

4. Explain time

Concepts of time are just blossoming. The idea of getting a toy back later is not yet familiar. When you tell a toddler you intend to borrow a toy for a short period of time, your child will likely cry or become sad, thinking the toy is being taken away forever. Avoid this confusion by telling your child that you are taking a toy for a moment only to return it, and return it to her possession shortly after.

Practice this repetition so your child gets comfortable with the concept of surrendering grip on a toy for a temporary period of time. Eventually, your toddler will trust that when a toy is lent and shared, it will come back into their space. The actual passage and lengths of time are still vague to your little one, so practicing this activity in short spurts of time. Try using a ball or craft supplies to show the return of objects within time.

5. Schedule playdates

The earlier you schedule play dates for your toddler, the more accustomed to sharing she will become. Activities for two naturally require a sharing of supplies, costumes, time and fun. Playing with a friend is different than playing with a sibling because rules and comforts vary with the new person.

Learning how others share will be imperative to adapting to many sharing situations and understanding what your child is not comfortable sharing.

child not sharing her toy

6. Point out the reaction of the partner for positive feedback

You can point out a positive reaction in your sharing partner, whether it is your child or a peer in the room. If you are asking your child to share, instead of leaving the trade at “thank you,” you can say something like “thank you for helping me get the perfect purple by sharing your paint with me,” or “thank you for trusting me to try and make this next basket.”

It will feel exaggerated when you practice this exercise with your partner or a friend in the room as you set an example for your toddlers, but pointing out the generosity of your sharing partner is an important element to model.

7. Share gently

If you force sharing, the concept will not sit well with your toddler in future sharing contexts. You can ease the issue by making note of items that your toddler clearly does not like sharing. If trying to share a blanket or animal throws your child into a fit, that’s a larger situation to tackle outside of the sharing context. Do not force your kids to share items that appear to give them a sense of security.

As an adult, you can attest that there are something items (tangible or intangible) that require permission to share if shared at all. This concept is okay to allow in a toddler, just keep an eye on its frequency and the objects over which your toddler shows territorial display.

8. Explain sharing as it is goes

Always narrate your sharing interactions, and explain how the exchange is working. “Daddy is sharing the spatula with me so I can flip the pancakes in time, then I can pass it back to him in time to mix the eggs.”

9. Try using a timer

As you introduce the concept of sharing within timed parameters, you might use a timer that your child can follow, trust and respond to. Set the timer for brief intervals to start – maybe thirty seconds or a minute at a time.

10. Understanding through empathy

Empathy is another concept that your child will start to adopt at this time, and it is one that takes a great of mental processing to understand. As you exemplify sharing or engage in sharing with your toddler, explain the situation so your child can experience empathy. As you describe your need for the object in question, offer your child the chance to process and to present any conflicting ideas he might be experiencing. This is all part of a healthy sharing learning process.

11. Help point out hesitations

Your child will likely have some hesitations when it comes to sharing. A classmate might have previously demonstrated a preference for not giving toys back; a sibling could have a tendency of breaking toys, or your child might be attached to a toy in a maternal/paternal way that makes it difficult to let the shared object out of their hands.

If your child hesitates to share, ask about what they are feeling. Most children do not have natural understanding and command of their emotions, so they can use your help.

12. Applaud good sharing

When your child does a good job sharing, make sure to let them know you saw! Offer words of encouragement and explain how you saw the situation or play date become better after they decided to share.

kids reading a book together

13. Observe both sides of the sharing!

As you watch your child share or not share, keep an eye on the sharing partner. Is she giving toys back? Is she taking care of the objects she is sharing? Is she hoarding toys for the sake of having more? Your child might be observing legitimate cause for hesitation to share. When you observe this imbalanced dynamic, you can have compassion for your child’s reluctance to hand over a toy, which is important when the alternative is to get upset and require the object to be shared. It is also a valuable opportunity to teach your child about ways to handle this type of situation.

14. Take a step back

Observation is key as you aim to teach your toddler about sharing. Your natural reaction might be to intervene if your child does not want to share with a friend. However, it is best to refrain from getting involved. Observe the entire situation, and at the end, ask your child for his motives behind the behavior. Understanding why your child feared sharing will better allow you to explain what does not need to be feared or to present alternative solutions to navigating the sharing situation.

Additionally, it is important to let your child assert his confidence and decisions without interjecting and interrupting his development process. Observe, contemplate and then address the situation with new ideas to your toddler.

Sharing is a big step to take at any age, and it is an important one to instill as a value in your toddler. To learn more about sharing and model teaching as a parent, join the conversation at Kids Fun Corner, today!

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