Using toys to develop, support, and master social skills. I.e., sharing, turn-taking, communicating needs.
“That’s mine!!! Give it back. MOM! She won’t give it back!”
Every parent who has ever had two kids playing in the same room “together” has heard those one-of-a-kind shrieks more often than they would like. You can envision them shaking their head and sighing with exasperation. At least once in their lifetime, parents have wondered why sharing is SO HARD for their kids?? If you have thought this, know you are not alone. Parents everywhere wish their kids could learn these skills in a blink of an eye!
First, it is important to understand that a child’s seeming inability to share is actually developmentally appropriate. Often, this challenging phase starts around age 2-3 years. It is at this age that children first start to take on a true self identity and realize that they have an opinion. Once this developmental milestone starts to set in, your 2-year-old will have their side to share! In addition to now having an opinion and new-found identity, kids will start to understand the meaning of MINE… Me, Myself, and Mine! Life truly revolves around their understanding of self and their growing independence. When you think about it this way, it makes sense that children prefer to collect their things and not want to share them with anyone else.
Once you put these developmental facts into perspective, you will typically be able to manage these behaviors more easily. By following a few key tips, most families will be able to glide through this phase and understand it is appropriate, but most importantly short-lived. In no time, your independent and headstrong 2-year-old may very well turn into a kind and generous 3 or 4-year-old. All it takes is a little patience from you and practice from your toddler to perfect these skills.
Below are some great tips to help your kids learn the art of sharing!
- PRACTICE! As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Having your kids practice sharing with you is an easy way to help them realize that their prized possessions are not going to disappear forever. Use language such as, “First it is Joey’s turn, then it is Mommy’s turn, then it is Joey’s turn again”. Take your turn quickly for only a minute or so, and then excitedly state, “Yay! Now it is Joey’s turn again!” and hand the toy right back. This will help kids start to understand the concept of sharing without developing significant anxiety over the rapid switch. Over time, you can increase the length of your turns.
- CHOICES! At this age, giving your kids choices can alleviate many power struggles. For a smoother transition into this strategy, lean on the art of sharing. If your child can choose which toy they want to share, they will often be more willing to give it than if you just took away their favorite item.
- TURN TAKING! Grab a toy and practice turn taking with two or more children. For example, if you are decorating Step2’s My First Christmas Tree, switch whose turn it is to put up the next ornament. When your children partake in make believe play, encourage them to alternate roles. By engaging in activities such as pretend baking in Step2’s Lifestyle Custom Kitchen, your child will quickly pick up how turn taking works. They can make muffins for their little sister, then they can make muffins for you! Yummy!!
- MODEL SHARING! Be the role model for your child by exemplifying how great it is to share with others. Whether it is with your spouse or another adult, it is easy to incorporate these skills into daily activities. Make sure to specifically point out that you are sharing something of yours, like saying “Look Molly, Daddy is cold. I am going to share my blanket with Daddy so he can warm up!” Children love to imitate their parents, so modeling good-sharing behavior is a great way to encourage your child to do the same.
- USE A TIMER: Timers can be helpful for so many situations with kids, and sharing is no exception. If your kids both want to play with the same item, grab the timer! Set it for two minutes, let one kid play, and then switch. Not only does this turn it into a fun game, but your kids can practice patience and sharing at the same time!
- PLAN AHEAD! If you have three kids, try to make sure you have three toys to play with, especially when you are out of the house. It is normal for your children to show interests in their sibling’s toys, so be ready to put your turn-taking strategies to work!
While our toddlers can make life challenging, it is also fun to watch them grow, adapt, and embrace the world. Sharing is a tough skill for kids to master, but with a little help from adults and role models, everyone will end up on top! The holiday season is the perfect time for incorporating these new skills into your child’s life. Every kid loves new toys, so make sure to encourage the sharing language and skills into your daily conversations. In very little time, your family will experience holiday cheer and make this season the best one yet!