Tips for training toddlers to share

Modeling sharing, playing games and setting a timer can all help kids learn

Tips for training toddlers to share

Sharing is a foreign concept for 2- to 3-year-olds. Toddlers are typically possessive and self-centered, and it’s normal to not want to share with others. Toddlers are just beginning to understand the concept of sharing.

By 4 years old, sharing becomes easier to understand. However, the concept of sharing is not truly understood until children reach the age of 7 to 8 years old.

Encourage your child to begin sharing

Sharing begins with taking turns, even when your child really wants the toy just for themselves. Your toddler needs opportunities and guidance to learn sharing. Here are a few tips to help.

Model how to take turns

Many daily activities can encourage sharing, such as:

  • At clean-up time, take turns putting the toys back on the shelf.
  • Build a tall block tower together and take turns adding to it.
  • At bedtime, take turns flipping the pages of the book.
  • Share with your toddler. Say, “Want to share some of my popcorn?” or, “Come sit with me. We can share the chair.”

Play ‘share your wealth’

Give your toddler some flowers, crackers, blocks or toys. Ask your toddler to share them with people in the room: “Give one to big brother. Give one to daddy.”

This gives your toddler the message that sharing is a normal way of life, and sharing spreads joy.

Set the timer

Visuals or cues are always helpful. Try setting a timer to help learn the sharing process.

  • Start by setting the timer for two minutes for this age.
  • When the timer goes off, the toy goes to a playmate (or you, if you are the playmate) for the same amount of time.

Plan for two

Sometimes playing side-by-side without having to share or take turns is needed. You don’t need to “force” sharing all day long. Playing with water or sand, or doing art projects, provides opportunities for children to play side-by-side and have fun without the need for a lot of turn-taking.

Praise your toddler when you see them sharing. Say things like: “You are playing so nice with your friend. Did you see how happy your friend was when you gave them a turn with your cars?”

Learning to share takes practice and time. Give your child lots of opportunities and encouragement to become good at sharing with others.

Learn more

Posted In Children's, Family Medicine, Parenting