How to Teach Your Toddler to Share

Sharing is an essential skill that toddlers need to develop as they grow. Learning to share teaches them about empathy, cooperation, and building relationships with others. 

That said, teaching toddlers to share can sometimes be a challenging task for parents. If you have started to think that maybe you have a selfish little human on your hands, this article is for you. We will explore effective strategies and techniques to help you guide your toddler toward becoming a generous little sharer.

Should your toddler share? 

Before we get to the strategies, let’s first figure out whether not sharing is even a problem in the first place. Should your toddler share? Why is it important? 

Well, sharing is an important part of a child’s development. It is a key milestone that allows children to begin developing social skills. For example, things like taking turns or compromising need the prerequisite skill of a willingness to share for them to occur. 

Sharing also fosters positive interactions between your child and others. This strengthens your toddler’s ability to connect with others. Finally, by learning to share, toddlers also develop patience, empathy, and the ability to understand and respect others' needs and feelings.

So, should your toddler share? Yes. But should you force them to share? No. We’ll talk about this later on in this guide. 

How to teach your toddler to share

Now that that’s out of the way, here is how to teach your toddler to share: 

Leading by example

Children are keen observers. They learn best by watching their parents or caregivers. By displaying generous behavior yourself, you can effectively teach your toddler to share. You can make sharing items with your child a regular thing that you do with them. As you do, explain why it is important to do so. For example, you can say, “Mommy is sharing her book with you because sharing makes us happy.”

Create opportunities for sharing

Encourage sharing by creating situations where your toddler can practice this skill. For example, playdates and group activities are great for this. They give your toddler perfect opportunities for sharing experiences and toys. Begin with shorter play sessions to prevent frustration and gradually increase the duration. Remember to acknowledge your toddler's efforts when they share successfully.

Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when teaching toddlers to share. So be generous with your praises when your child shares. Tell them they did a great job and how proud you are of them. These positive messages will reinforce the good behavior, making your kiddo more likely to keep sharing in the future. 

Foster empathy

Developing empathy is key to helping toddlers understand the importance of sharing. You can foster it by encouraging your toddler to consider how others might feel when they don't share. You can ask them how they feel when someone doesn’t share with them. Over time, they will learn that that’s how they make others feel when they do not share. 

Introduce taking turns

Sharing doesn't always mean giving up something entirely. Teach your toddler the concept of taking turns. The best part about it is that it can make sharing feel less daunting. So if your toddler wants to play with a toy that another child has, explain that they can have a turn after the other child is finished. As you do this, encourage your little one to wait. Then praise either patience when it’s finally their turn. 

Set clear expectations

Establishing clear expectations about sharing helps your toddler understand the boundaries. When are they expected to share? When aren’t they? Kids should not be forced to share. If your child is focused on playing with a specific toy, for example, let them finish playing with it before someone else can have it. Forced sharing is not only disrespectful but it also denies your toddler a chance to learn how to resolve social conflicts. Teaching your child to share is about guiding them, not making them do what you want. So use simple language to communicate your expectations but ultimately, it is your child’s decision. For example, you can say, “Sharing is caring.” Keep repeating these expectations consistently to reinforce the message. But don’t expect your little one to transform overnight!

Teach problem-solving skills

Sometimes conflicts may arise when sharing. It is important to teach your toddler how to resolve these conflicts peacefully. Instead of tantrums, encourage open communication. Then also guide your little one in how to find fair solutions. Help your child learn to verbalize their feelings. This will teach them to negotiate and compromise. By teaching problem-solving skills, you empower your child to handle sharing challenges independently.

Encourage generosity

To instill generosity in your toddler, engage in activities that involve giving. Simple acts like donating toys or sharing snacks with others will go a long way in helping your toddler understand the joy of giving. You can also talk about how sharing can make someone else happy.

Provide individual attention

Toddlers sometimes find sharing difficult because they fear losing their things. Part of these ‘things’ is attention. Your toddler might be scared that when you are not watching them play or looking at what they can do, they’ll lose your attention. Providing individual attention can help alleviate these concerns. So spend quality one-on-one time with your child. This will reassure your kiddo that you love them. The result? Reduced anxiety and possessiveness and a greater willingness to share. 

Be patient and understanding

Teaching toddlers to share is an ongoing process. You need to be patient with your toddler. Every child develops at a different rate. Some just take longer to grasp the concept of sharing. Stay supportive and avoid pressuring your child when they don’t want to share. Instead, just gently guide them towards better behavior. 

Final Thoughts

Teaching your toddler to share is a valuable lesson that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. With the tips outlined above, you should be well-equipped to start going down this journey with your little one. Just remember to be patient, understanding, and consistent in your approach. Before you know it, your toddler will embrace the joys of sharing like a little pro! Happy sharing!