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Teaching Toddlers To Share With Siblings and Friends
As parents, one of our goals is to teach our children at an early age to share with others, to be generous and giving. Depending upon your child’s temperament, sharing might be an easy thing to learn. However, for others, understanding the concept of sharing might be a bit more challenging. So here are the dos and donts to help you succeed at teaching toddlers to share with siblings and friends!
The act of sharing requires the ability to delay gratification and control impulses. This is a difficult concept for adults who already understand it, and yet we expect our toddlers to share just because we tell them to.
What Should You Avoid When Teaching Toddlers to Share With Siblings and Friends?
There are several strategies you can take when teaching toddlers to share with siblings and friends, some offer immediate, although involuntary, results, while others take time and rely on the child’s timing.
You could take the toy from one child, telling him that it’s now someone else’s turn, and give the toy to that child. Although this approach delivers immediate results and solves the problem, what is it actually teaching your child?
- Parents are in charge of doling out the toys
- Throwing a fit will get me what I want, even if another child has it
- I am competing with my sibling or friend, whom I am starting to resent
- I could lose the toy at any moment, so I better play with it fast
- I threw a fit and won the toy, but I will lose it again soon
- Making my parents miserable will gain me more time with the toy
As you can see, these aren’t the types of thoughts we want our children to associate with sharing. Forcing them to share sends the wrong signals. It makes the child paranoid that they could lose the toy at any moment, so they aren’t completely focusing on the toy and playing with it as freely as they should. Instead, they go into hoarding mode, hiding or hovering over the toy to keep anyone else from taking it from them.
What are Some Positive Ways to Teach Our Children to Share?
The best approach to teaching toddlers to share with siblings and friends is one that encourages voluntary action by the child. When you make sharing voluntary, you are not taking control of the toy away from your child. Only when you make sharing voluntary will you see a child learn they if they want to play with a toy they need to ask their sibling or friend nicely if he/she can have a turn once they’re finished playing with it.
Waiting patiently is a difficult task for a toddler. Until your child has learnt to wait patiently for their turn, you may need to intervene and help them maintain their patience. That may involve redirecting their attention elsewhere, perhaps playing with a different toy or reading a book.
So what does this approach teach our children?
- It’s okay to ask for something I want
- I may get it quickly, or I may have to wait a while
- I don’t always get what I want
- My parents are understanding and help me when I am upset
- I can play with a different toy and enjoy it while I wait for my turn
- Everyone has to wait to get their turn, and eventually, they will get a turn
- I’m happy when my sibling or friend gives me a turn with the toy. I don’t resent him
- I can play with the toys for as long as I want without worrying about someone taking it away from me
- When I’m finished playing with the toy, it makes me feel good to give the toy to my sibling or friend.
These are the types of thoughts we want our children to experience when they share their toys with their siblings and friends. Some children will easily catch on to sharing and won’t have a problem with it, whilst other may a take a little more effort. But don’t worry, they will get there. You need to be patient too!
What Kinds of Toys Encourage Sharing?
The kinds of toys and activities children are engaged with can have a significant impact on the way the choose to interact with others. If you are going through the process of teaching toddlers to share with siblings and friends you should make sure that you set yourself and the children up for success.
Firstly, make sure that you have many options available for the little ones to choose from. Without attractive alternatives available your child will struggle to come to terms with letting go of their favorite toy. You should provide a wide variety of options such as toys, balls, games, coloring books, stickers, play tents, dress-ups and books. The more options available the easier it will be for your toddler to find something else fun and exciting to play with.
Certain toys are also more likely to encourage sharing. Try to find toys that encourage playing together or helping each other. Toys which are focused on building and construction are a great place to start. A few examples include:
- Wooden Blocks – Better suited to older or less rough children
- Foam Blocks – Better suited to younger children or those with a tendency to throw things
- Duplo – Has loads of variety so you’re sure to find something that appeals
- Construction Kits – Helps the kids build a cubby house together!
Another pathway to think about relates to activities that encourage role-playing.
- Pretend kitchen – Work together to make a meal for the family
- Pretend workshop – Help each other fix the place up!
- Play shop – Practice buying things from the shops together
- Dress-ups – Roleplay their favorite heroes or occupations
What Do I Do When My Child Refuses to Share?
Some children may have a more difficult time understanding that sharing toys with others is not giving it away to them permanently. Parents will need to reassure their children that they will get the toy back after their sibling or friend’s turn is over.
Be patient and continue to work with the children. You can try other methods of reward for good behavior. A sticker chart or a sharing stamp are simple ideas that toddlers love. The key is that you don’t give up and you make sure that the child understands that you are there to help them to grow and learn.
It’s also important to recognize that there are also times when it’s okay if your child does not want to share. It’s okay for children to have special toys that are their’s alone, toys that they will not have to share with anyone. In these instances, your child can offer another toy for their sibling or friend to play with. Or perhaps your child should only play with their special toy in their own room, away from others.
Either way, they should know that you will protect their right to their special toy, and they won’t have to share it with their sibling.
Conclusion | Teaching Toddlers To Share With Siblings and Friends
Parents need to be consistent in helping your children follow through with sharing and waiting patiently for their turn. There may be crying involved in the beginning, but every time your child waits patiently for their turn, they will be learning a valuable lesson that will help them become patient, giving, and kind adults. This skill will set up them up for success in kindergarten, school and almost every interaction they have with others for the rest of their lives. So get out there and help your little the joys of giving and sharing!
How About A New Toy For The Little One?
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And if you’re just starting your baby toy journey, then it’s best to begin with the basics by taking a look at our Definitive Guide to the Best Toys for Babies. Here, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to get those creative juices flowing and help you find the perfect baby toy.