Like so many skills in life, learning to share takes time. It is normal for very young children to think everything belongs to them. Parents often become frustrated that their children are unable to understand that toys belong to everyone in a group setting.
You can begin the process of teaching your two-year-old to share, but don’t feel badly if she doesn’t learn to share on her own until she is three-and-a-half to four years old. Some easy ways to explain sharing are to teach children to take turns. You can say, “Timmy, when you’re finished riding the bike, Abby would like a turn.” Praise your child when he shares with a friend. Practical strategies include setting a timer so each child has a chance to ride the bike for a certain number of minutes or telling the children they may ride the bike three times around the playground before allowing someone else to ride.
It is helpful to teach small children to use their words — or signs — to say what they want, rather than just grabbing the toy. Encourage children to ask if another child is finished playing before taking the toy. You could say, “Matt, please ask Jon if he is finished playing with the firetruck. Tell him you’d like to play when he is finished.”
Although it can be frustrating, it’s best to take a deep breath and remain calm when you see your child grabbing a toy from another. Children are naturally impatient, and waiting to play with a toy can seem like forever. Help him find something else to do while he waits.
Moms and Dads can demonstrate sharing in daily life. Your child will begin to understand sharing if he hears you say, “I have a bunch of grapes. I’d like to share them with you and your sister.”
Some things don’t need to be shared, and that’s okay. Children shouldn’t be expected to share their special blanket or favorite stuffed animal. In this case, teach your child to place her security blanket or stuffed bunny in a special place, such as her bed, so that she does not have to share something that means so much to her.
In time, children do learn how to share. You can make the lesson easier by relaxing and remembering, if you can, back to the time when you were learning how to share.