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The Art of Teaching Sharing to Your Kids


Anyone who has ever parented (or taught, or babysat) a toddler knows firsthand that the art of sharing can prove to be an ever-elusive action. While some parents feel this is the mark of a selfish or spoiled child, this is simply not the case. A child’s reluctance to learn to share is a perfectly normal part of development.

Helping Your Child Learn to Share

Fortunately, helping your child learn to share doesn’t have to be a major parenting struggle...if you know what to expect throughout the process. The first thing to note is that the art of sharing is a tough concept for little ones to understand. At a young age, a child truly believes that the world revolves around him; thus, giving up something that is obviously meant for him alone can be hard to comprehend.

two toddlers sharing their toys

Luckily, many parents find success helping to develop their kids’ sharing skills by modeling appropriate behavior for them. When trying this approach, it’s important to be sure your child knows what it is you’re doing. Very clearly articulate how/what you are sharing to ensure that they will catch on that this is a positive behavior that they will want to exhibit as well.

There are some recognized developmental stages that may hinder even your best efforts to teach the art of sharing. They include:

Ages Birth - 18 Months:  Most children prefer solitary play and will not grasp the idea of sharing.

Ages 2 Years - 2.5 Years: Parallel play is very common; however, the basic principles of sharing can begin to be grasped.

Ages 2.5 Years - 3 Years: Children often seek out play engagement with other children and may even start to share toys and other items without being asked.

Ages 4+: Most children enjoy social engagement with peers and the art of sharing becomes a more natural instinct.

Beyond knowing that your child is ready to learn the art of sharing, it’s important to give praise consistently every time she does. Additionally, always assure your little one that sharing a toy doesn’t mean giving it away for good. Seeing that she will get her shared items back is a great way to increase the odds that she’ll want to do it again.

Other Ways to Help with Your Kids’ Sharing Skills

  • Make sharing situations fun and game-like whenever possible.
  • Don’t just expect the children to share; be prepared to share out your own things to encourage this behavior.
  • Reinforce sharing with plenty of kisses, hugs, and praise.
  • Never force a child to part with his things; it’s a surefire path to a battle of wills.
  • Coordinate playdates and other social engagements with your child so she can practice her sharing skills.

Inevitably, even the most skilled little sharers amongst us may lapse and feel reluctant to give up their things. It’s important not to take it personally or feel embarrassed. Simply encouraging any positive behavior can go a long way in helping to teach your toddler the art of sharing with long-term results.

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