It’s a common first word, and first concept for young children. From stuffed animals to peanut puffs, toddler’s learn to protect their belongings first, and learn how to share second… or third… or fourth.
Sharing is not an easy concept for tots. It’s a learned skill that takes time, practice, positive reinforcement, and a lot of praise. If you feel like your toddler is particularly possessive, here’s what you need to know.
Around 1-2 years of age, it is developmentally appropriate for toddlers to start claiming things. So when you feel frustrated, remember that protecting items is a well-documented stage of healthy, early childhood development.
Yes, this also applies to things that hold absolutely no value whatsoever (like a rock or a leaf). You are going to begin hearing the word “mine” a lot, or you’ll see tantrum behavior kick in, should someone try to take anything away from your toddler.
You probably know a teenager, or dare we say anadult, who is still learning how to share. So give your tot a break.
This is a tough concept.
At this age, pediatricians strongly recommend heavy praise over punishment. Respond to desired behaviors more than you punish unwanted behaviors (use only very brief time outs). Always tell or show your child what she should do instead, and be quick to reward the second you see the behavior you’re looking for.
“It’s good to share your peanut puffs with your sister!”
But, you can’t praise what you don’t see. Make sure to keep a watchful eye on playtime with friends or siblings, so you don’t miss moments to reward your little one for sharing well with others.
Turn-taking games are a great way to teach your toddler to share.
Start small and simple by rolling a ball back and forth. As your toddler grows and develops, you can incorporate turn-taking into pretend play, and other more challenging activities like sports or basic board games.
Snacktime is a great time to work on sharing.
Ideally, your toddler is seated at the table, so you have his or her full attention. If your little one has siblings, practice having them share foods (if appropriate).
“Great job sharing your peanut puffs!”
You can instantly reward your kids for doing the right thing with praise and high fives!
Your toddler is a little imitator, so always be looking for opportunities to show him or her what good sharing looks like. The playground is a perfect place to encourage sharing and look for examples of positive behaviors.
“See how the boy is sharing his snack? What a nice boy!” Or, “Taking turns on the slide is a nice thing to do! It makes your friends feel happy!”
Attach emotions to conversations about sharing. It helps toddlers understand why sharing is a good thing, builds emotional vocabulary and helps with social-emotional development. Always try and tell your toddler how sharing makes you feel, and how it makes the other person feel.
“It makes me feel happy to see you sharing your snacks so well!”
Set up your toddler to be successful in situations where sharing is expected. Talk about what’s going to happen at a playdate, the playground or daycare. Let them know what you expect from them, and prepare them for the act of sharing with others.
“You’re going to have to share your toys with your friend today. Sharing makes everyone feel happy!”
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