Kids have a hard time sharing, especially young kids. One of the first things kids learn about is possession and knowing this will help you understand the process and help you encourage your child to share.
There are several tips for how to encourage kids to share. Keep in mind that not all of these will work for every child. You will have to find which of these work for your child and which ones don’t, but eventually your child will learn to share.
- Understand that your child may see things as theirs or as a part of them. Very young children have a hard time sharing things because they see them as theirs. For example, a one year old will have a hard time sharing her mommy and daddy because they are hers, while a two year old may have a hard time sharing a security blanket with another child. In this instance, the child may feel that the blanket is a part of them and therefore, no one else can handle it. Understanding these things will help you know what your child will be more willing to share.
- Know when your child should be able to share. Kids under 2 are more into parallel play where they play next to another child, but not with another child. As your child gets older and plays with other children she will learn to share her toys. Even at 5 years old, your child may only selectively share, meaning that she will only share when and what she wants to share.
- Pick a toy she doesn’t have to share. If your child has a special blanket or toy that she is attached to, you can make that one item an exception. This usually only works once a child is able to understand and reason, around two or three years old. You and your child pick the one toy, blanket, or item that they don’t have to share with the other child, but explain that you have to share the other toys. You may have to remind your child of this several times during the play time.
- Don’t force your child to share. You can encourage your child to share, but if you take a toy away and upset her, she may become even more resistant to sharing. If this happens often, she may never want to share. You can always ask her to share her toys and encourage it, but never force it.
- Sharing is a two way street. You should also make sure that the same rules apply to the other child. For example, they both have to share and take turns. If one child is forced to share while the other is not, this can cause issues between the two children. This can cause both of the children to become resistant to sharing because one will think everything should be given to them while the other will feel that everything is being taken from them.
- Model the behavior you want your child to copy. Kids learn best from examples, so if you child sees you sharing with others, she will be more likely to copy that behavior and share with others as well.
- Play sharing games. Give your child a few similar toys, such as blocks, books, or balls and encourage her to share one with everyone in the room. Praise her every time she shares. You want to show her that sharing is normal and that it spreads happiness.
- Use a timer if needed. If there is a toy that they both with want to play with (which will happen often) you can use a timer. Explain that when the timer buzzes, the other child gets to play with the toy, and when the timer buzzes again, she can have it back for a little while.
- You don’t have to step in right away. If the kids start fighting over a toy, let them try to figure it out. Problem solving is an important lesson that kids need to learn, and if you step in and solve it right away, they will not learn how to solve these problems. Give it some time and step in only if necessary (such as if hitting occurs). You can help your child problem solve by offering alternatives, such as “ask Susie if she is done playing with it” or “when Josh is done playing with the toy you can play with it”.
- Prepare for non-sharers. If you know that your child has trouble sharing and you are having a playmate over, ask the parents to bring over a few toys. Likewise, if you are going to another house and you know that child has issues with sharing, take a few toys along with you. Kids cannot resist new things, so having new toys will encourage sharing. You can say something along the lines of “if you want to play with his toys, you have to share yours”. Kids will be more interested in sharing because they are playing with a “new” toy and not their “old” toys.
Teaching kids to share can be a challenge, but in the end it is worth it because it teaches children valuable life skills. Keeping in mind the child’s age and experiences with sharing when starting to share.
Did you have trouble encouraging your kids to share? What did you do to help?