Sharing For Kids: How To Help Your Child Learn To Share

What To Know About Sharing For Kids — And Encouraging It

February 3, 2021 Updated May 29, 2021

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You’re at the playground, and you notice another kid coming toward your little one. They want to play with your child’s sandbox toys. Instead of welcoming the other kid with open arms, your child throws a tantrum. You’re horrified. Who raised this selfish kid? Oh, right. But before you get too down on yourself, it’s important to know that your child’s behavior is normal. Sharing for kids isn’t easy. Young children especially have difficulty sharing — this is a part of the development process. Understanding and accepting this is the first step in helping your little one learn how to share.

Why Sharing Is Important for Kids

Sharing is an important tool in your children’s emotional toolkit. Sharing helps your child to understand that they aren’t the center of the universe. That understanding helps them realize that others have needs and wants, too. The notion also helps your kid to build empathy and trust between them and others. As a result, they’re able to make and keep friendships, play cooperatively, take turns, and learn how to get along.

Sharing also teaches children how to compromise and negotiate, as well as cope with disappointment. They learn the basics of reciprocity; when we give, we also receive. Sharing helps your child lead a life that includes others.

Why do toddlers not like to share?

Give yourself a break, Mama. Your toddler isn’t a terrible tot because they refuse to share. They just don’t know how. Your baby doesn’t know what it means to share and that others have desires that could clash with their own. They only know what they want, which is “selfish” but also part of babyhood. As they get older, they’ll learn to consider the wishes of others. Sharing’s an exercise that must be taught, which is where you come in.

How to Teach a Child to Share

If your child struggles to share or is learning how to share for the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Demonstrate sharing yourself. Surprise! Children learn a lot from watching you. So, if you want your child to share more, be sure to model that behavior yourself. When doing so, it’s a good idea to make it clear what you’re sharing and why. Otherwise, your little one might not know what it is you’re doing (after all, sharing is a brand new concept for them). For example, you might share a book with a friend and say how good it is to share something that a friend will enjoy.

Point out when others are sharing. When you notice your child’s friend, their sibling, or your partner sharing something, point out what they’re doing and commend them for it. For example, you might say, “Your brother was sharing his toys with you today. That was really kind of him.”

Be complimentary. When you see your child share a toy with her sibling or friend, commend them for it and be specific about why you’re complimenting them on it. Reiterating how positive sharing is and how “good” they are for doing it reinforces the behavior. You’ll likely find your kid will do it more. For example, “Thank you for sharing your kitchen set with your sister today. You made her happy.”

Regularly do sharing activities with your child. Repetition is key for your child to grasp the benefits of sharing, which is why you should implement fun activities to do together that revolve around sharing. Need ideas? Think art projects in which you easily share paints and other materials, to playing games that involve turn-taking like board games or playing catch.

Use a timer. When children are sharing a toy or an activity, fairness is key when it comes to sharing. So, to make sure none of the children feel slighted or cheated, use a timer to make sure each kid gets an equal amount of time with the item.

When Your Child is Having Difficulty Sharing

Sharing for kids doesn’t always come easy, and that’s okay. It’s important not to get angry at your child or force them to share with threats if they’re experiencing difficulty sharing. Children love their toys and see them as their prized possessions, so it’s naturally difficult for them to let them go to just anyone. Instead, encourage your child to continue sharing while on their playdates. See them as opportunities for your kid to practice sharing. Continue praising them when they do share and being a sharing person in front of them.

You can also make the item not being shared part of the consequences. For example, if your kids aren’t sharing a toy dinosaur, take the dinosaur away from both of them for a short time. Doing so allows them to sit with the consequences of their behavior and think about what they should change. The hope, of course, is that it doesn’t happen again.

What Are Sharing Activities For Preschoolers

Give your child a chance to practice their sharing with a few activities that will allow your nugget to exercise their empathy.

  • Paint a picture together! Roll out a large piece of paper for your children to draw on. Put the art supplies in a bucket or box so that they have to pass them to one another to make their picture.
  • Pass the ball. Put your kids in a circle and turn on some music. The children must pass the ball to one another, and when the music stops, the child holding the ball gets to choose another kid to hold the ball and start the rotation again.
  • Have a show and tell show. After each child presents their object, have them pass it around for the rest of the kids to see up close. Make sure the item travels in a circle and at the end, it’s given back to the presenting child. Ask the kids how sharing made them feel and how the experience would have been different had they not shared.
  • Put on a puppet show. Give each child a puppet and a few items to share, like toys, jewelry, candy, or blankets. They can create a story out of it!