Imagine you’re writing an important email and someone keeps grabbing your phone and asking for a turn. Frustrating right? That’s how children feel when they’re playing with something and someone else wants a turn.
But there are ways we can make that easier for them…
1️⃣ Give them choices.
For play dates, agree what they’re happy to share beforehand and put any special toys away. Explain that their friend is just having a turn and all their toys will still be there when the friend leaves. If your child is too young to understand this concept, put away things that are particularly special to them.
2️⃣ Help with language.
When they want something:
‘WHEN he has finished THEN you could have a turn’
‘You can be angry but I can’t let you snatch’
While they’re waiting:
‘It’s so hard to wait’
‘Let’s (do whatever) while we wait’
When they’re being asked to share, teach them to say:
‘I’d like to share this with you…’ or ‘you are welcome to have it when I have finished.’
Sharing is a learned behaviour and they’ll need lots of help with how to navigate it at first. Keep in mind that things that don’t belong to them can sometimes be harder to share. If you’re going to somewhere like a group or soft play area, talk to them in advance.
4️⃣Don’t force it.
Forcing it is not going to make sharing feel like a nice thing and it’s then unlikely that our children will choose to do it when we’re not there. They’ll also take longer ‘finishing’ whatever they’re doing when forced to share.
You could keep a number of toys that your toddler doesn’t know to be theirs and bring them out just for play dates. This way the toys don’t ‘belong’ to anyone. Plus, having fewer toys can actually increase sharing.
Particularly those where you have to share or take turns. Agree the rules and check their understanding before you start playing.
But while we are on the topic, not wanting to share is completely normal, especially for our toddlers. Toddlers are scientifically wired to be self-centred and to want what’s best for them. This doesn’t mean we can’t help them start to develop some understanding, but our expectations should be realistic. With babies, start to use the language of ‘my turn, your turn’ when passing an object between yourselves. As your child grows, start to point out examples of sharing, perhaps when an older child does so. Around the age of 3, many children start to understand the concept of sharing, but that doesn’t mean they like it. Praise and understanding go a long way so acknowledge their feelings and know that at 36 they’re unlikely to still be snatching toys from their friends.