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Learning to Share

Dear Debi,
I would like to know how to handle sharing toys in public areas. Are children expected to share those toys with every child? Or should they keep the toys to themselves if they donít feel like sharing them?
Stacia , Mission Viejo, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Sharing should be developmentally appropriate
  • Practice and model sharing
  • Donít force kids to share
Expert Advice
Jean Barbre, Ed.D.
Jean Barbre, Ed.D.
Early childhood development specialist
Children should never be forced to share. But there are times when children are more likely to share than others. When you go to the park, for example, you should bring extra toys if you want your child to learn to share. There are certain things, however, that children wonít be excited to share. If a child has a special toy, for example, or a special doll or something that has a great deal of meaning to him or her, you shouldn't expect the child to share.

Children aren't developmentally ready to share until they're 2 or 2 and a half years of age. Children need experiences that give them opportunities to share. As adults, we give them the language to negotiate sharing. Sharing is a process that children learn how to do over the next few years.

We expect, as parents and adults, for children to share. But we have to be aware, that children don't always like share. Be patient and give plenty of opportunities to be successful in sharing. For example, if you have a child that you know needs to learn the process of sharing, you might create games or take turns picking a book for reading. These kinds of activities give the child an opportunity to be successful at it.

If you care for an only child, learning about sharing will always be particularly challenging because it's just not naturally part of your home environment. Look for opportunities to help them share and create situations where they will need to share. For instance, you can set a play date with another parent.

One of the challenges children have is that while they're learning to share, they may end up playing with a child who doesnít share. Itís a life lesson that they have to learn.
Child Care provider Comments
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
I like to teach children the language to use when they're sharing, like taking turns or "I'm using it. You can have it when I'm done." Those kinds of phrases help children know that they're going to share it when they're ready.
Child care provider for 4 years
I think it's important to model sharing. When I go into a house, I like to bring my own toys. That way, when the kids go through my bag and we're looking at my toys Ė they're my toys, and I'm sharing them with the children. Later in the day, we might go back to that idea. To reinforce the idea of sharing, Iíll say, ďDo you remember when I brought my toys and I shared them with you? Did you like that?"
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
I definitely try to have more than one of an item that kids would be interested in playing with. Especially for kids who are under 2 years old. Kids learn about sharing by interacting with other kids. They learn that sharing can make you feel good because they can see how sharing their toys can make their friends happy.

Sharing Toys Featured Activity:
Sharing Toys
Learning to Share Featured Video:
Learning to Share
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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