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Have you heard your toddler say, "That's Mine!"? Followed by screams... You are not alone. Children have difficultly sharing, especially young children. The number one thing you need to know as a parent is, this is NORMAL! This is a normal part of the development of toddlers.

Babies and young toddlers start out by socially playing next to someone not together. We call this parallel play. In parallel play, children play side-by-side and soon toddlers will begin to really interact with their peers. This is called associative play. Associative play is very loosely organized play. Since toddlers are just starting to learn this type of play, you can bet there will be squabbling until they start to learn about turn-taking, sharing and basically being a good friend.

Sharing is a skill that takes years for your toddler to develop. They are not born to share. First, you need to model sharing to your child as often as you can. Give the language that goes along with the actions. "I really like playing with this doll. I'm going to share it with you when I am done." Your child learns through watching other people and imitation, so whenever you can, show your toddler that sharing is good thing.

Second, provide opportunities for your toddler to share. Set up a play date and prepare your child by explaining that another child will be coming over to play with their toys and you. Before the playdate arrives it is OK to put away a few of your child's favorite toys. You need to also stress that just because you are sharing your toys does not mean that their friend is going to take their toys home. The toys will still be his once the playdate is over. 

If you want your toddler to share, you must teach them. If one child grabs a toy from the other, the toy should be returned. Remind both children they must wait for their turn with the toy. You may need to set up turns so both children can play if they ask to. They need to ask the other child's permission to have the toy before they take it and one toddler can offer the other toddler a trade if they would like. Grabbing and snatching of toys will occur, you should step in and help rectify the situation, but do not get angry, your toddler is just learning.

Teaching children to share toys is not going to be easy, and you will go through a few months of your child grabbing toys from other children. Remember, it will not last forever.

Finally, make the most of moments when your child does show understanding about sharing through positive and encouraging words. Toddlers can be loving in their interactions with others and learn by having their positive actions reported back to them.

Lisa Poppe

The UNL Learning Child Team

Lisa Poppe is an Extension Educator for "The Learning Child" team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Poppe has a Bachelor's Degree from UNL in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree from UNL in Family & Consumer Science. She focuses on child development and the family through her work for "The Learning Child" team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Learn more about Lisa and the rest of The Learning Child Team at child.u ...

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Categories: parenting, development,