Taking Turns: Tips for Teaching Toddlers How to Share

If your toddler is constantly spouting out “no” or “mine,” resist the urge to chalk it up to the terrible twos. Even though this is the age when a toddler begins to crave independence and freedom, it is also a crucial age to teach him how to share and cooperate with others.

With creative games and lessons on sharing, you can instill an important character trait in your little one and change the “mine” to “ours.”

Make Sharing Fun

Toddlers love to engage in games and floor-centered activities. Use these opportunities to teach sharing and instill the value of taking turns.

The classic game of memory is fun for all ages, but it can also teach your toddler the importance of waiting patiently while others take turns. As you play the game, verbally remind your toddler that “it’s my turn” and “now, it’s your turn.” When you make the actions second nature, your toddler won’t even realize that he is learning how to cooperate with others effectively.

Building blocks can also engage your toddler in learning how to share. Instead of allowing him or her to build her own creation, launch a game of stacking the blocks as high as possible, one at a time. Just as your toddler must wait for her turn during games such as Memory, she must also wait to add a block to the stack until after you or another child has taken a turn. When you observe your little one waiting patiently and working together with others, provide praise and specifically point out that you appreciate her patience while waiting for her turn.

According to Christina Steinorth-Powell, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Gentle Reminders for Better Relationships, games provide an interactive lesson for toddlers that will help them in the future. “In each of these games, you are role modeling turn taking behavior,” she says. “Stacking blocks teaches sharing and also introduces the concept that sometimes activities are more fun when we share them with others.”

Allow your child to practice these turn taking and sharing skills with others often – at preschool or on play dates – to expose him to the necessity of sharing in social settings. To test your child’s ability to put others first, contact neighborhood parents or fellow nannies and arrange for an afternoon of games that require sharing. “When you see your toddler responding appropriately, be sure to provide positive reinforcement – a smile or an applaud – to help reinforce his good behavior,” says Steinorth-Powell.

Teaching children to take turns introduces the concept of sharing and how to let others come first, says Steinorth-Powell. “It teaches children not to be selfish or greedy and understand that there’s enough for everyone and that everyone can enjoy things. They learn that sometimes an experience can even be more fun if we share it with another person.”

There are some steps you can take to avoid difficult moments when your child is resistant to sharing or throws a temper tantrum at the opportunity to share. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department recommend the following:

  • If another child is coming over to play, allow your toddler to put away several choice toys before the visit. Be sure to explain that these are toys that do not have to be shared with everyone and that other toys can be shared with friends instead.
  • If your child continues to refuse to share, avoid punishing him. Instead, tell him that you are sad and disappointed.
  • Give your toddler time to work things out with other kids. If your child doesn’t share, other kids will also express their disappointment and your toddler will eventually get the idea that it is not nice not to share.

Be a Sharing Partner

Toddlers learn by imitation, so if they see you sharing your belongings, taking turns and offering items to others, they will ultimately follow suit in time. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department suggest turning every day activities into opportunities to teach your child about sharing, such as:

  • Start by offering your toddler a bite of your food as an act of sharing. Say to your child, “I would like to share my banana with you.”
  • As you are sharing, use the word “share” to explain what you are doing.
  • When your toddler shares, praise him or her to offer positive reinforcement.
  • Reward your child when he shares. Give a hug or high five to express your satisfaction.

It’s important for nannies and parents to recognize that your toddler will not always follow suit right away, but if you show patience and reinforce the value of sharing through modeling, he will ultimately see the value. “If your toddler isn’t adjusting to the sharing principle, don’t be dismayed,” warn the childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department. “Your child will learn to share eventually – learning to share is all a part of normal childhood development and those kids who learn to share early may do better socially as they get older.”

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