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  • Writer's pictureKa Hana Pono

It Takes Encouragement & Patience To Teach A Child To Share

Some toddlers share without being asked and without being taught to. However, learning to share is hard for most children. Young children (1 to 3) think about themselves and what they want or need & thinking about the needs of others is the beginning of learning to share.

Children age 3 and younger should not be expected to share without encouragement. By age four, many children will share some of their things. By age six or seven, children begin to understand how to cooperate with other children.

Playing in groups gives children a chance to learn about sharing and taking turns. If your child will be playing with other children, try to prepare him in advance. Tell your toddler that you expect him to share. If he will be playing at your/his home stress this point: Just because the visiting friend plays with the toys doesn’t mean the other toddler gets to keep them. Your child may feel more secure throughout the playdate if you keep reminding him that his toys will still be his when the playdate is over. It may help if you offer (in advance) to replace any toys that your guest might break—and then of course keep your promise if anything does.

If a child grabs a toy (or food or anything else) from another child, you’ll need to step in immediately. Quickly and firmly, but without anger, return the toy to the child who had it first and tell your child, “No grabbing!” Then remind your child that if he wants something that someone else is already playing with, he must:

  1. wait his turn;

  2. ask for your help in setting up turns;

  3. ask the other child nicely and get permission to use the toy; or

  4. offer the other child a trade so that both children end up with something they want to play with.

If the other child will not under any conditions part with the toy that he has, or if your child cannot wait a second longer for his turn to begin, you’ll need to turn down the heat even more. Though two-year-olds are not nearly as distractable as one-year-olds, you may still succeed in distracting your child. Try shifting his attention to another toy or game—and if necessary, to another place. If a particular toy becomes the sole object of full-scale warfare: take the toy away.


  1. Read books about sharing to the children.

  2. When playing “turn taking” games, be sure that each child has a chance to go first.

  3. It would be more effective to say something like “First you go down the slide, then Mala’e, and then Kiva. This is clearer to children than saying, “You must all take turns.”

  4. Support and praise children when they share. For example, say, “I liked the way you let Kekoa play with that toy. You must be proud of yourself.”

  5. Set a good example. Talk about sharing. Share with the children.


A child may be more willing to share with a friend if you allow him to put away several toys that he just can’t bear to share. Knowing that his most cherished possessions are safely stowed away may give your child a greater push toward generosity with the rest of his toys.

Be patient with your child as he learns (and repeatedly forgets) and relearns the value of sharing.


Aunty Gel

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