Share and Share Alike

As a family grows and adds more children to the mix a new dynamic emerges.  The need to share toys with your siblings!  It can be so hard to teach older siblings how to share with younger ones. For a long time, “it’s just the baby” and there isn’t any real competition for playing with the same toys. But as that baby becomes a toddler and then a 2-year-old, he or she might start trying to get into the toys that the older sibling considers his/hers. And no wonder – they’ve had those toys to themselves for years!

If your family has one child, sharing is still a really important lesson. There are going to be playdates and day-care situations and school situations that will require your child to learn how to share and share alike.

So – what are some good sharing tips that we can implement in our households?

I just read a great article called 11 Ways to Teach Your Child to Share that teaches that the ability to understand true sharing which requires empathy and ability and desire to make a choice based on helping another doesn’t really occur until the age of 6. My understanding is that any younger than that and they can be taught to share, but they might not have the true mental capacity to WANT to share. Therefore, if your child is younger than 6, this is the time frame to teach your child some sharing habits and create systems for the household to help sharing go easier.

Here are some favorite thoughts I gleaned from the article:

Consider letting the older child have some toys that are “just his/hers”. This will give that child a sense of ownership that he/she doesn’t have to share everything. In the same sense, perhaps there are some toys that are “just the younger siblings” and he/she always has to let the younger sibling have it or at least play with it first.  Along that same line, children may have toys that they do not want to share with a playdate friend or neighbor. I think it is okay to honor that desire and put those toys out of sight/mind before a playtime begins.

Model generosity. Use sharing language as you talk and play demonstrating how you can share toys and all have fun. When you are playing with your children, be sure to look for opportunities to share. “Do you want this play-doh tool now? I can share it with you?”

Teach the language of sharing. Demonstrate to your child how to express that they would like to play with a toy when their friend/sibling is done with it. “May I have that toy next?” or “When will you be done playing with that toy?” As the adult, you can step in to make sure time frames are honored and that the toy does successfully get shared. In our family, I made big use of timers if the toy was a hot item. The article suggests even just a 2 minute playtime is a good amount of play before sharing the toy with the other person. And then back again.

Consider playing a “sharing game” in which you have a toy and then you “Share” the toy with one child who then “Shares” the toy with the other”.  Cheer and celebrate as the toy gets passed around.

And finally – I loved point #11 encouraging you to give the child opportunities to share. Perhaps the older child can dole out a special treat in the afternoon or he/she can pass out the crayons at coloring time. Opportunities for him/her to feel helpful and “grown up” can make sharing more fun.

Life is better for parents and kids when we learn to share.  These are some great tips to help that process go smoothly.

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