Toddler's Perspective: The Struggle to Share

Understanding the developmental process of children learning to share and techniques to gently guide them towards this important social skill.

In the eyes of your toddler, everything is theirs. From personal items to those that belong to everyone else, a toddler can stubbornly claim it all. Anything happening around them, they demand to be the focals point, pushing forward, shouting `me first!` Such behavior may be an indication that it's time to introduce them to the concept of sharing. This article takes a look at how and when the spirit of sharing develops in a toddler.

Why toddlers resist sharing

Fun Number Activities for Children
Related Article

Your toddler's constant possessiveness and their urgency to be first, while testing at times, isn't an indicator of selfishness. They're merely playing with the idea of ownership, which surprisingly, acts as a stepping stone towards understanding how to share.


Toddlers typically have an egoistic worldview. They are thrilled by the idea of ownership. They understand things can belong to them, but are yet to comprehend that some things don't. Add the fact that they're exploring independence and testing boundaries, it's not surprising that they might flatly refuse to share.

When do children learn to share?

Sharing is a complex trait. It requires empathy and understanding of others' feelings - qualities beyond the grasp of a 2-year-old. While you may encourage your toddler to share their possessions, don't expect instant blossoming of sharing and respect for others. Typically that develops around the age of three.

With persistent efforts and patience, your child will eventually breeze through the 'it's all mine' phase and share without a problem.

There are ways to teach your kids to share gracefully. Here are some strategies:

The Magic of Toddler Arts and Crafts
Related Article

Conceptualize 'other people's stuff'

Brief your toddler about objects that are commonly used by many children, like swings at the park. Constantly remind them that some things belong to others and that they can't simply annex whatever they fancy. Get them to express how they'd feel if someone else grabs their favorite toy.

Empathize and offer compromises

When your toddler is caught in the pull of their possessive instinct, let them know you understand it can be tough to share. Encourage a game plan where they can play with a toy for a few minutes before passing it on. They might be resistant initially, but don't lose hope. Keep trying.

Don't enforce sharing

Forcing sharing can make them feel their needs aren't valuable. Always ask their permission before offering their toy to a playmate. If they refuse, don't insist. Try again later when they're ready to share.

Boost self-esteem

Praise your toddler for any small progress made towards sharing. It's important to take this approach rather than criticizing or shaming them for not sharing. Boosting their confidence can, in turn, change their hoarding habits.

Respect their favorite possessions

Recognize that everyone has a few prized possessions they wouldn't want to part with. If your child is uncomfortable sharing certain toys during a playdate, keep those toys aside until their friend leaves.

Lead by example

Show your child how sharing is done. Share your things with them and express your joy in doing so. It's a clever way to reinforce the idea of sharing.

Use a timer

When your child resists sharing a toy during playtime, set a timer for 5-10 minutes. When it rings, it's time for them to pass the toy on. It may take some practice, but it'll save a lot of tantrums in the long run.

Point out the benefits

Help your child understand the benefits of sharing. They could explore friends' toys in return for sharing theirs. This barter-like exchange sweetens the deal of sharing.

Learning to share is a big step forward for your toddler. With these strategies, you can make this journey smoother for them.