Teaching Your Toddler to Share
It's a common conundrum: You want your toddler to share his toys and be generous with his playdates, but he wants to keep his favorite things to himself. However, it's actually somewhat unrealistic to expect a child to willingly share much before the age of 4, says noted pediatrician William Sears, M.D.
A toddler thinks a beloved possession is a part of who he is, rather than an object separate from himself. When another child plays with that toy or stuffed animal, he's not sure he'll ever get it back.
Some parents ask their children to "take turns" in an effort to teach them about sharing, but Laura Davis, co-author of "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be," thinks this is a stop-gap measure at best. She believes it teaches children to rely more on adults and the "rules" and less on themselves. One thing you can do is model good behavior -- loan a book to a friend while your toddler looks on or offer the remaining croissant to your husband at breakfast.
Until your toddler becomes more empathetic -- beginning around his fourth birthday -- there are a few coping strategies that can minimize conflicts. Before a playdate, put away special toys and beloved objects, and don't introduce a new toy when another child is over unless there's enough to go around. Meet on neutral ground for playdates, like a park or playground. Don't force your child to give something up; if he won't, help him find an appealing toy for his playmate. Be patient: By age 5, most kids are better at sharing.