Sharing is Caring: How to Encourage Your Toddler to Share

24 May 2024

Sharing is an important skill we use throughout our entire lives when building relationships with people, and it all starts the moment we begin interacting with others. As with everything, the earlier this skill is practised and taught, the easier it will be for your little one to make friends and build strong connections.

From sharing toys when playing to dividing snacks when hungry, sharing improves the cooperation and negotiation skills of toddlers, forming a foundation for a lifetime of excellent sharing skills. Read along to learn how to encourage your toddler to share.

Why is sharing important?

Sharing is an incredibly important element of social and emotional development. It fosters empathy, cooperation and communication skills, setting a foundation for positive relationships later in life.

By learning to share, toddlers understand the importance of considering others’ needs and feelings. It encourages problem-solving and conflict-resolution abilities as children learn to share toys with friends.

Toddlers create friends through good sharing, which helps to improve their social skills. Teaching toddlers to share equips them with essential life skills they will apply as the opportunities present themselves.

Why do toddlers struggle to share?

Toddlers often struggle to share due to several developmental factors.


At this stage, toddlers are in the early stages of learning about ownership and possessiveness. They have a limited understanding of sharing and may perceive their toys as extensions of themselves, making it challenging to relinquish control. Toddlers are inherently egocentric, meaning they have difficulty understanding other’s perspectives and prioritising their needs over their own desires.

Developing communication skills

Toddlers are still developing their communication skills, making it difficult for them to express their feelings and negotiate sharing effectively. They may resort to tantrums or aggression when faced with sharing situations, as they lack the vocabulary to articulate their emotions.

Natural Inclination towards immediate gratification

Naturally, toddlers like getting what they want right away and they may find it difficult having to wait when they share with others.

Fear of losing toys

They may fear losing their favourite toys or worry about not getting them back once shared.

Sensitive to change

Toddlers are highly sensitive to changes in routine and environment, which can exacerbate their reluctance to share, especially in unfamiliar settings or with unfamiliar people.

Overall, a combination of cognitive, emotional, and social factors contribute to toddlers’ struggles with sharing, highlighting the importance of patient guidance and support from caregivers in fostering healthy sharing behaviours.

Tips on teaching toddlers to share

Validate their feelings

When teaching your toddler to share, it is crucial to validate their feelings to build trust and understanding. You can acknowledge their feelings by saying, “I understand you’re upset because you wanted to play with that toy.” Validating their feelings helps toddlers feel heard and respected, reducing frustration and resistance. It also teaches them that it’s okay to express their emotions and helps develop their emotional intelligence. By validating their feelings, you create a supportive environment that encourages positive communication and cooperation, laying the foundation for successful sharing experiences.

Encourage turn-taking

When teaching toddlers to share, encouraging turn-taking is an important part as it promotes fairness and cooperation. Start by establishing clear rules and expectations about taking turns with toys or activities. Model turn-taking behaviour by demonstrating how to wait patiently for a turn and praise toddlers when they follow. Use visual aids like timers or tokens to help toddlers understand the concept of waiting their turn. Additionally, offer gentle reminders and guidance to help toddlers navigate turn-taking situations, reinforcing positive behaviour with praise and encouragement.

Narrate the situation for a better understanding

Narrating the situation can enhance their understanding. Describing what’s happening in simple terms, such as, “Sam wants a turn with the toy now,” helps toddlers grasp the concept of taking turns and promotes empathy by acknowledging other’s feelings and needs.

Give them time and space to problem-solve

Giving toddlers time and space to problem-solve allows them to explore different strategies, understand the consequences of their actions and develop crucial decision-making skills. Your toddler will then feel a sense of autonomy and confidence in sharing situations.

Don’t remove the item in question 

Removing the toy in question when teaching toddlers to share can inadvertently reinforce possessiveness and create negative associations with sharing. Instead, keeping the toy present allows toddlers to learn the valuable skill of sharing while still feeling a sense of ownership and control. It encourages them to develop cooperative behaviours and find mutually satisfying solutions, promoting positive social interactions and fostering a sense of fairness. 

Don’t force it

Forcing toddlers to share can have negative consequences on their development. It may lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, and lack of autonomy. Instead, encourage sharing through positive reinforcement and gentle guidance. Respect their feelings and offer alternatives such as taking turns or finding another activity. By allowing sharing to occur naturally and at their own pace, toddlers can learn the value of sharing without feeling pressured or coerced.

Put special toys away before playdates

Before the playdate starts, ask your toddler if they have any special toys they may like to put away. Even we as adults have particular things we like to keep as our own, which is completely okay! Make sure there are only toys available that your toddler is comfortable sharing when their playdate arrives.

Create opportunities for playdates with other children

Interacting with peers provides valuable learning experiences where toddlers can practice sharing toys and taking turns in a social setting. Playdates also expose toddlers to different play styles and perspectives, helping them develop empathy and cooperation skills. Additionally, observing peers sharing can serve as a powerful model for toddlers, reinforcing the importance and benefits of sharing behaviour.


Teaching your toddler to share is a bit of a balancing act. There is a fine line between encouraging them to make the decision on their own, and making the decision for them.

Toddlers will only develop the skills associated with sharing, such as negotiation and cooperation, if they are able to identify the problem, choose a solution strategy from their toolbox of sharing strategies, and come to a resolution on their own.

After implementing these tips, we hope you will have a good little sharer on your hands.

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