Updated: Feb 6
Sharing is an important social skill needed to make and maintain friendships. It is a skill that needs to be learnt but the child has to be developmentally ready. At around the age of 3 children can understand turn taking but they may not be able to consistently share till around school age. Don't force toddlers to share; it actually delays the development of sharing skills. Kids need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share. Instead, introduce the concept of taking turns. (“It's Billy's turn to use the car. Then it will be your turn. I'll help you wait.").
Turn taking is good practice for kids to see that letting someone have a turn doesn't mean you will loose the toy. With young children you could hug a toy and then give it to them to hug. Or roll a ball to them. Make sure you are saying "my turn, your turn" so they understand the concept. If they find this particularly difficult you can use a timer so the turn has an end.
Older children can practice turn taking by playing board games or card games. It is helpful to point out that games are more fun when we share.
Not everything needs to be shared
As adults we don't share everything. There are some things that are too special. It is okay for kids to feel this way too. When you are explaining sharing to our kids it is important to let them feel that they have some control. We have a rule in our house that if a child has just been given a gift, like a birthday present, they don't have to share it that day. If there are really special items it is a good idea to let your child put that toy away from others. In doing this they have some control but also they will be more willing to share their other toys
Art and craft
Have children create something but make sure there is only 1 glue, scissors etc. Explain in the beginning that this is the case and that they wiĺl have to share. Make sure you are around to help talk them through if needed. Always praise your child when they share and make sure you label it eg. "I loved the way you let Billy have the red pencil first, it's more fun when we share".
It all comes back to feelings
Ultimately we share so that the other person will feel good and like being with us. We may need to explain this explicitly with our kids. Ask them how the other kid feels when they share. How do they feel when someone shares with them? How do they feel when someone wants to play with them? You can role-play this, use puppets or simply point it out when it happens. Help your kids see the positive effects when they share and they will be more likely to do it.