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Give and take - teaching your child to share their toys

By Rindala SEMAAN

MSc. Psychomotor therapy - Mental health and development specialist - Child, youth and family care.

Sharing is a human quality that brings the people together. This positive practice is not limited to objects or material goods but it is generalized to space, time, affection, information etc...Sharing has no limits and it is essential for a healthy and solid social living where bonds of solidarity and support are created.

How many times have you felt the need to share your wardrobe, your tools or even your knowledge with your neighbors or community? Your actions come from your belief in the importance of financial solidarity, green responsible consumption and the spread of support and affection.

Children understand the concept of sharing differently, depending on their age. A two-year-old child does not understand sharing fully. They might find it hard to share their toys with other children and conflicts might occur. At this age, we introduce the idea of sharing as a turn taking practice : “ You play first and when you’re done it will be your friend’s or sibling’s turn to play”. The child starts getting the idea that ownership over toys is not absolute and that all children get the chance to play with the same toy, at different times.

Preschoolers will begin to understand the importance of sharing and turn taking, especially that they are interested in collaborative play. However, they might still resist the idea of giving up “their” toy. They understand that it is fair to share but they can become impatient while waiting for their turn. Offer them another toy while they wait or engage in a play activity with them.

Toys teach your child the needed skills for a healthy development but it also introduces them to social skills and friendship. Sharing toys will allow them to make friends who are interested in the same toys as them. If they rent a toy, knowing in advance that a few weeks later they will have to return it, they will start talking about it to other children around them. This works for books and visual content too and it allows your child to have common things to talk about with children their age.

Also, sharing toys will teach your child to be responsible when it comes to playing. Knowing that this is a shared toy, your child will do their best to take care of it which will improve their planning skills, their control over their movement and their behavior.

Sharing toys will also allow the child to develop their understanding of negotiation and also to cope with disappointment when things do not go exactly the way they wanted.

Renting a toy and returning it while having the option of renting another, will give your child the exact feeling they get in a library, the feeling of knowing that endless options are at the reach of their hand. This broadens their scope of interest and makes them even more curious about exploring new toys and thus new skills and imaginary worlds.

  • Lead by example. Share your belongings with your surroundings and your children will copy your behaviors.

  • Introduce turn taking and avoid putting a time limit to play as it will put pressure on your child to finish playing fast and leave them with an unhappy feeling about sharing. Instead, ask them to share their toy once they’ve finished playing with it, while keeping a reasonable time watch on this of course.

  • Rent toys, play, return and repeat and encourage them to ask their friends around them if they’ve seen or rented this toy yet. It will help your child to initiate ideas and actions within their circle of friends and it will also help them fight boredom when confined at home, knowing that getting a new toy has become easier.

  • Praise the tiniest efforts for sharing and reinforce such behaviors so your child would want to keep it and improve it.

  • Have a toy swap system in your household. Have a basket with a specific drawing on it, that your children would recognize as “shared toys”.

  • Encourage your child to swap their toys for new ones and to donate the undesirable one to those in need.

At the end, it is important to remember that your children do not have to share all their toys. It is perfectly natural that your child gets attached to a specific toy that they like to call as their own. They will like to take it everywhere they go and they like to keep it close. In this case, this toy becomes like a companion and a reminder of home.


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