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What Age Do Children Learn to Share?

Preschoolers will always tend to grab on a toy and pull it close to their chests while pouting, “No, mine”. They don’t want to give up their precious item, nor share it with anyone. Therefore, children usually end up fighting over their toys, makeup sets, teddy bears, pillows, etc. There comes the point where you might ask yourself: what age do children learn to share?

As a parent, you’d naturally want to raise a kid who is generous, kind, and understands the values of sharing with others. So, how do you turn your kids’ moments of struggle over simple toys into moments of grace and generosity?

Sharing is a Skill that Develops at 3-4 Years Old

Well, first of all, you shouldn’t despair. Studies show that children begin to share between 3 and 4 years old. Before this age, children are mostly focused on their own emotions, thoughts and needs. They only think about what they want and need, and they usually need them all “now”. It is normal. Before the age of 4, children cannot empathise with other people’s needs and wants.

Once your children reach the age of 4, you can begin saying, “How would you feel if your friend kept all the toys away from you?”. The little one is mature enough to take on someone else’s point of view and internalise those feelings. 

5 Tips for teaching your children to share

1. Be a good example 

Share some of your things with your children, but do not let them take them for granted. Make sure your children see how you are generous with others in everyday life. 

Try playing games that require cooperation and negotiation. For example, do a puzzle together, and take turns to add the pieces together. If your kids fight over a specific item, set up turn-taking. They should take turns playing with the toy, and when their time runs out, give it up to the other. Make sure that you always praise their behaviour when they share and give. 

2. Make “sharing” a topic

Your children will go on play dates, visit their friends at home, play with their toys, and vice versa. So, it’s essential to talk with your little ones about sharing toys and other items with their friends. Always help your children put themselves in the other’s shoes. Ask, “what would you feel like if you went to Tommy’s house and he didn’t let you play with his toys?”. 

Make sure you stop any disputes before they become too heated. Discuss the conflict with the children. Show compassion and understanding and propose a set of rules. For example, you can decide that one child will play with the toy for 5 minutes, then it will be the other’s turn, and so on.
More than that, pay attention to your child’s emotions. Put them into words. For example, you can say, “I know you are angry”, or you can empathise by saying, “You must be disappointed, but know that…”.

3. Don’t punish or use harsh words

Children do not react well to harsh punishments. They do not learn; they will just feel wronged and angry. So, do not force your child to give away one of his prized possessions. He will give his favourite teddy bear to his friend but might also come to associate sharing with a negative feeling.

Don’t make your child feel ashamed or embarrassed. That will only get him into a defensive position, and he won’t learn anything. Always talk freely about the value of sharing, but give your little ones a bit of leeway. They must discover that sharing with friends is much more fun than playing alone. Just guide them towards that realisation.

4. Introduce problem-solving to the mix

Encourage your children to find solutions about sharing their toys. You can say, “look, we have only one train, how do you think you can both play with it?”. Let them give you suggestions. This way, they’ll use problem-solving to find ways to be generous and kind.

5. Respect what is theirs

Your children might have a strong sense of possession. They do not want to share their toys, books or clothes because they fear they might be damaged. So, ask permission whenever you want to let their friends or siblings borrow them.
Ensure that the siblings and friends also respect your kid’s possessions and ask nicely if they want to borrow something.
 Always remember to praise your children when they’re generous and kind. Nevertheless, you should also understand their fears and respect their sense of possession.