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How to teach your child to share

Young children have difficulty sharing – but with a bit of patience and practice, you can help your little one’s ability to share become second nature

Sharing is one of life’s most vital skills, but it’s not something that comes naturally to us as children.

One of the first things we learn is possession, “that’s my toy”, “that’s my mum”, so it can be hard to teach your child that not all things can be possessed in this way.

However, this lesson is a normal part of the development process.

Most children don’t understand the concept behind 'mine and yours' until they reach at least three years old. But it’s never too early to help your little one along with the lesson of generosity.

The first step is to understand why your child doesn’t want to share. Rushing in and telling your child off isn’t going to solve the problem, and will probably make the situation a whole lot worse. Instead, listen to your little one's reasoning and try to explain why you want them to share. How about using different voices for your child’s teddy bears and tell a story about sharing?

Some opportunities arise, such as play dates, where it might be best to prepare beforehand. Set aside your child’s most loved possession and put out toys that aren’t so loved for your child to use when playing with their friends. Explain that everyone gets a turn with each toy – if they make a fuss, put the toy on a shelf and explain that it will stay there until he or she learns how to share.

If toys become the focus of too many tugs-of-war, perhaps steer clear of them altogether and engage your child and his or her playmates in a different kind of project, such as drawing. That way, they don’t have to share possessions, but will still enjoy themselves.

Point sharing out in everyday life – when someone passes the salt or pepper or hands out a box of chocolates – this will help them to understand that sharing is a normal, everyday act that they must learn how to do.

Also, make a big deal out of any sharing you do in front of your child. Children look up to their mums and dads and always want to imitate – this could be a good way to teach them how to share. The more you use the word “share” the more it will become part of their nature.

And when your child does share, make sure you reward the good behaviour. Why not treat them to their favourite meal or toy, or give them a gold star on their reward chart? Rewards will encourage your child to keep doing well.

True sharing implies empathy – the ability to see things from another’s point of view. It’s important to understand that your child is unlikely to pick this up straight away but with a bit of patience and practice you will find your little one will be on the right path to becoming a generous young person.  

Never force your child to share, just let them know you are disappointed or sad if they make a fuss or won’t share, but that’s as far as you should go.

Learning how to share is a natural part of growing up and ultimately, it will come down to your child to learn how to share on his or her own.

At the end of the day, there are some things we come across as adults that we don’t want to share, but by encouraging your child from a young age, it will give them a good moral base for the future.

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