How can I convince my toddler to share?

They say manners don’t cost anything.

For something that’s supposed to be free, it sure does take a lot of effort to instil manners into a toddler!

We’ve always wanted our toddler to be polite. To say her “please and thank yous” and to play nicely with other children. We all know you won’t get this from a toddler at this stage. My little one always needs reminding to say “please” rather than angrily demanding a book be read to her. She snatches toys away from other children, as they also do to her. This is all part of developing their social skills, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging them to be respectful at this stage, even if they won’t get it yet. Eventually I hope it will stick.

But there’s a bit of a growing storm in our house. It’s getting worse every day and soon I fear it’s going to blow into a full-on hurricane. The problem is sharing.

My baby is seven months old and is now grabbing for everything. She can sit up, well for a little while until she smacks down head first, and can roll herself over to what has taken her interest. She loves toys, anything bright, mirrors and books. But most of all she loves her big sister and, crucially, whatever her big sister is playing with.

It’s gorgeous to see my baby looking so adoringly at her big sister, she saves all her biggest smiles for when she sees my toddler. She is fascinated by her. However she doesn’t understand that snatching something out of her big sister’s hand isn’t the way to go about showing her love.

My house is now filled with the sound of my toddler yelling: “Noooo she took my Lego. That’s mine! That’s not fair!”

My baby always looks a little confused at this outburst. Then she often laughs. I don’t think this helps the situation.

So I’m trying to talk to my toddler about sharing and how it works. My toddler is two years and five months. Her language is amazing and there is very little she doesn’t understand now when we have conversations. But the concept of sharing is difficult for her because she’s still just going on instinct. Yes she feels empathy towards other children and adults but she really just cares about what she has in her possession in that moment. She is operating on gut instinct and does not know how to control her emotions yet. If she feels put out, she will make it known, loudly!

Toys for a baby including Sophie the Giraffe and rattles
Baby toys have become irresistible to my toddler now her little sister is playing with them.

I’ve tried to encourage my baby to play with all the little baby toys. The rattles and little cuddly teddies, rather than the Lego bricks and blow-up globe, when my toddler is around. The trouble is now she can see someone else enjoying them, my toddler wants to play with the little baby toys too. She snatching toys out of my baby’s hand, sparking a wobbly lip followed by a big, tearful wail.

So now we’re trying to take it in turns. Trouble is my toddler gets five minutes and my baby is lucky to get five seconds before her sister says: “My turn.”

This has only really escalated in the last fortnight. And I can see it getting worse as my youngest develops her physical movement and begins to crawl, which probably is not that far off.

So I worry about the sibling brawls that will break out as a result of this conflict over toys. No matter what they’re playing with, whatever the other one has will be more fun.

But I’m trying to think about the other side to this. The day when they sit side-by-side working on a Lego project together. The day when they have a tea party for all the stuffed animals and sit there sharing out imaginary biscuits to the bears. The day when they play hide-and-seek in the garden.

I know as sisters there will be times they want to tear each other’s hair out. But I also hope there will be love. And lots and lots fun. Because if they can play with each other, it means I can sit this game out and give myself a breather.

Do you have any tips on encouraging siblings to share?



How can I convince my toddler to share with her sibling?

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  • I used to run a daycare (and I majored in early childhood education in college) and I would let parents know not to push the sharing issue at that young an age. I would rather encourage them to play with the toy until they are done. Once they move onto another toy, then the next child can have it. That’s not to say they shouldn’t share, but that concept is better grasped around 4-5 years old. During one heated battle with a mom who demanded I MAKE her daughter share, I decided to show her my point. I held out my hand and asked for her car key. A very nice Mercedes that I would never be able to afford. Mom looked at me blankly, so I repeated my command. Then when she wouldn’t give it to me, I snatched the keys from her hand and yelled “SHARE YOUR TOYS!”

    The mom instantly understood. Just because they are “toys” to us doesn’t mean they aren’t prized possessions to the child. Forcing them to share before they are old enough to cognitively understand the concept actually makes one of two things happen – your child will become the aggressive toy confiscator, or your child will become apathetic and easily picked off by a toy confiscator. Neither makes a healthy system.

    So, my very long-winded comment boils down to – don’t stress. Siblings work out a sharing system as they age and play together. And they will fight. But once they’re around preschool age they’ll develop the ability to share AND understand why.


    • Wow this makes perfect sense. Thanks for your comment, a really great way to explain it. I think I am expecting things to develop a little too quickly! Really appreciate your advice on the subject xx

      • It’s understandable, no parent wants to see their kids fight or have their child viewed as ‘greedy’ by others. But this is definitely one area where I’ve tried to spread the word and use the car key example. Sharing is one of the toughest concepts to teach a child and I have seen it backfires when it’s pushed too hard at a young age. Funnily enough, a friend of mine has a teenager who is now in therapy for emotional issues and the therapist said that part of his over eating and food issues stem from a loss of control at a young age to determine even the basic idea of what he was allowed to have to play with. Basically the root of his issues are that his younger sibling was allowed to have any of his toys and because he was the older sibling, he was expected to give everything up to the one who was younger. It was really shocking to me to hear the therapist explain that.

    • This is so interesting to read. I had wondered about the whole sharing thing and when to enforce it. My daughter is older (4) but her younger sibling (1) is just starting to play with her toys more and and eldest does get frustrated…which I can see! Sharing is a difficult concept to grasp with younger children. Fortunately the youngest has a short attention span and doesn’t really care what she plays with too much. It’s so cute how they adore their older sis, isn’t it! #bloggerclubuk

  • Sharing has a storm with my grandchildren too but it sounds like you’re doing the right thing. Good luck