Sharing doesn’t come naturally and is very hard for not only toddlers, but adults too. However, adults logically know that sharing is important and even though they don’t necessarily want to do it, they see the benefits. However, that's not the case with toddlers - they tell it like it is and find it very difficult to understand why they need to share. Forcing your toddler to share might do more harm than good and is not recommended.
How can you support ?
Rephrasing sharing with turn taking: While the two might seem like they mean the same to many, toddlers need to practice turn taking with the help of an adult for a long time before they are ready to share independently. Instead of telling your toddler to share, try telling them to wait for their turn instead. Toddlers might be ready to take turns at around age 2 but sharing is a more complex skill that comes by 4.
Ask their opinion
Certain loveys, stuffed animals or dolls might be their favorite and too hard for them to see someone else to use. Ask them which items fall under this category and put them away before a playdate so that you can set your toddler up for success. Your toddler will feel valued that their opinion counts and that they are not being forced to share their favorite toy, which will more likely lead them to be open minded when it comes to their friends or siblings using some others.
Time is an abstract concept and a toddler may not understand how long it is going to be until it is their turn again. Use a stopwatch with an alarm or an old fashioned sand timer to keep track of time. After 5 minutes announce that it is time to swap. Making it visually accessible to the child is important for them to feel comfortable while waiting for it to be their turn again.
Give a break
Sometimes turn taking might be hard and your child will need a break. That’s okay! Allow them to switch to a different activity that doesn’t require them to take turns and they can play independently until they are ready to attempt turn taking again.
If you notice them waiting for their turn in everyday life, be sure to comment on it, and celebrate them. You can say, “I noticed you waited for your turn to put the cup in the sink!” Oftentimes these simple everyday activities might not seem like turn taking but when you recognise your toddler for doing it, it builds their confidence and they feel like they can do it while playing as well!
Activities that support turn taking
Roll the ball
Sit in a circle with other family members and sing the song “I roll the ball to ______, he rolls it back to me” and then repeat with each family member's name. While learning to wait for their turn, it also develops visual tracking, auditory skills and gross motor!
I draw you draw
Sit with your child on a low table or the floor. Put a sheet of paper in between the two of you and one crayon. First, pick up the crayon and draw something while saying “I draw”, then hand the crayon to your child and say “You draw”. Keep going until your child loses interest. Keep it fun by drawing silly faces, talking about what you draw and making sounds to go with it. This is a fun activity for siblings to try to do as well or even a group (which requires more practice)
Cooking is a great time to teach your child to wait for their turn. While preparing the ingredients, take turns adding items into a bowl, mixing and even cleaning up!
If you have a slide at home, or even when on the playground, the slide is another way to teach your child turn taking. If someone is going down the slide, wait your turn. It is a visual reminder and a great way to reinforce the concept while talking about safety as well!
Using blocks to build a tower can be a fun way to take turns. Perhaps you can call it a challenge - let’s work together to build the tallest tower. Each of you takes turns to add one block at a time. Not only does this help practice turn taking, it supports language, fine motor, hand eye coordination and gross motor skills. And oh … the excitement when it comes crashing down. Take turns then to clean up - I pick up one block and you pick up another. Take turns to put them in the box.
Use puppets to take turns playing different characters. Add voice modulation for an element of fun. You can retell traditional stories or make up your own.