8 Ways to Promote Sharing at Your Next Playdate

Toddlers don't like to share. Here's how to make it easier.

It’s a fact of toddler life: You invite friends over for a playdate, and for about five minutes (or five seconds) it seems like your children are getting along smashingly. Then your child yanks a toy out of the other child’s hand. Screaming ensues as you and the other parent attempt to negotiate a peace agreement. 

Sound familiar?

Rest assured, it is totally developmentally appropriate that your 2-year-old is not cool with other kids playing with his toys. Children don’t begin to truly grasp the social skill of sharing until they are 4 or 5 because at 2, they haven’t yet developed empathy, or the ability to understand how someone else is feeling.

But in the moment, if you’re the mom or dad at the playdate with the screaming toddlers, you’re still in a sticky situation. Squabbles over toys can often escalate. While it may not be a big deal that your child doesn’t want to share, it is a problem if he starts hitting another child in order to get his toy back. 

These situations are completely normal, but there are tactics you can use to facilitate sharing or, better yet, reduce the chances of an intense sharing standoff at your next toddler playdate. 

Practice taking turns with your toddler.

Toddler Playdate

As a parent, you can help your toddler understand the concept of sharing by practicing it with her. When you play with your toddler, ask if you can take a turn with a favorite toy. If she resists, it's not a big deal. Give it a few minutes and ask again. Praise her when she does let you have it. You can also point out different examples of sharing within the family. Meal time presents plenty of opportunities for you to "share" your food with your toddler.

Prep your toddler for the playdate.

While toddlers social development hasn't evolved to the point of willingly handing over his favorite toys to another child, parents sometimes don't give their 2-year-olds enough credit for what they do understand. Before your playdate, explain to your child that a friend is coming over to play. Ask your toddler what toys he'd like to let his friend play with and make those the most accessible. 

Put away your toddler’s special toys.

If your child has a special toy she is particularly attached to, it's best to put it away during the playdate. That way, there's no opportunity for a favorite toy to become a point of contention. 

Set out toys that are easy to share.

While you don't need the Noah's Ark of toy boxes, it does help to steer toddlers toward toys that come in sets or have easy alternatives. Blocks or Legos are great choices. So is anything that could be quickly traded for a similar toy, so if you have multiple dolls or dinosaurs, put those out to play with.  

Plan a craft or activity.

Or, skip the toys all together. Set up an arts and crafts table with stickers, crayons and markers and let kids create. Or, take everyone outside for a mini obstacle course or water play. 

Praise attempts to share.

Toddlers love attention, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. If you catch your toddler in the act of sharing, praise him for his kindness and generosity.  

Remove offending toys away from the playdate.

If two toddlers cannot resolve a dispute over a toy, it's probably best to remove that toy from the playdate and steer the toddlers toward a new activity. 

Move the playdate to neutral ground.

Have you ever noticed that your child is more willing to share when he's not at his own house? Toddlers often find it much easier to take turns with toys when those toys aren't theirs, so an easy way to sidestep sharing issues is to move the playdate to neutral ground. Consider play spaces, book stores, libraries, the neighborhood playground or recreation centers to meet up for a playdate, and skip the sharing drama. 

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