Sharing is caring: how to teach kids to play nice

Kinderling News & Features

Is your little angel a little devil when it comes to communal playtime? You’re not alone. Listener Alex recently wrote to Kinderling Helpline for advice on her three-year-old who refuses to share toys with family or friends; so much so that all play dates end in fighting and tantrums.

Our resident expert and Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue says it can take a while to teach little ones to share. “It’s about time and patience and following through," says Chris. "If it’s an important family value for you, it’s worth putting the effort in. I think it’s that bit of parenting where you have to plod through it and keep going.” 

Listen to Chris on Kinderling Conversation:

Chris tries to teach children about their own personal space and belongings, and the shared experience too. A good way to do this and avoid tears later is to differentiate between toys to be shared and the very special ones they'd prefer to keep to themselves. 

“Everything that’s in the lounge room and the play room is everybody’s to share, but things that you might feel are important to that child, they [keep] in their room," says Chris.

For example, if a toddler loves their train set, but a baby brother or sister likes to interrupt the play, you could say 'that’s very special for you, let’s put that in your bedroom so it’s safe'. 

When friends come over, ask your child beforehand what they'd like to put away. Then explain that everything else left in the playroom and loungeroom will be fair game for everyone. “Whatever’s out at the time, we have to share,” Chris says. 

If there is any fuss, Chris advises trying to distract them with another toy or activity and then once the other child has finished, say ‘okay, it’s your turn now’.

Do you have your own question? Contact Kinderling Helpline now so we can help, and tune in Mondays at 12pm.

Check out Chris' book Bringing Baby Home on the Pan McMillan website