Can You Teach a Pre-toddler to Share?

Toddlers sharing

Can you really teach a pre-toddler to share? That’s the question I’m pondering these days.

“How did you teach your girls to share?” I asked a fellow twin mom. We were at the park, and I watched with admiration as her four-year-old girls played famously alongside each other on the slide.

“Well, to be honest we just bought two of everything,” was her response.

Oh. Well, I can’t really afford two of everything. So I make a mental promise to myself. I’m going to be different. I’ll find a way to teach my girls to share.

A week later, reality sinks in. Ava is jingling a set of keys in her hands, and Kaitlyn tries to swipe them from her. Ava wins the tug-of-war, and Kaitlyn ensues a tatrum.

“Quick,” I say to my husband. “Give her a set of keys.”

“Maybe we really do need two of everything,” my husband replies as Kaitlyn simmers down with her own set. I think he’s right.


One principle we taught the girls early in their life was “Ava’s turn, Kaitlyn’s turn.” When a sister desires the toy her twin has, we tell her, “it’s Ava’s turn” or “it’s Kaitlyn’s turn.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m still consistent with repeating the phrase.

I found that it works when I’m changing their diapers. One child is usually hugging my legs while the other has her business attended to. I say, “It’s your sister’s turn,” and it seems to work.

The phrase also applies to bath time. Both girls, love their time in the tub and are racing to jump in the water with all their clothes on. But this mom, however, can only undress one child at a time. So I say, “It’s Ava’s turn,” and Kaitlyn finds something else to do while waiting her turn.

This phrase is effective for waiting in line, but it’s not however effective for sharing an item. I’m on the prowl for an answer, but I’m wondering if in the end, am I going to have to budget for two?

Question: Do you have any tricks to teaching a pre-toddler to share?


Playing it solo? When will my girls learn to share?


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12 thoughts on “Can You Teach a Pre-toddler to Share?

  1. it is parallel play even at two+. It is not till three year-old that little ones start relating, playing and sharing with another. I still kept gently exhorting but distraction is the best weapon and two year olds always choose the last thing you offer them which comes in handy. They will even switch what they want in under 30 secs depending on the order of your choice. MY seven year-old figured this out!!!

  2. Children aren’t developmentally ready to understand of sharing and really share until age five. Sorry. Try what you might–it’s wired. Five. Until then: turns, trading–trading is a great one–setting of boundaries, controlling the environment to eliminate/reduce competition and conflict. Sharing? Until age five, it’s a word adults use to take things away from you.

  3. I read somewhere that it’s good to buy your twins toys to share but also to give them their very own special toy that is just for them. My twins are in the “mine” stage which is very unpleasant. Although I still try the “it’s your brothers’ turn” technique.
    You are doing great!

  4. I have no clue what it is like to have twins but with my one (2 year old) I was just challenged to teach him the gospel in teaching him the “sharing” concept and to teach him to love others more than himself and give up his own wants for his friends. Therefore if your friend wants something that you have then give it away to them…value them more! Of course right now he may not understand but if we make this a part of our life and we, his parents, also set this example then maybe he will learn how to treat others the way he would want to be treated…I use the words kind instead of nice since the bible uses the word kind and I tell him that is how we love others as Christ loves us! Just trying to shepherd that little heart!

    • Good job shepherding your son’s heart. We’ll have to start teaching our girls to be kind too. Sweet little Ava always brings her sister her toys when she sees them laying around. I’ll have to reinforce that behavior saying “what a kind girl you are.” Thanks!

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  7. Even if we did buy two of everything (that’s not really our style), it wouldn’t matter! S & O can have identical cups and S ONLY wants the cup that O currently has. (Feisty, that one).

    S is more aggressive and will take toys away. For the longest time, O would just let her. We felt bad about this inequality, so we would help him get it back or give him something else. We ended up with a bad habit of him crying and looking at us expectantly every time S would take something away. We nixed that response and let them fight it out now. Seems a little draconian, but they are both excellent at self-entertaining with another toy now.

    I also tried to teach a “trade” idea (probably waay out of their developmental stage, but it seemed like a good notion). If Sailor is throwing a fit because Oliver took something and won’t give it back, I say “let’s trade! Go get a toy to trade with brother” and together we’ll offer him something else. It usually works, but they definitely can’t do the trade solo.

    Even though sharing might be a tricky concept for toddlers/pretoddlers, we praise praise praise whenever they give each other something and label it “Oh, good sharing!!” They also have several baby books that talk about sharing that they love. Sailor will spontaneously go fetch their water cups and bring one to Oliver. We go nuts with praise telling her what good sharing that is, how nice, etc. etc.

    • These are really good ideas! I thought to myself today that I should stop being ref and just let them “duke it out.” After reading your comments, I will. 🙂

      I agree, we praise, praise, praise when someone shares or offers the other her toy/food/ whatever.

      The Trade game sounds fun too!

      Thank you so much for your suggestions. I really appreciate your input. You have such a happy looking family. Hugs!

    • No prob! Happy I could throw some ideas your way. If it makes you feel better about having them “duke it out” – our physical therapist (she works with our son because he’s a tad behind developmentally due to prematurity) reiterated that this is the only way to teach kids to go after things for themselves. 🙂 It made us feel better for intentionally turning away mid-scuffle so O wouldn’t wail at us with his big puppy eyes.

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