From Our Blog: How to Teach Children to Share

Two preschoolers sharing a toy

“I want that one!”

“I don’t want to share!”


Don’t worry – these are all common things to hear from your child. When children are just starting to learn how to share and collaborate, they need support and guidance along with fun, enjoyable activities to help them understand these new concepts. Read on to find out how to make sharing and collaboration easier for everyone.

11 Ways to Teach Sharing to Toddlers and Preschoolers

  1. Seek out social situations. Take a playground or children’s museum adventure and encourage your child to share sandbox toys with others, take turns on the swing set, and work in a group to do a science experiment or art project.
  2. Share with your child. Model the behavior by sharing your favorite spot on the couch or a special treat you brought home from work.
  3. Take turns. Start with a quick back-and-forth, such as rolling or tossing a ball, to teach your child how taking turns works — you can even say, “your turn” and “my turn” whenever each of you has the ball. Board and card games are great for learning to take turns, too. If you’re playing with a bigger group, help children remember whose turn comes before theirs so they know when to draw a card or roll the dice.
  4. Read. Choose books about sharing. As you go through each story, ask how the characters might feel, what they should do, and what your child predicts might happen next. 
  5. Use food. On pizza night, work together to divide everything equally, and give one slice to each person. At breakfast, ask your child to put five strawberries on each person’s plate. Not only will this help reinforce sharing, it’s a great math activity, too.
  6. Make music. Tap out a tune on the xylophone, and encourage your child to take a turn with the drum or the tambourine. You can also work together to count out the beat and use your instruments at the same time.
  7. Build something. Work out a strategy ahead of time and take turns stacking or arranging blocks and materials. And if you’d rather make building into a game, try Jenga!
  8. Clean up. When it’s time to put everything away, take turns putting toys back into the basket and share the task of folding the dress-up clothes. See who can get the stuffed animals back in their spots the fastest or work together to beat a timer.
  9. Designate “off limits” and “fair game” toys. If there are certain special toys that your child is uncomfortable sharing with others, put them away before friends come over. Be sure to work with your child ahead of time to designate things that will be fair game and give choices — “Would you rather share your teddy bear or your stuffed dog?” For popular toys that everyone wants to play with you might need to set a timer for each child.
  10. Let them figure it out. Before you step in on a tussle over toys, wait and see if your child and friends can come up with a solution. Listen for negotiation, and if it’s time to add your two cents, try to guide their conversation by encouraging them to set time limits and take turns.
  11. Point out the positives. When your child does a good job of sharing, make it known. Say things like, “You shared your toy — look how happy you made your friend” and “Thank you for letting me use your crayons…they helped me make this pretty picture.”
And finally, don’t forget to be patient. Learning anything new takes time. Offering support and coaching your child along the way will help boost sharing and collaboration — lifelong skills that will set your child up for future success.

Additional Resources on Sharing and Collaboration

  • Play offers children opportunities to grow. Learn more about benefits of play that equip children to succeed in adulthood.
  • Researchers believe empathy helps children unlock other skills they need for future success, such as critical thinking, effective collaboration, and problem solving. Learn more!
  • The development of social skills can have a significant impact on a child’s success in school. Learn how you can foster these skills at home first.
Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Two preschoolers sharing a toy