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Toddler Games that Encourage Sharing

As with the importance of green vegetables and a sensible bedtime, sharing is a concept that the typical toddler resents. Though adults seem to find it important, your little one would rather that her playmate to keep his hands off her precious toys. Using games as an object lesson is a better way to teach her about sharing that simply explaining why it's important—but don't expect perfection. Praise her efforts and acknowledge that sharing isn't easy.

Board Games

Any board game suitable for children three or older is worth trying out with your toddler, even though some will be too challenging right now. Look for games that include plastic spinners. Every time her turn is over, she'll have to hand the spinner back to another player, but gradually she'll realize that it always comes back to her. If she's too young to play by herself, team up for a family game. When your toddler is a teammate to an older sibling or parent, she'll learn to share duties—for instance, on any given turn she might get to roll the dice while you get to move your team's playing piece forward.

Card Games

No, your two-year-old isn't ready to master gin rummy, but games that use cards are portable, and some can even be made at home. Go Fish is a classic and manageable game for little ones. Buy or create a simple version that uses cards of different colors rather than numbers. When you ask your tot to hand over any purples, she'll have no choice but to share them if she wants the game to continue. Memory card games, in which players take turns flipping over two cards in search of matching pairs, require toddlers to take turns. Start with just 10 or 12 pairs so the game won't overwhelm her.

Outdoor Games

She can blow off post-nap steam and learn life skills at the same time. Most classic outdoor games—think soccer, follow the leader, a water-balloon toss or hide and seek—have an element of turn-taking or sharing. Or, set up a treasure hunt in your yard for your toddler and at least one other child. Hide plastic eggs or other small toys in the yard. Send the kids out to find them all, with the rule that they must take turns holding a basket to collect all the trinkets, or insist that the players take turns searching. While one kid searches the yard, the other stays back and holds a timer. After the first player finds a toy, they switch places and see who gets the fastest time.

More Games to Try

Try one game in which sharing is the only way to win: hot potato. Grab a plastic potato or a soft ball, put someone in charge of turning music on and off, and start passing the object back and forth. Whoever's holding the object when the music stops loses, so remind your toddler that the faster she gives the object to another player, the more likely she'll win. Games where everyone wins are joyful ones, so look for ways to make simple acts of sharing seem like a game. Try giving a toddler some pieces of food or flowers and asking her to distribute them among family members. Pose this as a challenge:"Can you hand these out so everyone gets some?" She'll feel like a winner when she succeeds.

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