NDSU Extension - Sargent County


| Share

What to Do When There is One Toy that Both Kids Want...at the Same Time

CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=551806We’ve probably all seen an ugly struggle that’s come about when a toy, a book, or some other object that is THE ONE THING that two children both want to play with at the same time.

When faced with the challenge of one toy that both children want to use, two approaches suggested by Penn State University Extension are:

1 - Teach problem-solving.    

2 - Teach turn-taking.

Even though most of us want the kiddos to “share,” we need to realize or remember that sharing can be really hard for them to do. 

Young children often see the toys they play with as a part of themselves. When forced to share, they feel like they are in danger. In addition, young children are egocentric; they believe the world centers on them.  Even though they can do nice things for others, they usually have trouble thinking about how someone else feels or what someone else needs.

We can begin taking steps to teach sharing to two year-olds.  However, because sharing takes ability, willingness, and skill, and because the ability to think about how other people feel only develops as a child grows, it is not realistic to expect children to really begin sharing on their own until they are three-and-a-half to five years old. 

To teach problem-solving, start by saying what you see is happening: “You both want the same toy.”

Then ask the children for ideas:  “What could you do?”  They will often surprise you by coming up with some great ideas!  If they don’t, you can ask, “Would you like to hear what some kids decide to do?”  Then offer a couple of suggestions. 

If both children agree to an idea, then you have a solution. If not, you can always offer a chance to take turns instead.

In teaching turn-taking, we allow a child to play until he is finished, and then make sure that the waiting child gets a turn. This way, each child learns how to finish using things and how to wait for a turn.

Help both children as they learn to take turns. If a child can’t find a way to finish, talk about it with him. Ask him, “How are you going to finish playing with that toy?”

Along with teaching turn-taking, teach children to use their words instead of just grabbing what they want. Help children to ask if another child is finished playing with a toy rather than just grabbing it away from him.

Stay near the child who is waiting.  Help him play with another toy until it is his turn to play with the coveted toy. Ask him, “Which other toy would you like to use while you are waiting for the truck?  I see a car and a tractor here that you could play with.” 

There may be times when you need to set limits on a turn. You may want to set a timer so each child may ride the bike for a number of minutes or each child gets to ride so many times around the tree. Ask the children to help you decide on the limits, offering them two or three options if need-be.

If the waiting child is upset, try a calming activity. “I could read you a book or do a puzzle with you while you wait for your turn.  Which would you like?”

To complement problem-solving and turn-taking, parents and other adults need to stay calm, model and narrate when we are sharing, and notice when the children are sharing and comment about it positively to them.

Adapted from Penn State Extension “Better Kid Care” resources:  http://bkc-od-media.vmhost.psu.edu/documents/TIPS0103.pdfhttp://bkc-od-media.vmhost.psu.edu/documents/HO_GuidingBehavior_Sharing.pdf, and http://bkc-od-media.vmhost.psu.edu/documents/PC_BitingSharing.pdf.

Photo Credit:  CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=551806 (downloaded 12-3-18)


Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.