An 18-month-old is asked to
share his toy with his baby sister. He
passionately refuses and takes away
all the other toys, including baby’s.
He is upset, the baby is bothered.
The result? Two unhappy children.
At a play date, a two-year-old takes
away another’s blankie, tearing it
in the process and bringing both
children to tears. Sound familiar?
Lots of parents wonder why their
kids aren’t sharing. The truth is,
children under three don’t know how.
Sharing isn’t something we’re
Mine! No, MINE!
Children learn to share after age 3
born with. It’s a learned skill that
only comes after children have
passed other milestones, such as
learning about identity, feelings
and ownership. Suzanne Blair is the
program coordinator of the Early
Childhood Team at Alberta Health
Services. She’s also a mom. “Until a
child is about three,” she says, “he is
not capable of sharing—it’s a concept
he can’t grasp.”
What’s essential for young children
is the space to explore and learn how
to do tasks on their own and learn
that they have control over certain
parts of their lives. “Children are
also learning about their feelings and
how to express themselves during
this period,” Blair says. “There
will be many times when they are
overwhelmed by their feelings and
don’t know what to do.”
Around age three, children start
to grasp the concept of sharing.
At the same time, they’re learning
language and need to say and hear
words. To do this they need lots of
Sharing is a learned skill that children usually don’t learn until the age of three.