Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Toddlers have a bad reputation for selfishness.  But are they really selfish?

Toby is busy playing with a large collection of animals and people.  Several children are watching, and because Toby is so absorbed in his play, it really looks like fun!  Of course, the other kids want to have fun, too. When Katrina reaches out for a zebra, naturally, Toby reacts with a loud, "NO!  Mine!"

Is this being selfish?  I don't think so.  Toby needed all of those particular toys for the elaborate scenario that was playing out in his head at that moment.

I explained to Katrina that Toby was using those toys, and I mentioned to Toby that he could use them until he was all done, and then he could share them when he was ready.  Then I helped Katrina find other things to play with.

A few minutes later, I observed Toby give a deep, contented sigh, and look up from his play.  Then he looked over and saw Katrina nearby.  I saw an "Aha" look cross Toby's face. He picked up the zebra Katrina had reached for earlier,  then walked over and handed it to her.  I said, "Thanks for sharing, Toby.  It looks like you're all done now."  Toby smiled broadly and walked away.

This is the way that sharing is learned. Toddlers are very capable of sharing, as long as they are allowed to feel ownership first.  If you don't feel that you own something, it's not yours to share.

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