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Should I make my 3 year old share his toys with his younger brother?

A: To answer this question we must first look at where your children are in their social and emotional development. Below is the development progression for sharing (you can find the entire development planning tool under the resource tab).  Since they are still at either exploring later or building earlier you shouldn't expect them to share at this time.

This is a time to teach them to ask if they want to play with each other's toys.  If the answer is no (which it usually is) then you will need to support your child when they become disappointed and upset that they cannot take a toy from their sibling.  I know this is very stressful for you as a parent, however, this is a critical stage of development.  You can model saying, "You really wanted his red car, I can tell you are upset."  Then gently find them a similar or duplicate toy.  You want your children to grow up respecting each other and the property of others.

A few things that worked for me was to buy duplicate "family" toys and teach children the difference between their personal toys and joint family toys.  Make sure to have two of them so they can play side by side without the expectation of sharing.  I had three girls in three years so I learned quickly to buy three of everything for special occasions.  Another idea is for you to model sharing items with your children to help them understand that it will be alright to share with people you love and trust.  Even with all of that said because of their age and development level they will likely not be able to share freely until they are both closer to 4 years old.  When they successfully grow through this stage, you will likely see them sharing toys for the rest of their lives. 


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