How a $2 Purchase Solved Our Sharing Squabbles

Sharing is hard. I get it. From my 3 year old, Rhys’, perspective, he has this amazing toy he absolutely loves loves loves. Then, his 5 year old brother, James, asks to play with it…or just tries to grab it…and he doesn’t want to give it to him. Arguing occurs. Frustration and anger occur. No one feels good about it. This was happening pretty frequently so I decided we needed some sort of sharing plan. A way to help smooth this learning curve and give it some boundaries and clarity.

So, we made boxes. Rhys and James both picked out a box at the dollar bin in Target. They are about the size of a large shoe box. I labeled them with their names and put them on a shelf they could reach. Each morning, I ask the boys, “What’s important to you today?” If there is a particular toy that is important to them, they have to put it in their box when they are not playing with it. Anything outside of the box is fair game if no one is playing with it.

While I do ask in the morning about important items, the boys usually decide to put things in their boxes later in the day when they have settled into the scenario play that is going to dominate the day. In one situation, for example, James will be playing with a Chewbacca Lego figure. He puts the figure down to play with some other Legos or maybe the Hot Wheels. While he is playing with other thing, Rhys picks up Chewbacca. When James notices, he gets frustrated and says something like “I was playing with that, it is mine!” At this point I can calmly say, “Were you playing with it right now?” Then James will say, “No.” Then I might say, “Is it important to you today?” James will often say, “Yes.” Then I can say, OK, well, if it is important to you, then after Rhys is done playing with it, you can put it in your box. But, since it wasn’t in your box, Rhys can have a turn playing with it right now.

Surprisingly, the boys don’t put a million things in their boxes. It is usually just 3–4 toys each day that they really like. Sometimes it is even something that they won (like a baseball camp trophy), that they just want to keep to themselves for a little bit because they are proud of it.

When they are playing with all the other toys and there is a sharing squabble, I often refer back to the How to Work it Out support so they can have a visual of what their options are to take turns and share in a kind manner.

It is a work in progress. Many adults still struggle with this concept! So, if I can help my 3 and 5 year old manage sharing and getting along with a couple boxes then it is well worth a $2 purchase from the “dollar bin.”