Are 2 year olds ready for sharing & turn-taking toys?
More and more parents are buying toys for 2 year olds that involve sharing or taking turns in play. I don’t think this is appropriate and would recommend waiting until they’re a bit older.
Once a child reaches 2 years old, most people seem to expect them to start making friends and socialising with other children. The temptation then arises to buy toys that involve sharing or taking turns in some way. Some 2 year olds are ready for this, but the majority aren’t at that stage yet.
I believe that this misunderstands where most 2 year olds are in their development. If you observe a 2 year old playing, they’ll tend to play alongside one another and not interact that much – choosing to interact with the adults instead. They might watch what other children do and might copy them. They might interact in some way, for example trying to brush the other child’s hair or pretend to make them a cup of tea. (Just as likely, they’ll try to push the other child away if they get too close, which should be discouraged in a gentle and positive way!) All of this is completely normal for a 2 year old.
Seeing 2 year olds interact sometimes looks like genuine sharing and co-operation. But if you look closely, you’ll see that they’re probably not really sharing in the way that older children do. For example, a 2 year old might appear to share by handing a toy to another child. However, in most cases they’re actually doing this because they want to see what will happen (i.e. they’re learning about cause and effect). They don’t really understand the concept of sharing – if they decide they want the toy back, they’ll snatch it and have a tantrum if the other child doesn’t let go!
The experts at babycentre agree and say: “[Your 2 year old] may now be happy to share his play space with a friend or sibling. … However, don’t expect him to share his toys or play co-operatively just yet.”
Not understanding this can lead to temper tantrums. For example, if you’re playing building blocks with several 2 year olds then don’t expect them to take it in turns to place a block on the tower. It’s far better to give each child some blocks so they can make their own tower.
2 year olds will benefit from spending time with other children, watching and learning from them and playing alongside one another. I say, don’t worry if your 2 year old isn’t sharing or taking turns yet. They’ll do so when they’re ready and it doesn’t mean they’ll grow up to be selfish! There are plenty of great toys for 2 year olds and there’s no need to introduce toys or games that they’ll enjoy more later on.
Social toys for 2 year olds
Although 2 year olds aren’t really ready to play with other children, there are plenty of toys that are suitable for groups of 2 year olds. These toys allow them to play happily alongside each other. They can learn about each other without competing directly, and it can help to prevent tantrums!
Play kitchen for 2 year olds to play together
Play kitchens are great for 2 year olds to play together. They’re big enough for at least two, with plenty of space for children to play without getting in each other’s way. There are lots of different toys in a play kitchen, which will hopefully to prevent any conflict between 2 year olds who are just learning how to share!
2 year old toys designed for sharing
Another idea is to choose toys that are specifically designed for sharing. Even though a 2 year old may not be ready to share in a genuine way, they will enjoy sharing if it’s actually the purpose of the game!
For example, the LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket allows children to have a pretend picnic or tea party. They’re not old enough to have a tea party unaccompanied, but an adult can join them and encourage them to share. Even 2 year olds who usually struggle to share often find it easier in this context. Pouring tea or sharing out pretend food with another child is part of the game, not something to be jealous about in the same way as other toys. This toy is also available to Buy on Amazon.
It’s your turn
What are your thoughts on 2 year olds’ ability to share. Do parents encourage them to do too much too soon? What do you think are the best sharing toys for 2 year olds? Please leave your comments below.