Articles and Topics
Sibling Sharing: Advice from Moms

Jennifer in Lansdale
As horrible as it sounds, if she can't play with it, neither can he. When my little one didn't share I took the toy away until he agreed to share. No matter how much he acts up, don't give in or it will only get worse. When he sees this is the only way he can play, it won't be long before he shares nicely.

Annette in Canada
At your son's age it's difficult for him to understand the concept of sharing because he has a deep desire to ''possess'' objects. So explain to him that he can decide if he wants to share his toys, but that his sister gets to decide if she wants to share her toys as well. Then, if he's interested in one of her toys, ask him if he wants to share something of his in return. As for playing together, he will become more interested as she gets older. Don't force the issue now.

Jackie in Windsor
Since many boys are "allergic" to the color pink, try placing all of his toys in a blue box and all of your daughter's in a pink box. Place the two boxes as far from each other as possible so they can play with their own toys in their own area. You could also use a "good behavior chart" so he can earn points for sharing and save them up for something special. Good luck!

Krista in Halifax
Try using a "toy libary." Children go to the library and get a toy. When they're done playing with it, they return and get another toy. I find this works well. The kids play with one toy at a time, and everyone gets a turn.

Kari in Plover
To a small child, sharing often looks like giving something up, so it's better to consider the concept of taking turns. If an item is being used, it can't be taken away, so redirect the other child to another item of interest. When the first toy becomes available, it's up for grabs. If a child has difficulty being redirected, and is displying hostility, a time-out is helpful to gently encourage fair turns.

R. in Framingham
When my kids were that age, my son and I went through all his toys together, putting the "extra special" ones in his room while the others were left out for everyone to play with. It seemed to work for us most of the time.

Nancy in Buffalo
I tell my 3-year-old son to let his 15-month-old brother play with the toy for a minute, stressing that he'll soon get bored with it. I also explain that his younger brother is "exploring" new things. He loves being the big brother, so if the baby tries to take something away I tell him to show his younger brother how to play with it —or, if it's a book, to read it to him.

Bettye M. Caldwell, Ph.D
It is good that your 3-year-old is learning to share with friends, as many children that age don’t find it easy to share with anyone! And it is not unusual to find that sharing seems harder with a younger brother or sister. The way I would approach it is not to think of it as his problem; it is as much a problem for his sister as it is for him.

I don’t know whether they share a room or a play space, but use your living area to help you work through the situation. Identify one area for his toys, unless he wants to share them with her. This is only fair, as an 18-month-old can do a lot of damage inadvertently, and he needs to feel that you will help protect his “treasures.” Then, set aside another shelf or box specifically for his sister’s toys, and see to it that he leaves these alone unless she invites him to play with some of them.

Finally, set up a third area for toys they share. Remind them that some play materials (like an outdoor swing and climbing set) are for both of them to share and that neither one should try to prevent the other from using them. Be consistent about where their own toys are to be kept, and reassure both of them that you will protect those boundaries. This means keeping him out of her toys just as faithfully as you keep her out of his. Every time you have a chance, remind them that there are some toys that are for both of them and that they must share those toys.

Having these clearly designated areas will also help at pick-up times. Right now your son will be more likely to pick up than your daughter, so you can remind him to put his exclusive toys in the right place if he doesn’t want her to play with them.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education