Your toddler has spent the last two years experimenting, playing and learning intently about the exciting world around them.
But it’s mostly been either on their own or with you showing them.
At a glance
- Encourage sharing through playdates
- Pick toys that encourage social play
- Be patient
Now they’re ready to learn the skills of co-operation, sharing and social play. It’s a real milestone in their development, which usually happens between two and three. Up until then they may play alongside other children – what psychologists call ‘parallel play’ – or ignore them altogether.
As any mum of a toddler knows, this new spirit of co-operation may not come naturally - “mine!” often being the go-to expression at this point. But with practice and encouragement your little one will soon learn the art of collaboration.
We can help with the toys we choose. As your little one reaches two, they are ready for a wider range of toys that will help them explore and navigate the world. So, when they have playdates, try to bring out toys that are better when shared – like building blocks, farms/trainsets, bats and balls or even walkie talkies.
One clever solution is physically to bring the two playmates together to encourage co-operative play with an activity table such as the Build ‘n Learn Table from Mega Bloks. This means both kids will be eye-to-eye and, perhaps with a little prompting from you, be able to work together on building a tower and zooming the car around.
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You could say things like, ‘Do you think you could take turns to build a really tall tower?’
It’s always best to call it ‘taking turns’ rather than sharing – which to a two-year-old tends to mean giving your toys away. We can show them what we mean by adding a brick to the tower then saying ‘your turn’, then ‘now it’s my turn again’. This will also help them develop patience and increase their concentration span as they see that a really tall tower takes a bit of effort.
The best kind of toys for encouraging co-operative play are those that offer open-ended play possibilities – meaning there’s no one, right way to use them. That’s why toy farms, safaris and castles with a range of characters, such as the Mega Bloks First Builders Large Tubtown Farm with a range of characters such as block buddies will help them create their own unique game using their imagination. And they’ll soon realise that working together can make fantasy games more fun.
However, it’s unrealistic to expect them to be able to share happily and co-operate all the time. And there will always be special toys they’d rather not share: this is fine, though it’s best to hide them away when friends come round. By the time they’re three to three and a half they should be much happier to play directly with their friends, and will generally be less possessive over their toys – just in time for pre-school, where their new skills will be put to the test.
You can see more about your toddler's development with our milestones chart.