Parenting Resources

Teaching Generosity to Toddlers and Preschoolers


Toddlers are just beginning to learn the concept of ownership - and one of their favorite new words is "mine." So it is unreasonable to expect a toddler to voluntarily share anything.  But you can begin to introduce the concept of sharing and giving in simple ways.

  • When you are putting food on your toddler's  plate, say, "I'm sharing food with you."  
  • Talk about taking turns when holding a book.
  • Use the words "please" and "thank you".  
  • Give your toddler two of the same item and ask her to share by giving one of the items to another person. "Here are two sandwiches. Please share one sandwich with Dad and you can eat the other one."


This is a wonderful time to teach so many character traits, including generosity.  New research shows that children as young as 3 years of age will take the merit of the situation into consideration when determining whether or not to share. So - do talk with your children about other's feelings. Patricia Kannglesser, Felix Warneken. Young Children Consider Merit when Sharing Resources with Others. PLoS ONE, 2012;7 (8):e43979 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043979  

  • Let your child see you giving to others. "We are going to bake cookies and take them to our neighbors." 
  • Talk about what other  people might like. "Oh, you would like a doll. What do you think your sister would like?"
  • When a friend is coming over to visit, help your child choose ahead  of time which toys will be shared. As adults, we  don't share everything in our house with company. So, too, your child should be able to put away special toys that will not he shared.
  • Read books about kindness, sharing and generosity.  
  • When you see someone else sharing, point it out to your child.

Remember to spend time talking to your child about how good it feels to share - and how much the recipient appreciates it.