It’s OK Not to Share Section 3b: Sharing People and Toys


I was 24 when I got married.

That’s not old, I know, but considering the fact that I went to school in the state of Utah, where the median age for brides is the lowest in the nation, it felt a little old at the time.  I share this biographical tidbit as a way of assuring you that I have been on my fair share of blind dates.

Blind dates are a funny thing.  Someone, somewhere thinks you would just hit it off great with someone else they know.  Sometimes it worked out great, as it did when my good friend set me up with her brother, who I now call my husband.  Other times however, I was left thinking, “What exactly was it about this person that made you think of ME?”

My husband, a bachelor and public nuisance until he was 34, went on even more blind dates than I did.  To him, it seemed that often the only thing taken into consideration while making the match-up was that that there was one boy and one girl, both single, roughly the same age.  Match made in heaven, right?

Well, eventually it was, lucky for us, but more often than not it was far, far from it.

I’m guessing nearly every adult can relate to the ill-fated blind date.  (The stories we could all share about worst dates…..)  And yet, we often think we can set two kids of roughly the same age in the same room and they’ll hit it off, like a match made in heaven.

Sometime it works, sometimes it doesn’ along sized

Not all kids will be friends, and that’s their prerogative.  We can ask kids to be kind, to show respect, and to be thoughtful, but choosing friends is their job.  This is the basis of the next section in Heather Shumaker’s book, It’s OK Not to Share (*affiliate link).  Choosing friends is really their right, as Heather set out in the Children’s Renegade Rights at the beginning of the book.

This section explores a lot of sticky situations, and several I know I wrestle with myself.

Is it really OK for one child to say another can’t play?

Can we allow exclusive “Boys ONLY” and “Boys Keep Out” types of play? 

Where do the worlds of inclusiveness and developmentally appropriate practice collide?

How do you encourage appropriate social risk taking and also support kids the inevitable rejection that comes from taking those risks?

How do you strike the right balance between social scaffolding and interference?

I’d love to hear what thoughts and questions you have as you read this section!  I’ll use your questions in the comments section to guide the upcoming discussion with the author, Heather Shumaker, along with another fantastic blogger, Kristina of Toddler Approved!  (Check out her post, Please Don’t Touch Me  — really great stuff!)

The Google Hangout discussion will be embedded here as it’s completed.  You can also find past reflections and discussions on this book here.  Join in!  Read Along!


*** Great information in our discussion, with author Heather Shumaker and blogger Kristina Buskirk of Toddler Approved! (Make sure you check Kristina’s blog out too — you can thank me later!)



Filed under Child Development & DAP, Uncategorized

10 Responses to It’s OK Not to Share Section 3b: Sharing People and Toys

  1. This is such an interesting topic. I have a preschooler at home who is dealing with navigating situations like what to do when another kid or group of kids don’t want to let him into their play or what to do when they aren’t playing the way he wants them to. I can tell it bothers him and as his mom, it breaks my heart to hear about him being excluded. But as an occupational therapist who works in a preschool setting, I can see it for what it really is – an amazing social learning opportunity. I know that talking through these situations will make him more resilient and better able to handle future social disappointments and I hope it will also lead him to think carefully about how he treats others when he remembers how it feels to be left out.

    • notjustcute

      He’s so lucky to have a mom like you, Claire! Sometimes it’s hard to balance that mama heart and the professional brain. It sounds like you do it wonderfully!

  2. bryssy

    Absolutely OK not to share toys. It’s not okay to make others feel bad about it. We host friends at least once a week and anything that they might feel bad about being excluded from gets put away for the day. Being a good host means making your guests feel comfortable. Adults don’t share everything, kids shouldn’t be expected to either.

    We have a large family with 9 years between the oldest and youngest. As far as play goes, everyone is allowed to play, they get to be included in what everyone is doing and have a part in that. If they choose not to do so, that is fine, but we don’t exclude on the basis of age or ability. Everyone can have a “job” in play and be an important part of the of the play (from imaginary play to board games). Our family is a team and there are no unimportant players.

  3. The pendulum on sharing has definitely started swinging in the other direction in the last couple of years. When my oldest child — who is now 16 — was young, I often felt pressure to force him to share his toys/belongings/food/friends when someone else was interested in his things — especially if we were at the playground and another child came up and wanted a turn on the swing he was enjoying. I could feel the other parent waiting and glaring, as if to say: Your child has had a turn on the swing. My child wants a turn now, so please tell your child to get off the swing. It is the courteous thing to do.

    When my children started Montessori school several years ago, I heard one of the teachers give another student permission NOT to share and my jaw dropped to the floor! “Liam, that is Tatum’s work. You may not disrupt her work right now. You may find another work that you can do while Tatum is using this material. When she is done, you may have a turn with this work.” My initial reaction was: What?!? You’re not going to pry the work from Tatum’s hands to appease the other child? (Learn more about how Montessori teachers handle sharing conflicts and encourage respect for others here:

    This mind shift was a liberating game changer for me and my children! No longer did I have to brace myself for an intense battle of the Legos every time my children wanted/needed each other’s Lego pieces. I could say with great confidence, “Jack is using that piece right now. You may find another Lego to use.” My children also quickly adopted this new language and began setting clear boundaries. [One of the things I love about the Montessori classroom are the work rugs students use while working on the floor, which allow students to define their work spaces. If a child has materials spread out on a rug, the other students know to go around the rug and not touch or disturb the student’s work. I also appreciate how there is only one of each lesson/activity in the Montessori classroom, so students have to learn to wait their turn!]

  4. LisaG

    I have a friend who I adore — Miss X. She has a little girl who is a bit younger than my oldest. Unfortunately, my little girl does not like Miss X’s child. (The child is lovely and well-behaved but very extraverted; the two just aren’t a “love match”. . .which is fine. I agree with Amanda and Heather’s proposition that kids should be able to choose their own friends.) Miss X does not use babysitters, and her child does not attend preschool yet. Looking for creative ideas for how to maintain my friendship with Miss X while having to turn down all of her invitations to get together with the kiddos. Outings that include the kiddos seem to be her only option until her child goes to school. I am trying to plan some time together with X and her child when my kids are at preschool, but I’m starting to think I need to explain to Miss X somehow why I am turning down every invitation. . .and why I’m only choosing to hang out when my children can’t join me. Or maybe this is a situation where some white lies are necessary in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings for no productive reason. Any ideas? Or have you dealt successfully with a situation like this yourself?

    • Tina

      I had a few good friends that I was in a similar situation with. Our kids got along but it wasn’t necessarily a great match of ages/personalities/schedules. Plus doing things with all the kids involved seemed to add a challenge to actually having adult conversation. A couple years ago we started meeting once a month or so (adults only) for early Saturday morning breakfast. It’s worked well and is something I very much look forward to.

    • notjustcute

      Great suggestions here already for such a tricky situation! I agree that sometimes it’s easiest to make your own adult friendship the focus and make adults-only plans. Other times, I’d agree that outings together where there isn’t pressure for the kids to play and be friends could work. I think it’s OK to have the expectation for our kids to be kind, respectful, and get along with other kids, even if they aren’t friends. So outings and other types of “parallel play” activities may be safer. As for whether or not to tell your friend that your kids don’t seem to like each other, that’s a personal call. It depends on your friendship and your friend’s personality. I don’t think it’s necessary, but should it become so, I’d emphasize that you value her friendship very, very much and that it isn’t dependent on your kids being friends. Avoid vilifying either child or making a scapegoat of someone’s behavior. Just emphasize that true friendship is a personal choice each person has a right to make for themselves. Just as you’re giving your kids the room to choose their own friends, you CHOOSE her to be your friend for a reason. GOOD LUCK!

  5. Anna

    I have been struggling with this with my toddler… I have met a small number of moms with similarly aged kids I genuinely like since he was born. One of them has become a dear dear friend, but as the boys age is is apparent that they are very different personalities and I don’t think my son likes her son all that much. Her son has a very “big” personality, while my guy is a lot quieter and calmer. I’m tying to find a balance between meeting my needs as a stay at home mom who needs time with like minded women, and my sons need to define who his friends are.

    We’ve been having a lot of conversations about how he can say “no” when someone takes a toy he is using, or he can always get a book I always have in my bag if he needs quiet space instead of playing etc. I’m trying to give him more tools for coping, as opposed to just avoiding this other child. We have also been doing more planne activities with them, the zoo, a park, a museum, instead of the one on one intensity of a play date.

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