It’s summer and all the kids are home, creating more opportunities for arguments over toys and other items. It was a blanket at our house this morning.
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My first question is always, “who had it first?” If I actually get a honest answer, I tell them that the child who had it first gets to continue playing with the toy. I tell the other child they may play with the toy after their sibling has finished and help them find something else to do. On the rare occasion, I will side with the child who the toy belongs to. While each child has a few things of their own, most toys in our home are to be shared.
Most times I get opposing answers; they both say they had the toy first. I usually don’t know who really had the toy first, so I chose one of these options or a combination. (Note: These tips are not for really young children who have not yet learned to play together and share.)
- Suggest that they work it out. I usually wait as long as I can to intervene and they are usually past the point of working it out themselves. My middle son’s preschool teacher had a technique she used that seemed to be really effective. She made the two kids involved take a short walk and work it out. The kids always came back happy with the problem solved (or forgotten). Kids need to learn to work (and play) together and solve problems independently.
- Take the toy/item away. They will be mad initially, but will quickly forget about it and move onto something else. The blanket that I mentioned above was put in the closet. They were mad for about five minutes and the blanket was not mentioned for the remainder of the day.
- Try introducing another toy. The boys were playing with planes a few days ago and their little sister wanted to play with them. Her idea of playing is often different from theirs. I went back to one of their rooms and grabbed a couple more planes. She was happy with the planes and the boys were able to continue playing. Don’t have the same or similar toy, try their favorite toy or something they have not seen in a while.
- Distract them with a different activity. Have you been planning to bake cookies; now would be a good time. Suggest a walk or bike ride. Pull out play dough or paints.
- Send them to their rooms for a cool down period. Sometimes the kids are so upset they probably don’t remember who had the toy first. They need to be separated from the problem and calmed down. After our kids have calmed down, I often find them all playing in one child’s room with a totally different toy. The disputed toy becomes a distant memory. (Note: This cool down period also gives you a chance to catch your breathe and regroup.)