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Do Toddlers Share?

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Early research suggested that sharing does not emerge until children are entering middle childhood, around 6- to 7 years-old. However, according to Brownell, Svetlova, and Nichols (2009), intrinsic human sharing is measurable in toddlers between the ages of 18 and 25 months. Young toddlers, around 18-months, are open to sharing when they are not faced with the question of making a personal sacrifice. It was noted the when toddlers were around 25-months, they were more likely to share when their recipient expresses their need for the the items in the toddler’s possession (Brownell, Svetlova, & Nichols, 2009). Similarly, Schmidt and Sommerville (2011) found that infants as young as 15-months show signs of altruistic sharing with others. Finally, studies support that parents who encourage their toddlers to identify and express emotions related to books and pictures, are more likely to have toddlers (18-months and up) who quickly respond with sharing and helping behaviors when appropriate (Brownell et al., 2013).


  • Use positive parenting.

  • Help your toddler identify basic feelings.

  • Exaggerate your facial expressions to show emotion.

  • Use pictures and books.

  • Label how you think your child feels based on their facial expression.



Brownell, C. A., Svetlova, M., Anderson, R., Nichols, S. R., & Drummond, J. (2013).

Socialization of early prosocial behavior: Parents’ talk about emotions is associated with sharing and helping in toddlers. Infancy, 18(1), 91-119. Retrieved from

Brownell, C. A., Svetlova, M., & Nichols, S. (2009). To share or not to share: When do toddlers respond to another’s needs? Infancy : The Official Journal of the International Society on Infant Studies, 14(1), 117–130.

Dunfield, K., Kuhlmeier, V. A., O’Connell, L., & Kelley, E. (2011). Examining the diversity of

prosocial behavior: Helping, sharing, and comforting in infancy. Infancy, 16(3), 227-247.

Schmidt, M. F., & Sommerville, J. A. (2011). Fairness expectations and altruistic sharing in

15-month-old human infants. PloS one, 6(10), e23223. Retrieved from


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