Is this your toddler’s favourite word?
My toddler is currently loving this word. The piece of cheese I’m trying to eat, “MINE.” Her sister’s favourite doll, “MINE.” The TV remote, “MINE.” I could go on and on.
Some days it feels like my toddler says this word at least 100 times. It’s hard because we are excited that she is starting to talk more and use her words, but at the same time, it’s exhausting trying to help her understand that she can’t have everything she lays her eyes on.
In these moments, we have to remind ourselves that our toddler screaming “MINE” doesn’t mean she is trying to be bad, rude to her sister, or frustrate us.
“MINE” = new developmental milestone
Saying “mine” means that she has reached a new developmental milestone – understanding possession.
This is a new skill that our toddlers are beginning to learn, and just like with all of the other skills they have learned, we need to help them learn to navigate this skill.
When our children are learning how to walk and talk, we model these skills, and we support and encourage them as they learn these new skills, and we need to do the same thing as they learn how possession works!
How can we model, support, and encourage our toddlers as they navigate this new skill of understanding possession?
Narrate the rules
Your toddler is just starting to understand the difference between something that is theirs and not theirs. Your toddler will begin to understand the toy rules over time and explanation from you.
Narrating the rules might sound like:
- “Yes, that is yours! You are right!”
- “This toy is Tommy’s. He is letting you play with it, but we have to give it back when we are done.”
- “It’s tough to wait for the truck. It’s both you and your sister’s toy. You need to wait until she is done to have a turn.”
Narration is such a powerful tool for helping our kids learn new skills. As they hear us narrate over and over what it means for something to be theirs, they will understand this concept, and we will start to hear them screaming “MINE” less.
Don’t force sharing
When toddlers start understanding possession, it can be easy to associate this skill with sharing. As adults, they seem like very similar concepts, but for our toddlers, sharing is a whole other developmental milestone that often doesn’t come until later.
You don’t need to force your little toddler to share – trust that they will learn this skill with time. It can be helpful to choose a few toys that are “special toys” that they never have to share. The rest of the toys are for turn-taking.
Take away the power of the toy
Avoid timers for toys and the pressure to share. Children are usually more likely to drop the toy and move on to the next one when the pressure is taken off. Make it a house rule that whoever has it first can play until they are done, and then the next person gets a turn until they are done.
Turn-taking is a great first step to sharing. It takes away the power of the toy, encourages independence and even teaches patience!
Example of turn taking
Your daughter is playing with a toy that your son wants. Your son can go up to your daughter and ask for a turn. If they are not verbal, you can do this with them. The first child is free to give up the toy right then but does not have to.
Instead, the child may say, “You can have the doll when I’m done,” and continue playing. When she is ready to do something else, she turns the toy over to the waiting child.
If the current toy holder doesn’t give up the toy until bedtime, the second child gets the first pick of the toy in the morning.
You can see in this example that by encouraging turn-taking rather than setting a timer to give up the toy, the daughter doesn’t feel pressured to give up the toy – which often leads to more challenging behaviours.
This is just one example of how turn-taking could look, and it will take time, practice, and patience!
When you hear your toddler scream “MINE,” remember: this is good. This means they are learning and reaching new milestones. You can help them learn how to take turns.