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My Toddler Doesn’t Have to Share

And I'm okay with that.

My Toddler Doesn’t Have to Share

My daughter does not have to share.

I know this goes against one of the cardinal rules of parenting; and, as a result, I’m the recipient of more than a few sideway glances and the occasional passive aggressive, “I guess some children don’t have mommies with manners.” Yes, I’m the “nightmare mommy” at the park who sits on the bench with her cup of coffee, not paying the same hawk-like attention that you are to your child.

But before you rush to judgment, I encourage you to hear me out. Not forcing my child to share does not make me an “anti-sharer.” My approach is just different: I teach my child why she should want to share instead of telling her that she has to share.

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I can’t take credit for the idea. I live in Southern California, which is full of moms determined to be pioneers on all “revolutionary” parenting trends (for better or worse), and belong to a handful of toddler programs that embrace the “no forced sharing” philosophy. The concept itself was popularized by early childhood development guru Magda Gerber. According to her, young children are unable to grasp the concept of sharing, and forcing them to share in an attempt to teach them communal living can actually have the reverse outcome.

When toddlers are told they must share, they can feel a loss of control and ownership and, as a result, have a more difficult time embracing the concept of sharing as they grow into preschoolers and beyond. On the other hand, children who are given the opportunity to resolve their own conflicts may connect the dots, learn to see from another person’s perspective and become more cooperative and charitable towards others -- paving the way to a more enjoyable transition into the rich, active and social world we live in.

So how does this look in practice?

Let’s say my daughter is shoveling sand at the park, and another young girl sits down and tries to take her shovel. Before jumping up to anticipate an outcome, I just observe. Contrary to public opinion, toddlers are capable of conflict resolution. She may relinquish the shovel and move on to another sand toy, or she may grip it tightly until the other child moves on to a different toy. But if neither child seems upset, why should I go over and instigate drama? This isn’t high school; ain’t nobody got time for that.

Inserting myself into a situation where two toddlers have already moved passed the conflict doesn’t seem like a good expense of energy. Plus, by jumping in every time two children want a single toy, you can make them dependent on adults to resolve conflicts. My priority is to promote my daughter’s independence and self-confidence, and allowing her to problem solve is a major way I can do that. I’d much rather sit back and enjoy my cup of coffee before it’s cold.

Sure, there may be some tears as a result of this exchange, but that’s when it becomes a “teaching moment” (a phrase I can’t believe I’m actually using). If the other little girl is upset and starts crying, I don’t make my daughter share. Rather, I step in to calmly narrate the situation to both children. Really compelling stuff like: “You’re feeling sad because you want to play with the shovel, and she’s not done playing with it yet” and “This little girl would like to play with the shovel too. Shoveling is fun.” Since my child has the shovel, she “owns” the object, so she’s the one who has to decide to share. Nine times out of ten, my daughter hands over the object and moves on to something else without a fuss -- unless it’s a cookie, in which case home girl has an iron-clad grip.

It sounds ridiculous but it works. The first time this happened, my jaw nearly hit the floor. My daughter knew I wasn’t going to force her to share, but when I explained that another child wanted it, she made the decision to share.

Toddlers are told what to eat, how to act, what to wear, where to sleep… The list goes on and on and on. When they grab a toy to play with, that’s a choice they made for themselves, and forcing them to give it up, without even the respect of a conversation, can really leave them feeling defeated.

Young children are not inherently mean; they just have a tunnel vision and need to learn empathy, something I was unaware of until I became a mom.. As parents, we have to encourage our children to give a shit about things and people beyond themselves. By speaking to the crying child first, I am teaching my daughter to pay attention to and consider other people’s feelings. The hope is that children who learn the concept of empathy from an early age won’t vindictively hog toys later on. And it’s still a learning process -- especially for me. I’ve definitely ripped a shovel out of my daughter’s hands to give it to another child. But I try to make that the exception, not the rule.

In the end, we’re all looking to accomplish the same thing: raising children who aren’t assholes. The “sharing-is-caring” mom and the “it’s-OK-not-to-share” mom both want their children to become kind and empathetic people who share with others; whether it’s of their time, their support, or their bag of organic yogurt covered pretzels.

So next time you see a tussle at the playground, you may consider approaching the situation differently. Or maybe not, and that’s okay. Just don’t get mad at me for enjoying my hot cup of coffee.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend: It’s OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker and Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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