Sharing is one of the first things we try to teach our toddlers – and can be one of the toughest for them to take on board.
In honour of National Siblings Day this week, we asked Danielle Benbow (aka @five_make_a_home), mama of twins Kip and Ivo and baby Agnes, how she encourages inspiration in children’s play.
“Having twins, I've always instilled the concept of sharing, right from the start. The boys had to share me – I struggled to tandem-feed alone, so they had to wait until the other one had finished feeding before it was their turn, had to wait to have their nappy changed, had to wait until the other one was tired before they took their nap... always passively sharing. The mum-guilt is strong, but there was no other way around it; they had to share my attention and my time.
As they grew we had a range of toys and tried various different things to help with a good approach to sharing. We had some toys that we doubled up, purely because we knew they would be lusted after so much that we would constantly be firefighting otherwise; it was therefore better for the twins to have one each. This would, however, sometimes cause issues of its own – we have an organisation-obsessed twin who, on seeing two of something, likes to put them together, defeating the purpose of doubling up!
Those toys we only had one of, we would encourage playing nicely, being gentle and taking turns – though with two children at the same development stage this can be really tricky. There was a stage between eighteen months and two-and-a-half years where we used a timer to help with understanding about taking turns and being fair. They might not have really been finished playing, but when they heard the timer chime they realised they had to hand over the precious toy to their brother, knowing they would get it back in five minutes. In fact, at the age of 18 months Kip would shout, 'Alexa, do timer!’ whenever he saw Ivo with a toy he liked the look of!
When Agnes came along things were a little smoother than I anticipated, as at two and a smidgen years old, the twins already had some grasp on sharing. This was especially useful in those early days when I was establishing feeding and I was anxious the boys may feel left out. I was also lucky that they had each other.
Now Agnes has lots of new and exciting toys that the boys never had, so they enjoy helping her play with them and showing her how they work. The boys are older and they like to play together now, rather than side-by-side. They include Agnes in sharing – giving her toys and telling her it is her turn. Now they're pre-schoolers I will often try to be as hands-off as I can and will give them activities where they have to work together to complete a task. Cooking is brilliant for this. Agnes is still a bit too small for these tasks at the moment, but enjoys being the chief taste-tester!!
Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert. The boys aren't perfect. They will argue and fight over toys that they feel they claimed a stake in first. But being twins I had to instill a healthy understanding of give and take right from the start.”