Here are the rules I employ and if you are a parent with a toddler maybe take a look to see if any of this resonates with you....
1) No grabbing. This is the big one. I'm sorry Noah, he/she is playing with that now. You can have a turn when she/he is done.
No, just because you want to play with something does NOT mean that the other person has to "hurry up and finish using that". Yes, it looks WAY more exciting because someone else is using it but no, you may not just have something just because you want it, and grabbing is REALLY not ok. This is not how the grown up world world works either. Crying will not help. Sorry. Go play with something else and we can let this person know that when they are done we would really like to play with it. Readers, I am telling you, you will be ASTONISHED at how benevolent a toddler can be if he is shown some respect regarding his playthings. Also, if he is having trouble handing it back on his own I say "Noah, you can either hand that back or mommy can help you. Please try again." 9 times out of 10 he *astonishingly* does it on his own without trouble. If he can't then I say, "I know, that toy looks like SO much fun, but ____ was playing with it, so we need to hand it back. Lets go swing- UNDERDOG!!!!!!!!!!!" (Yes, I make a giant fool out of myself multiple times on a daily basis)
2) No bringing toys to a common play area (parks & playgrounds/playdates/etc) if you can't be ok with other kids playing with them when you are not.
That's just annoying and its flaunting and it makes other people not want to be around you. When Noah says to me "BRING TRUCKS!" to the park, I say, well YES lets bring the truck, but if someone else wants to play with it when you are done you are going to need to let them. "NO!!!! LEAVE TRUCK HOME!!!" Ok, no prob! Good choice.
3) I will not allow kids or their parents to take toys from you while you are still playing with them (forced sharing)
When Noah is playing with something and having a blast, and another kid wants the toy, I will help him out if it looks like he is being bullied into handing it over (and Im talking about other parents too). No, he is still playing with it and I let him use HIS words. I say, Noah, are you still playing with that? and he says to me "Yes". Well then, tell them! And he says directly to the kid, "Im still PLAYING with it!" Then I say, ok, looks like Noah is still playing but do you want a turn when Noah is done? Then both kids feel like they are heard and that maybe soon they can have that interaction on their own now that they know that its a possibility.
At music class the other day I witnessed a kid yank a toy from a little girls hands (that she was clearly still playing with). She went to grab it back and her dad said to her "honey, you have to share". Um, she was ROBBED is what happened, and her dad was really meaning well but seriously did NOT have her back. What was happening was simply not fair, and she knew it and a meltdown ensued. They had to leave she was so upset. Why did she have to share that toy? If someone else wants it and grabs it you have to be ok with that? What does that teach either child? a) that grabbing gets you what you want and b) that people can grab things from you and you *HAVE* to be ok with it because "we SHARE with our friends". Seems a little wonky.
4) You can take as long a turn as you want with that toy unless it is common property or belongs to someone else (swings at a playground/a toy someone brought to the park/etc)
You are playing with a toy? Have AT it kid! Play play play. If you are truly engrossed in your playtime and its not bothering anyone then by all means, go for it. Playing is learning at this age and the longer kids play the more circuits are being built in their brains to help them be as smart and cool and developed as possible. I totally geek out on this science of play building brains and I want to help that along! The caveat is that if you are in a public area and the toy is sort of a public property then I think a little consideration is in order- for example, no hoarding of a special toy or piece of cool playground equipment. I say to Noah, yes, go ahead play with that ball/jumprope/etc, but it looks like when you are done, So and so wants to use it. When the pressure is off to "hurry up", the hoarding seems to be less important, and the TRUE generosity emerges.
If you have multiple kids you can employ these tactics at home for practice too! Zoe is 7 months old but she always wants to be up in Noahs toys, esp whatever he is playing with. She will roll her little pudgy adorable self over to him and grab his toys. I make a show of it to Noah, saying "Noah, are you still playing with that toy? Tell Zoe you aren't done" and he does. I say to Zoe "Zoe, silly! We dont grab! Noah is still playing with that, lets play with this instead"--- This way, when Noah grabs toys from Zoe which happens every day, I say to him, oh, try again Noah! Do I let Zoe grab toys from you? .... "No", he says. "Ok, please give it back". HE GETS IT EVERY TIME.
I feel like I have unearthed a parenting treasure and it makes me very very very happy. Now, lets go on to the other 10000000000000billion parenting issues.
What tactics do YOU use to help your toddler learn how to interact with other kids well? I would love to hear them!