The LA Times examined researched which found that "Toddlers tend not to share, but give it time" and tried to comfort parents who may be dismayed to see their child refusing to share with others. It turns out that while young children understand you when you admonish them to share, it takes some of them a few years to really decide to act on this advice. The LA Times concludes that:
“Children ages 3 and 4 know that sharing is the right thing to do, but they haven't developed the moral skills to act on it, a study finds. But most children learn to do so within a few years.”
Researchers conducted a study involving scented stickers and children ages 3 to 8. They found that while children "optimistically believe that other children their age will [share] generously," 3 and 4 year olds are reluctant to share themselves. At ages 5 and 6 children are progressing towards being sharers and by ages 7 and 8 children who really don't want to share tend to feel the should because it seems to be the right thing to do.
So what causes this change of heart? By the time they are 8 years old, children have begun to realize that reputations matter and they don't want to be seen as someone who is unwilling to share. The LA Times reported that other studies show children give more when they have to work with another child and that children are more giving when they know they are being watched.
Some parents feel concern but also shame if they notice that their son or daughter seems to behave selfishly and ma want to keep the child at home. If your child is reluctant to share, you may need to see to it that he or she gets more practice. Attending day care and after school programs provide increased opportunities to interact with and share with peers.