I often get asked by families what they can do to help their children share their toys and not fight or snatch from each other, or what to do when they are with friends and similar sharing problems occur.
A simple and very useful rule that will soon eliminate most hassles over who gets to play with what, is this: any toy left out is shared. In order for this rule to work, each child needs a sacred space where they can leave their belongings undisturbed and where they can play undisturbed whenever they choose to.
If your children have their own rooms, that can be their sacred space. If your children share a room, then the sacred space for the special belongings they don't want to share can be a closet or shelf in the bedroom. In addition, wherever in the house your children are playing, a temporary, movable sacred space can be created with a mat or a towel or a folded blanket. The other child cannot even touch the towel or step on the towel. But if the child leaves a toy on the floor, even by mistake, even if it's only a few inches away from the towel, then it's fair game for the other sibling or friend.
You may assume that a toddler could not possibly learn to leave another child's toy or construction or drawing alone just because it's on a special towel. In Montessori nurseries even two-year olds are trained not to touch anything on another child's mat.
Suzanne Ferera (see profile below)