What To Do About A Toddler Toy Taker?

She’s bold, bright, a leader – no wallflower this girl. She’s eager to connect with her peers, and a simple hello isn’t enough. She wants their attention. She wants interaction. And, ideally, she wants a reaction.  Naturally, her social skills are a work in progress, and while she’s learning how to engage in play, she’s often misunderstood. Her antics sometimes worry and embarrass her parents and elicit their disapproval. Her toddler peers are all-forgiving (even when they’ve been on the losing end of her toy snatching), but her friends’ parents might be less understanding.

In every RIE parent/toddler group I’ve facilitated there is at least one boy or girl who experiments with taking toys from her peers. With infants and younger toddlers especially, it is often a social gesture, a way to ‘play together’, to say, “Hi!” or “Hmmm…what have you got there?” or “The way you are moving that toy around is intriguing. I’m going to check it out.” There is a tentative reach for the object, in some cases a quick grab, a struggle (or not), and someone ends up with the item. But as long as the adults stay relaxed and non-judgmental, the ‘victims’ rarely get upset about their object being lifted.

Parents appreciate RIE classes because they are a sanctuary where infants are free to interact and toddlers are allowed to work through conflicts safely and learn from them with minimal adult intervention. The facilitator is nearby to keep children from hurting each other. When there is a struggle over a toy, our intention is to allow the children to participate as actively as possible in problem-solving. If we don’t step in, toddlers often surprise us by being able to handle conflicts themselves. As infant specialist Magda Gerber suggests in Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect, “If every time adults jump in and bring in their version of what is right, the children learn either to depend on them or to defy them. The more we trust they can solve, the more they do learn to solve.”

Rather than jumping in immediately, Magda advised “sportscasting” during conflicts – calmly and impartially stating just the facts to let the children know that we understand and empathize, i.e., “Ben was holding that, and now Ella has it”. Or, if a child seems upset, we acknowledge, “It bothered you when Ella took the toy.”

But sometimes toy-taking becomes more than an occasional experiment — it becomes a pattern of behavior that does need addressing.  The parents and facilitator then try to figure out what is motivating the behavior and gauge the most productive way to intervene.  This happened in one of my classes, and we all learned from it.

Sabrina was very much the bold, bright leader I described above. At some point during her second year she began habitually taking toys from others. It always appeared to me that she was exhibiting a strong desire to engage her friends in play, but like most toddlers her age, she didn’t quite know how.

A boy named Tom joined the class when he was around 18 months old. After a period of adjustment, he would enter the classroom bursting with excitement and toddle off exuberantly to play, usually on his own. He kept to himself, seemed to prefer staying out of the fray (especially out of Sabrina’s fray), and he would give toys up easily if another child tried to take one from him without seeming to mind. He didn’t struggle, just moved on to another toy. This seemingly passive reaction from a child often concerns parents as much as a child’s aggression does. Is my child too timid? Will he always shy away from conflict, let others take advantage and walk all over him?

As the class evolved, we realized that Sabrina’s toy taking had become a little compulsive. Although she often offered toys, too, and initiated wonderful games with another girl in the class (like the ones I mention in Toddlers Invent The Silliest Games – And 33 Other Reasons To Let Babies Play Their Way), sometimes she’d spend a good portion of the 90-minute session playing snatch-and-grab. It began to seem more like a test for the adults around her and less like something she and the children could work through entirely on their own. Sabrina’s parents and I agreed that she needed some guidance, so we decided that I would intervene when she seemed stuck in a pattern of taking toys.

If she approached a child holding a toy, I’d place my hand in between her and the child and ask her, “Are you asking to use the bus?” If she indicated “yes” and the child seemed to say “no”, I’d say. “He’s using that right now. Please make another choice.” If there was another bus in the playroom, I pointed it out to her.

Sometimes this worked surprisingly well and eased her need to test. Other times she’d persist and get upset when I stopped her with my hand and said, “I won’t let you take the bus from Brady. You can use it when he’s done.”  Even when she cried and complained, Sabrina seemed somewhat relieved that we were stopping her. And by the time that particular class graduated and Sabrina was 2, she rarely took toys and had discovered more successful ways (like imitation, for example) to initiate play with others.

Sabrina provided Tom an opportunity for growth, too. One day Sabrina took something from him before I had a chance to intervene. This time, Tom did seem disturbed, so I suggested, “If you want to keep it you can hold on and say, ‘No, I’m using this’.” I reminded him again later in class when another child took something from him, “You can hold on if you want to.”

The next week Tom’s mother told me privately that she’d heard him quietly practicing saying “No, I’m using this” several times.

Then, the following week, Tom had a chance to try out his new skill. Sabrina tried to take a red car out of his hands. He held on. They locked eyes for a moment, then Sabrina moved on. Tom stood, frozen, and stared at the car in his hand in disbelief, spending almost a minute in this reverie.

Empowered by this experience, Tom turned a corner. He continued to spend much of the class time each week playing on his own, but began making tentative forays into the social whirl, discovering that the thrill of engagement with peers could be worth the risk.

I share more about this respectful approach in

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting

(Photo by Sabine75 on Flickr.)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. That was wonderful. I can see how this approach would help a child grow and this post it timely for me as I have an energetic 3.5 year old that loves stealing toys from his 14 month old brother. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for a very insightful article, Janet. I am an Indian and here parents usually try to intervene when kids have a scuffle over a toy, hastily trying to teach that it is wrong to take another’s things. Neeldess to say, it rarely works. In case of my 19 month old daughter, I am forever struggling to maintain peace in the playground where either she will snatch a toy and wont give it back or the other way around.
      The problem is, since parent intervention is so common here, if I dont intervene, it will reflect badly on my parenting skills (which I wouldnt care about ) only if my daughter is not excluded from being a playmate at the playground.
      I just wish more moms would read your posts and articles. Thanks for opening up my mind!

      1. Hi Richa,

        Which part of India are you from? I am Indian practicing RIE. So glad to see other Indians on this platform

  2. Carla Prosch says:

    Janet, I love your blog posts so much! I feel so thankful to have found this site a few months back when I did an engine search for RIE. When I read your posts, they are so sensible, practical, and truly resonate with me. They help me so much in my daily work with infants.

    I can just picture the scene when I read, “The next week Tom’s mother told me privately that she’d heard him quietly practicing saying “No, I’m using this” several times.” Beautiful!

    Yay for Sabrina, yay for Tom, and yay for everyone in the room who gets to see the whole process unfold.

    Thanks for sharing your gift of writing. I am so thankful for your words of encouragement and inspiration.


    1. Carla, thank you…a wonderful gift to wake up to your kind words today!

      Yes, the dynamic in that class really interesting. Several weeks after the incident with the red car, I was stunned to see Tom smack dab in the middle of a conflict with 3 other children over plastic pails and keys. (The toddlers in that group began a game of using the plastic keys to “unlock” the gate at the entrance of the playroom, and played that almost every week). Tom had a surprised and worried expression on his face but, amazingly, he hung in there for several seconds before running over to his mother, a little upset.

      1. Rachael Jones says:

        Hi Janet,

        My 2 Yr old attends nursery twice a week and recently he has started initiating role play at home where he takes toys from me and says ‘Mummy crying’, then he gives me the toy back and pretends to cry himself. I assume this is a new experience with his nursery friends and he wants to explore the emotions that have come up, with me at home.

        He often reenacts moments to help him process, for example if he falls over. But, I’m not sure if I should play along to support him to try out those social interactions (especially as he has no siblings) or if I’m being inauthentic to pretend I’m upset when I’m not, plus I don’t want to make it into a game.

        Any advice?!

    2. Dear Janet,
      I have a 2 year old boy and I have been nannying another 2 year old girl since they were both 3 months old. My son seems to only steal toys from her but it happens frequently. He seems to do it to either initiate play or get a reaction. He always gets a REALLY strong reaction. The poor dear cries hystericaly. I always intervene. It almost seems wrong not because she is so very upset. Intervening is not working. Should I let them work it out themselves?
      Sincerely, confused nanny and mom

      1. Would you use a similar approach in a toddler/infant sibling scenario? My 2 year old is constantly taking toys from his 6 month old sister. Often he will take every single item near her so she has nothing. She doesn’t seem to mind, as she’s happy just watching her big brother. I’m sure this is an attention issue. He’s trying to get our attention off her and onto him. I’d like him to do this in a more positive way, though. We do try to give him plenty of individual time, and I know it’s hard being a big brother. But he always goes back to this one behavior.

  3. Thanks, Janet, for your wonderful advice. I always enjoy reading your posts. I’m curious if you have advice about what to do when a child is constantly pushing or hitting other children. My almost three year old daughter is in a Spanish immersion co-op preschool class where the parents participate with their children. The class ranges from one year olds to three year olds. One of the three year old boys, the oldest child in the class, often pushes the younger children during free play time. The teacher recommends we try to stop him before he pushes and we teach our children to say, “No” to him. Unfortunately, he’s quick and it’s often difficult to prevent him from pushing. Now another one of the boys has also started pushing the other children. I’m curious if you have any advice. My hunch is that part of the problem is language – most of the children aren’t speaking that much Spanish yet.

    My daughter is similar to the boy Tom that you describe in your post. After she was pushed several times and I realized I couldn’t easily prevent it, we practiced saying, “No.” In class she just avoids him so it hasn’t happened to her recently. I think we’d all like to help the little boy learn more appropriate behaviors so the children want to be around him.

    1. Caitlin, thanks for reading and for your kindness! If that were my class, I would make sure someone (the parent or someone else) with a very relaxed and matter-of-fact, but firm, non-judgmental attitude was shadowing the older boy and any other child who has a pattern of pushing or hitting. Since there is a two year discrepancy in age between the 1 and 3 year olds, I don’t believe it’s fair to expect the younger ones to fend for themselves, or be in the position of having to say “no” (although that is a good word to encourage when we’re there).

      I agree that language may be a factor, but the priority in the moment is to deal with the behavior. I would help the older boy by first placing my hand in between any aggression and then saying casually, “I won’t let you push. Are you trying to get Jennifer’s attention? Find another way.” or “You are pushing again. Do you need to take a break from playing? Here…we can walk together” (and then take him aside and sit with him) Or “Your having a hard time not pushing today. It’s time to sit on the bench with me.”

      None of this should be punitive, or said or done out of anger. Think of it as taking care of him, because he’s struggling. It’s so hard for parents to refrain from judging or labelling, but the truth is, he’s just a little guy having a tough time. If whoever is shadowing him keeps an even tone and is consistent about intervening, it should ease this behavior. But he still may have tougher days. I would also encourage the mother to figure out what is motivating the behavior and if it is worse when he’s hungry, tired, etc.

      1. Thanks, Janet. I really appreciate that you take the time to give such helpful advice.

  4. Janet, thank you for another wonderful post. My son could be Sabrina, and your gentle reminders on how I can help him work through social interactions have helped both of us navigate playdates with much more ease.

    I’ve also noticed a big difference in the way my sons interact with each other, and it’s been wonderful.

    1. Suchada, this is really good news. The non-judgmental attitude (that I know you have), ease and confidence are what make all the difference. The details just take some experimentation to figure out.

  5. Hi Janet. I have just discovered your blog and this is the first article I have read. I loved it. I am an 0-2’s educator in a long day care centre in Australia. I have read a little about Emmi Pikler and the Pikler Institute, and also Magda Gerber. What I have read I wholeheartedly embrace in my own practice with very young children. Funnily enough, I often refer to myself as the narrator as I talk through the “story” of what is happening as these children engage with and discover each other. I know that they often look to me when there is a conflict to gauge how they should react. When I stay calm and show that I have faith in them and their abilities, they often resolve things with very little help from me. I’m really glad I found your site and I look forward to reading the rest of your articles. Thanks.

    1. Hi Nicole! Thank you for your kind words! You sound like a natural, a wonderfully gifted educator…love ‘the narrator’.:-) I hope you find lots of support here for your great instincts and the important job you do.

  6. I have just recently found your site and am really enjoying reading through the different topics.

    I have 12 month old twin girls and watching them play and start to interact with each other is just so great! Although I have one that is more dominant and she will often taken items from her sisters hands. I generally let them work it out, but it breaks my heart to see her give things up so easily all the time. Even to the point where if i intervene and give the item back to her, she will crawl over and give it to her sister anyway. I guess once she is bit older and starts to speak, i will be able to teach her the same strategies as Tom has learnt.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Erin. Parents in the RIE classes often feel as you do when their child habitually gives things up to a more dominant one. But when we observe carefully we see that “heartbreak” is not what the more passive child is experiencing. I think it’s great, especially with siblings, that you are letting them work it out — it’s so positive for them to form their relationship without external judgment. And yes, you can help her understand her “options” when she is a bit older, but generally, the less involvement with a sibling relationship the better (according to Siblings Without Rivalry , a fantastic book on the subject!).

  7. I just discovered your blog this morning and have spent the last half hour or so looking at various posts. I hadn’t intended to comment on anything, but had to comment on this post.

    I had never heard of this child raising philosophy before today, and while there are things that I lean more towards AP with, there are a lot of things I have read today that I totally agree with.

    Anyway, our oldest son (now almost four) was very much like the boy, Tom, in your story. He would play very happily by himself, and if a child at playgroup took a toy from him, he would just go to another toy. I would only intervene if it seemed to bother him. One day he decided that he was going to keep the toy, and he did. He was also surprised, but very pleased with himself too.

    1. Holly, thanks for reading! It’s amazing what can happen if we stay out of our child’s way socially and just give him a little bit of time to figure things out. I appreciate your story.

  8. What do I do with a child in play therapy who wants to take toys from the play therapy room to her home? She refuses to leave it there and keeps it hidden underneath her shirt?

    1. Sarah, this sometimes happens in the RIE classes and I do a lot of acknowledging…all very non-judgmentally “You want to keep using this. I know it’s hard to give it back to me when you want to keep it.” Then I would say something like, “This toy is going to stay here. I’m going to keep this toy here for next time you come. It will be here for you. Can you give it to me yourself?” If not, I would gently open the child’s hand and take the toy. Often the child doesn’t even object when I do that, maybe because I’ve talked to her respectfully about what I am doing. If she does, I would acknowledge again, “I know you wanted to hold that (take that with you) and you didn’t like me taking it away.”

  9. Laurel smith says:

    This is something I’m currently going through with my 14 month old daughter. She attends a baby gym class and will snatch other toddlers toys. She will screech so loud when I tell her that it’s not hers to take, that I’m unsure if I am handling this situation correcty? I wish there was a class in the UK for this it sounds amazing.

    1. Hi Laurel! It’s not a matter of ‘correctness’ so much as providing the kind of minimal interventions that encourage authentic play to continue. I recently had a mini-debate on Facebook about cooperative play with a parenting coach. It was in response to my post and video about cooperative play (a really amazing video that you might want to watch: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/09/baby-teamwork-sharing-because-they-want-to/). The coach complimented the video, but said that authentic “sharing” like this was possible only when “ownership” had previously been protected. She believes that a baby must experience ownership of an object before he or she would be willing to share. If a baby was using a toy, this coach believes that another child should not be allowed to take the toy away. I disagreed…in fact, I believe that the exact opposite is true. If we intervene to establish “ownership” at this young age, when children not only don’t understand the concept, they don’t really care that much if someone takes something away, we give children messages that discourage sharing…discourage any interaction, actually. This amazing video from my class would never have happened if these children were accustomed to adults intervening to “protect” their stuff. The funny thing about play is that you have to accept the “bad” or you never see the “good”. Mostly, you have to see through the very different eyes of a baby, who just wants to interact and learn from it…and hardly ever wants the “stuff.”

      So, what can you do when your 14 month old snatches? If you are in an understanding group, just acknowledge what is occuring. “This little girl was holding the bear and now you have it.” Observe. Usually the child who has been taken from will make another choice, or try to get the toy back, or just stare. They are just tiny people learning…and, truly, this is how they play together!

  10. Thank you, Janet. I have been saying, “I won’t let you…” a lot in my classroom since hearing you use this phrase in a video and it is very effective. I love that it feels authentic to say it and it gets the message across. I try to let them work out conflicts themselves as much as possible and it’s always lovely to read your encouraging words.

  11. Thank you for posting this. My son is one of the children who tends to watch other children take his toys away. He is 27 months old now, and is starting to get really upset when they do so. I will talk to him about the fact that he can tell them it’s his toy. But, what do I do when he wants the toy, but they just take it away and leave him very upset? Just as more background, my son has always liked to watch. He goes to a great Waldorf-based preschool, and I understand that sometimes he does take toys away from other kids. When we are with large groups of people, he tends to want to stay away and be with us, and just watch. So, we gravitate towards quiet events less overwhelming activities.

    1. Nancy, I have known many toddlers that like to watch like your son and they are just as actively engaged in play and learning as the children running around together. Perhaps he has a more introspective personality, or it may just be a passing phase. Don’t let that worry you.

      At 27 months, I would intervene more when a child takes from another, especially if the child is really engaged with the toy. I would stop the “taker” by gently placing my hand in the way and saying, “Are you asking Joe to use this toy? Joe, what do you think?” And if Joe holds on tighter, I would say, “Joe seems to be saying no, so maybe when he’s done.” If the child persists in trying to take the toy, I would probably keep my hand in the way and say, “I won’t let you take this. When Joe is done, you may use it.”

      I’m unclear as to where this is happening. If these are your son’s personal toys, I would let him know beforehand that he should bring toys to the park that he doesn’t mind other children using. Or, if it’s at home, he can choose to put away toys that he doesn’t want to share before the play date.

      1. What a wonderful way to respond! Thank you, this has been a challenging issue for me with children who aren’t my own. I tend to be a people pleaser, and am have to really work and plan ahead on how I will respond to other children, especially when the parents are around.

        The specific times that I noticed this were at preschool events or parties. Our son was playing by himself with a toy in each case, and another child came and snatched the toy away. One was old enough to know better, and the other was about 2, and as I understand it, is a habitual toy taker. The other caretakers were not watching and did not see what happened. As it was not our home, and other people were “in charge” of the other children, I directed my son to another toy rather than requesting the toy back. But, I felt uncomfortable with my response. I don’t want my son to feel that we support the other children in taking away his toys. When we have play dates (which has been seldom lately due to busy work schedules and a new baby), the moms tend to be rather interventionist, so it’s less of an issue.
        I talked with my son today about toy-taking. He is working on his words, but isn’t really verbal about this type of issue. When things slow down for us, I feel that I should make more of an effort to see other kids at the park or on playdates, so that I can be more involved/aware with his interaction with other children. But, to be honest, my first choice for free time in the summer with him is long meandering walks along a creek or playing in the backyard. I guess we are a family of introverts, including our son! The good news is that at preschool, they say that while quiet and watchful, he loves to play with the older children, and tends to start creative play that the other children join in on.

  12. hi, janet- this article sounds suspiciously like our Madeline!!! if it is, I love it. and i’m happy to report that madeline is one of the most generous and inclusive kids in her class. no more grabbing, just lots of sharing. and i owe it all to RIE. hope all is well with you- meredith

    1. I love hearing this, Meredith, and it doesn’t surprise me at all! All my best to you and Madeline!

  13. I have a girl in my 2-year-old class who is this kind of toy taker — or at least was at the beginning of the year. Now as she’s approaching 3, I’m seeing her figuring out other ways to attempt to make friends, ways that are a step ahead of most of her classmates. I’m so happy for this insight, Janet. Thank you.

  14. Thanks so much for all you do, Janet. Everything you’ve written here makes sense to me, but I have one follow-up question.

    I have a 12-month-old daughter, and we watch one of her friends (13 months old) three days a week. In general, I’m happy to let them “work it out” on their own when it comes to toys. But one of the children has started to show a consistent pattern of snatching, and I’m not always able to step in before it happens (if I’m fixing snack, etc).

    What if one of the children is consistently getting her toys snatched, and she expresses unhappiness about it? I do the sportscasting, but what comes after that? I’ve been finding myself gently removing the toy from the “snatcher” and giving it back to the other child, because it seems that allowing him to keep it reinforces the notion that snatching is an acceptable way to get the toy that he wants. How would you recommend proceeding in this situation?

    1. You’re so welcome, Sundari. Thanks for your supportive words.

      Children this young do not understand possession. Taking toys IS the way they engage and play together…just about the only way they can connect.

      Also, toys come alive when they are in the other child’s hands. It is very hard to resist the attraction! I would not intervene with toy struggles at this age (except to sportscast very non-judgmentally) and prevent hitting or pushing, etc. The more you intervene, the more investment in “who has it” there will be…and the less confident the children will feel about interacting. We often unwittingly create the “unhappiness” by making much more of these situations than the children do. We also create a pattern in which children come running to us every time this happens to get “help”.

      So, I would just keep reflecting the situation when you are there. Go close to keep the children safe during struggles. When you are not there and you hear a reaction, wait a second or two. If it continues, go to see if the children need your support. As always, remain calm. “What happened? Oh, Julie, you seem upset. Were you holding that toy…and now Sam has it? Hmmmm…”

      Have multiples of toys if possible. Then you can try offering the child who was taken from an identical toy. “I see another spotted ball over there, Julie.” Usually the child isn’t interested! This will prove to you that the struggles are more about learning to play together than they are about any particular object.

  15. Thank you, Janet! I definitely do not want to contribute to “unhappiness” by making the situations a bigger deal than they need to be, and I also don’t want to reinforce the idea that the kids need to run to me for help whenever there’s a toy dispute.

    At what age would you suggest moving from the approach you detailed above to the one you described in the original article? (i.e. “I won’t let you take the bus…”) I just want to be sure I’m modifying my approach appropriately as the children develop.

    1. Hmmm… I would say to keep your eyes open to patterns developing by around 20 to 24 months. And then, again, I would only intervene if the child seemed stuck and “one note” in the way she was engaging. It is better for both children to feel empowered to handle the situation as autonomously as possible.

      These children are lucky to have such a thoughtful caregiver!

      1. Thank you! My mom friends and I love following your website. Your articles give us lots to discuss as we each navigate our parenting journey. 🙂

  16. Hi, I really appreciate this article. My daughter is 16 months and we often go to toddler play. She’s usually the taker, even with some older kids. I’m usually shadowing her in play groups where lots of toys are shared.

    She’ll sometimes take toys and then pass them back and I usually don’t interfere when this happens. Other times she attempts to take or push and the other kid gives no cues. Then I’ll ask her to wait or play with other toys until the toy she wants is available and this works.

    Sometimes we’ll practice this in a way that gives her space to respond instead of leaping in immediately and correcting her behavior. I’ve experienced at times the other parent quickly jump in to reprimand or correct my daughter after me saying wait or asking if we can find another toy. A couple times I explained to the other parent what im doing, often getting a cold response. Any thoughts about how to enable holding some space with other adults that are quick to interfere?

    As we explore playgroups, we’re finding some that philosophically align to sidestep these conflicts.

    Any thoughts?

  17. Hi Liz – the challenge is to find enlightened, relaxed playgroups. At 16 months your daughter’s overtures are purely experimental and an innocent attempt to engage. I would only “sportscast” at this stage and prevent hitting, pushing, etc., but unfortunately you have to do what makes others comfortable…I guess. Sorry I don’t have a great answer for you except to find a like-minded friend or two in your area. You might check my community forum where parents have been meeting up from all over the world: https://janetlansbury.com/community

  18. Hi Janet, I really need help at this moment. My daughter just turned 2 years old has a 16month old boy friend. H is a toy taker mostly from everyone. My daughter gave toys away at the beginning about 4days out of 6 days. At beginning I asked her to give toys to him as he is younger. She did and showed some good gestures to hug him and to hold his hands stuff like that. But she always told me she was scared of him. And he never gave her toy back. He always approached her and tried ti take things away from her. It doesn’t matter if he has same toys there.. Recent 2 days of play with him my daughter scratched him when he came to her. Now she even goes to him and tries to scratch him. She doesn’t want to share anything with him and says he is coming to me and tris to hide behind me… She told me he is not good. Mentioned his name once she sleeping. Last 2 days she could not sleep straight. She woke up once and cried for mommy. I feel terrible to see my daughter watching him anxiously when they are together and over protective and offensive….one of her younger time friends did same like him to her. But they didn’t play often. Many time they were ok outside of house. My daughter was not offensive like this.. I am kind of mom to intervene things promptly or try to save my daughter or others from my daughter. I am sure i showed her r unhappiness or concern that other kids take toys away from her. At this thing going on my daughter showed the strange behavior to her best friend friend who is sweet to her. She tried to scratch her when they were in gymboree with her mom and me together. I thought she was upset because i didnt play with her much at the time because of my body pain. Or she was jealous of her as she likes her friend mom. I am quite confused what these came from… I am afraid she will be like this if she encounters another friend like him. I hope u can answer to my problem. Thanks

  19. So glad i stumbled across your blog. Enlightening, indeed. I use my children’s nap time to obsessively ‘learn’ how to be a better parent. It seems I’m always doing something wrong. I know how silly i sound (particularly re: my word choice here) but thats the reality of it, haha, i might be a tad bit obsessed with not ruining my beautiful children!

    I love this post, but like Richa, wherever I go, parents seem to jump up at the slightest confrontation between their/our children. I must admit, I sit back and observe unless there is hitting/pushing etc, but other mothers (fathers less, in my experience. Why?!) always jump up and yell at their own, and sometimes even mine, for the most petty reasons.

    It’s hard being a mum in such a world. I’m trying to be selective about where I go with them, but in the real world, this isn’t always an option – and probably not a healthy lesson to teach my babies. *sigh*

    Either way, I’m impressed with so much of what you’ve written.

  20. Janet,

    Thank you for this post! I have also very much enjoyed reading your blog.

    My 14 month old son is not always a toy taker, but very energetic and social and can definitely takes toys. But he also hands toys to others and is fine to have other children take his toys. I intervene as little as possible. However, recently, on occasion, he will get very upset when a toy is taken from him or another child gets in his space and he waves his arms very angrily and will hit the other child or throw the toy at the child. It has happened in a play setting with many children as well as on a play date with one other child. Each time I say some version of, ” I see he took the ball you were playing with, but it’s not ok to hit. Here is another balll to play with.” Or “it’s not ok to hit, I’m going to bring you to sit with me for a little bit.” Whenever I say something he gets even more upset and his behavior then continues worse for the rest of the time. I know he fully understands that it is inappropriate behavior. I’m wondering if I should give him one warning after it happens once and tell him if it happens again that we are going to leave?? I hate to have to leave play dates early, but I also don’t want this behavior to continue and I hate having to follow him around to make sure he is not hurting other children. I have also ruled out hunger and tiredness as culprits. I’m stumped where it comes from because most of the time he is so sweet and social and happy to play with others. Any insight would be very appreciated!!


  21. Hi Janet! Thank you for sharing this on facebook yesterday. I have a question about my 11 month old grabbing pacifiers from other babies. She didn’t use one herself and is very fascinated by them. Typically if it is a baby of similar age/mobility I play sportscaster and they sort it out. If it is a smaller baby, I always intervene. Distraction works to help her to move on but I know it’s not helping her to learn from the situation. Any advice?

  22. Mary Jane says:

    I so want to practice this! What about when you are in a playgroup and the other parents are always swooping in to fix? I find myself looking like I’m passive because I’m not micromanaging the conflict like the other parents. I really need and want to practice the sportscasting thing, but I feel like with the other grown ups, the conflict is resolved by the grown up before the children have a chance to work it out on their own. And I feel disappointed that we missed an opportunity to learn and practice. What do you suggest?

    1. Your best hope would be to garner interest from the other parents in “trying” an approach that will allow the children to learn social skills (or social intelligence, which always sounds more impressive!). Here are some guidelines you might share with them: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/06/the-baby-social-scene-5-hints-for-creating-safe-and-joyful-playgroups/ Hopefully, you’ll see some interesting results right away, so that the parents are encouraged to continue!

  23. Tom’s experience brought a joyful tear to my eye! thanks for sharing x

  24. Hi Janet, I love this article and read it to try to gain insight to a recent play group outing with my 24 month old. I was wondering if you could provide any further insight or point me in the direction of other articles that would help as I am searching and not finding quite what I want. We attend a toddler open gym once a week where parents are expected to stay and supervise their children to the degree they need based on age. Many parents stand at a distance to let their children interact on their own. Last week there was a little boy who was maybe 2.5 years old, and was becoming quite aggressive with the other children. He hit two children in the face with a hard plastic toy, making one bleed, and his mother chose not to intervene, or talk to the child at all. Then he came over to where my son was playing and tried to take the toy he had, they struggled over it nonviolently, pulling back and forth both getting frustrated while I sportscaster. The child’s mother came over at this point and tried to remove her son telling him, lets let him have a turn with the toy. At this point the child became frustrated and hit his mother and pulled a large handful of my son’s hair as well, taking quite a bit with him. My son was upset by this situation, and I had no idea how to handle it with him! He usually handles things with other children well but I felt this was so far out of my control I didn’t know what to do with him. How do you react when situations involve parents who you do not know, and how do you explain these situations to a toddler or help them to deal with altercations that turn physical? I know this is really specific but I guess I’m trying to use this to respond more effectively should something like this happen in the future.
    In this particular situation another mother went and talked to the mom and I picked up my son and told him I knew that hurt and I was sorry it happened but I feel like thats not the best reaction

  25. Tabitha Adams says:

    In the course of three days my son who is two progressingly took toys away from his cousin who is a year younger. Most of the time this did not seem to bother her, and the times it did I would intervene. My brother and other family members were getting upset by this behavior and even asked my why I wasnt stopping this behavior. Not being very good at explaining myself I simply said that it didn’t seem to be bothering her and I wanted them to work it out. My brother was seeing this as negative behavior, and I just don’t know whether I should have intervened more, or find a way to justify my lack of doing anything. Any keen advice? I know that this will not be the last time I have to defend my parenting choices.

  26. Hi Janet – I was wondering what your approach would be to an energetic 2.5 year old who rather than seeking to snatch the toy away simply tries to hit the child currently using the toy. I find myself constantly shadowing him so that I can intervene by telling him I will not allow him to hit and at time taking him away and sitting and explaining that I understand he wanted the toy / food etc. but I will not allow him to hit. This behaviour has been getting worse and it seems to me that his instinct now when he wants something is to hit or kick. I don’t really want to have to intervene but am at a loss as to how to prevent the physical aspect to the behaviour more effectively.

  27. My 4 year old son is very timid, and as such has always been the frequent target of toy snatchers. The problen is, my son, from just over a year old, will burst into sobbing tears when a toy is snatched, especially if is a favorite type of toy (a car, for example). How can I made my timid boy stand up for himself more, as he gets ready to go out into the big world of kindergarten.?

  28. I have twin boys, almost 3.5 yrs old, and we have been stuck in a pattern of one snatching toys from the other, and the other screaming, for nearly 2 years. I have always asked the ‘snatcher’ to give the toy back, or taken it from him if he won’t. I am sure that often he is doing it because he wants to play with his brother and I encourage him to ask to play. I also encourage the other one to say ‘no’ rather than scream!
    So, how do I approach this now. I can see that using the method you suggest for older children would be the one to go for. However, I cannot always be on high alert for it happening, and when it does the ‘victim’ is in high stress and needs attention, and the ‘snatcher’ has a massive meltdown too. This drama happens around 5 times an hour and I am exhausted by it. I would really appreciate your advice here!

  29. Hi Janet

    I love this post, as with so many I have learned from over the past 5 years. Thank you for making it easier for us to find a parenting way that speaks to the heart and helps so many of us move away from our own traditional upbringing.
    I understand and agree with the approach to toy taking when it involves “neutral” toys, as in, toys that belong to a class or a group, or toys shared by siblings. It feels more complicated and more tricky to negotiate when it involves the toys of one particular child in their or your own home and therefore becomes an issue of ownership(and is expressed as such by the taker), especially after 2 years of age? In this instance, if the toys that are habitually taken belong to the taker, how does one negotiate that? Similarly, if it happens in your own home and your child is the one taking toys, how do you acknowledge both sides and guide them to resolution if they become stuck in a pattern? In 5 years of parenting this has come up time and again and still proves tricky. Parents are also often divided on this subject and I personally feel uncomfortable when a parent forces (in any instance, but especially in this one) a child to share their personal toy with my child. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you:)

  30. Hi Janet,

    I really enjoy your writing. I’ve been having some good success with your approach with my now 21 month old daughter (she now volunteers to have her nose wiped!)

    however the toy stealing is a bit of a problem. we have close friends who have a son a year younger than my daughter. he is a very happy little guy who loves everything our daughter does! she is mostly very happy to play near him but has a tendancy to take whatever toy he has, simply becuase he has it. she becomes very agitated and tries to snatch his toys from him even if she has been playing happily with something else.

    how do you think i appraoch this situation. would slightly ore intervention work- as you suggest with the SAbrina example?

    many thanks.


  31. Anca Maria says:

    I’m so glad I found this article! Actually, all I read from you is very insightful!
    I’m the mother of a 23mth old boy who is very gentle and peaceful. We are a trilingual family, so he doesn’t quite speak yet.
    Toys have been taken from him since forever, but of course at one point he started getting frustrated over it. We once spent 3 days with the daughter of a friend who is 10mth older than him and she literally snatched all he could put his hands on! Of course I started interferring and by the end of those days he developed a new way of protecting what he holds by immediatly giving it to me when he feels threatened!
    I spend all the time with him – it’s just me and his dad carring 100% for him atm. So I’m probably less objective. I will follow the advice you have here and see how things go. I want to empower him to stand up for himself.
    Another point is that actually, whenever we meet with other childern, it’s either our toys or their toys = that would actually make me unconfortable not to give back immediatly the toys, if they belong to the other child! But my child never snatches them, they are just available.

    Thank you for all the work and sharing you do!

  32. Hi, Janet,
    thank you so much! Like Elljay, I raise twins, only boy and girl, one year old. Boy is constantly taking everything from his sister. She cries. He takes and drops, he doesnt need that thing. But he wants it so much when she has it. Im confused, how should I react, taking into account their age?

  33. Hi, we have the EXACT same situation with my boy almost two bing Sabina, and the other boy is doing exactly what Tom does, to the word.. Us two mothers are very different, I like Janet approach and let the kids solve their problems, my friend thinks it’s that’s my child has (bad upbringing) while her child has ‘learned to share’ from early years.. We had to give the boys some ‘time apart’ as the other child started having ‘fear fobia’ from my child..to mention: my boy never hits, pushes or cries, he takes all his toys from the other boy.now I find my self having to keep telling my boy: we don’t take toys from other people’s hand.. All
    The time… To a point where, when I asked him what would he write to Santa, he said: Max does not take toys from children! I don’t know if I am doing the right thing or not….but it saddens me when he is misunderstood as he is super social, helps kids get up if they fall, share his food, etc (we r 1year-11month)

  34. Hi Janet!!!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful article! I noticed my son who is 20 months old soon wines when a toy or something he likes gets taken away from him ex another kid. I would like to teach him that it’s ok you don’t have to give it to them or you can take it from them.

    Pls help me on this one!!!

  35. My daughter is a toy/food taker. She sees something different that’s not hers and she goes up to the kids or parent or item and take it when it’s not hers. This often happens when it’s people we don’t know. Sometimes parents say it’s okay and others don’t want their kids toy being shared. It’s confusing for me and my daughter. I feel like I constantly have to tell her “wow you think that doll would be fun to play with, but it’s not yours” or “she doesn’t want you to take it” “we have our own food…” do you have suggestions if what I can say or do? Sometimes I let it play out which often works great until the other kid wants their special toy back or a mom comes over and hovers. Thank you.

    1. Thank you again for all
      Your articles and insights. I’ve found them super helpful and it works! I want to add to mine that she’s almost 2 and is so curious so if it’s a park she’ll walk up and take, but if it’s with her friends and they have a toy she wants, she screams so loud and looks to me for help and I sportscast. Sometimes I need to intervene bc if pushing, br I’m always worried what other parents think and I know I shouldn’t!

    2. I am not an expert like janet but i feel, we must consistently avoid snatching because they will be confused when we say no occasionally. “Yday mom was ok when I snatched a cookie from my friend, now why is she saying no, when I do the same with this girl in a park.” Afterall they are innocent kids, know nothing of the world n materialistic things.
      I don’t allow my son to take food from my plate as it may get habitual to grab food from others plates. While my hubby is always ok with it.

  36. Dada Felix says:

    Hi Janet, I enjoyed reading your informative article. Thanks.

    May you kindly suggest what to do if a toddler boy twin keeps grabbing the exact same toy from his twin sister?

    Most of their toys come in two sets: identical stackers, shape sorters, even the duplo bricks are in duplicate. Yet he keeps grabbing his sister’s toys. I ignore this grabbing as long as the other twin does not complain, but once there is conflict, I step in. It always ends in tears, no matter how hard I explain. Help!

    1. Thanks for reading! The best way is to allow and even encourage the conflict while blocking any hitting or pushing, etc. Instead of explaining, just acknowledge what you see in as neutral a manner as you can. “Ah, you really want that!” “And you want that, too!” “You are both holding onto the toy now. Ah, it’s hard when you both want the same one.” I have a podcast where I demonstrate:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2014/06/toddler-toy-battles-interventions-that-work-podcast/

      I hope that helps!

  37. Hi Janet,

    Thank you for this! What if Tom in this story was a small, younger girl and Sabrina was a larger, older boy so that when the child with the toy tried to stand their ground and hold on, it gets ripped from their hands anyway?

    I’ve told my daughter to say it’s not free when we’re with her friend who I’m regularly takes what she has and she clings on for dear life but if he rips it from her hands, do you still just sportscast? It feels very odd to watch it happen to her when she’s holding for dear life but doesn’t have a hope of winning! Thank you

  38. Hi Janet,

    Thanks so much for this information. I have a similar situation in that my 23 month old has started hitting to gain attention. We have an older dog who doesn’t really want to play with him, but our son will go up to him, try to engage him in play, then hit when the dog doesn’t respond. (The dog is a saint). We just noticed this is happening with his friends too. If one of his friends is playing with a toy on her own and our son wants her to engage with him, he’ll hit her to get her attention.

    Currently, we are stepping in to prevent the hitting and explaining that we can’t demand others’ attention, but how can we have him engage more appropriately? I saw imitating as an option – how does that work? And with the dog, who does not (and will not) want to engage, how do we teach him to move on?


  39. I have a daughter who is 16 months and a five year old son. He has become a habitual toy taker, soap taker, piece of random lint on the floor taker literally anything she has he wants and thinks is the best thing in the world. I’ve tried sports casting, separating, explaining, talking with my son, etc. nothing seems to be working. One or both of them is in tears ALL day. I’m from a family of four, so I don’t expect them to get along all the time, or even most of the time, but this just seems excessive. I can deal with tears and upset, but he gets aggressive as well, so I do often have to step in to protect my daughter. Any help is appreciated.

  40. We live next door to our cousins. They have 5 year old kid n mine is 3.5. Each time When he visit us for play dates, he takes away a toy, or two. And my kid cries for it, his parents say, we’ll give it soon, however forgets them. They end up resting under the couch or in a tub. So, we can’t find them when we go there for play dates. My boy play with his 2nd cousins toys and return them while coming home. He badly wish to keep it for himself, but he gets easily distracted and leaves them there.
    At one instance I bought 2 sets of toys n both end up with that kid. Hes got a huge collection of toys as gifts from his uncles n aunts. On the other side, I have to buy toys from the money I save in a month. My boy is left with 2 toys which hes bored to play with as i stopped buying.
    I can’t ask his parents directly as they support us in our tough times. I feel it may hurt n enstrang our relationships. I can’t keep this happening as I can’t afford to buy more toys and due to logistics n import issues, many toys aren’t easily available now.
    Can you help me in this case.

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