13 - 15 Months

What to do when your 1-year-old takes another child’s toy

It’s hard to know what to do when your young toddler takes a toy out of another child’s hands. Are they being aggressive? Should you intervene?  

Grabbing toys is common and developmentally appropriate in 1-year-olds. Your toddler could be curious about the plaything or interested in playing with the other child but not sure how to connect. They may also take a toy because they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated.

Whatever the cause, grabbing at this age isn’t malicious and doesn’t need a consequence or any form of discipline. Usually, they see something interesting and can’t control their impulses, so they reach out and take it 🙃

Here’s how our child development experts recommend you handle these inevitable moments.

Understand it doesn’t mean your child is ‘bad.’

Remember that your toddler is years away from being able to share or even reliably take turns. For now, their interactions with peers will involve a lot of experimentation—your toddler only recently began to realize that a playmate is another person rather than an object to explore.

Know when to ignore it.

If your 1-year-old grabs an object and the other child doesn’t seem to mind, it’s best to do nothing. The concept of possession doesn’t come into play until closer to 18 months, so both toddlers may just move on. If the other child does get upset or your child looks at you after grabbing the toy, you may want to step in and sportscast their experience. 

Describe their experience aloud.

Child development experts often recommend “sportscasting” with toddlers, or involves words to their actions and feelings. If your child grabs something and their friend is upset, you can say: “Maria, you really wanted that bunny. Olivia, you didn’t like when Maria grabbed your bunny from you. Now you’re watching Olivia use it, and I can see you want it back.”

When returning a grabbed item, don’t wait for your child’s buy-in or offer a lengthy explanation. Tell everyone what’s happening, then redirect your toddler to another toy or activity: “I’m going to help you give the bunny back.” Take it from your child, hand the item back to their friend, and say, “You really wanted that bunny! When Olivia is done, you can have a turn with the bunny. Let’s read a book.”

Watch with your toddler as another child plays.

Often, toddlers grab a toy because it captures their attention: they may be interested in the way a friend is playing with it. You can try saying, “Look how Olivia is playing with that bunny! That’s so fun. Let’s watch what she’s doing.” Return the toy, then sit with your toddler and watch the friend play. You can keep sportcasting as you observe together; this will often satisfy your toddler’s urge to grab the object.

Offer a substitute.

If you have a duplicate object or something similar to the grabbed item, you can step in and offer it. This gives your toddler the opportunity to play with a common plaything alongside a friend.

Frame it as a learning experience.

It’s okay for your toddler to feel upset and disappointed. In fact, those feelings are an important part of their social-emotional development. As a caring adult, your primary job is to help them through these moments with calm, assertive language and actions. This helps validate your child’s feelings, gives them words they’ll eventually learn to use on their own, and builds their tolerance for frustration—all important aspects of self-regulation.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, 19 - 21 Months, Social Emotional, Parent Life, Behavior, Lovevery App, Child Development

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