My 15 month old son has Let's Rock Elmo, which includes drums, microphone, and tambourine for Elmo to play.

However, my son has several times decided that he wanted the instrument Elmo was "using" at that moment, and walked over and took them from Elmo (in a couple of instances this involved putting his hand on Elmo's forehead and pushing him over to get at the drums).

While my son seems to understand that Elmo is a toy, and not a small, red, furry person (despite being almost frighteningly articulated), I have to wonder if there would be any benefit in teaching my son to "play nice" and "share" with Elmo.

When he tries to play with toys that other toddlers or infants are playing with at daycare, we gently tell him "no, such-and-such is playing with that right now. Let's find you a different toy." Should we be doing something similar with Elmo?

My tendency is to say "no, it's just a toy", but none of the toys I had when I was a kid were anywhere near as lifelike or interactive, and I don't want to set precedent for my son thinking it is okay to just take things others are currently using.

  • 2
    No, it's just a toy. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 19:22

4 Answers 4


I think it's a valid concern, but not very serious at this stage. One thing it's difficult to tell from the question is if your son's focused on Elmo when he's moving him out the way, or if he's focused on the instrument.

If the latter, then over-excited grabbing at things is pretty normal and harmless for what is basically a bundle of instincts wrapped in a cute shell, but if the former, I'd be more concerned about the fact that he's treating Elmo as a person, but then behaving to him in a way that's wrong to treat people.

One thing I'd recommend is just saying something like "Oh, Poor Elmo, I hope you wouldn't do that to someone at nursery!" when he pushes him or takes something off him, which lets him know that the behaviour is inappropriate, even if the target in this case is a toy. Also, when he pushes Elmo over, reach down and put Elmo back in a sitting up position. That way he may start mimicking you (or trying to stop you interfering...) and move Elmo more carefully.


He can't share nicely with Elmo as Elmo won't take turns or offer an instrument when he is done with it. Instead, explain to your son every time he does it that Elmo is a toy and might break if you treat him this way. It is not about teaching sharing it is about teaching him to take care of his toys.

  • 3
    I don't understand why someone downvoted this answer.
    – deworde
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 9:31
  • 1
    Isn't 15 months a bit early to expect other kids to take turns or offer toys when finished? While we certainly praise this behavior when it occurs, at this age we're more focused on "we don't take toys other people are using". I don't think there is any issue of not taking care of his toys. He's not behaving violently, just, well, treating it like a toy instead of a person.
    – user420
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 12:57
  • 3
    15 months is to young to expect it but not to young to teach it. My 18month old already understands your turn, my turn and giving up a toy to another child after he/she asks and a self designated (with our help) time has passed. If he is grabbing, as far as I'm concerned that is violent, maybe he won't actually break the toy, but it is not appropriate behavior, as you pointed out. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 13:46
  • We have taught our kids about sharing and giving up toys at a very early age (even before 15mo. we start) We say on their behalf, when their sibling asks for a toy, I will give it to you in 2 minutes. We then set a timer and when it goes off we help the child give it to his/her sibling. They learn this much more quickly then you think, and well before they have words. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 13:48
  • @morahhochman FYI: If you start your comment with "@username" the person you are responding to will get a notification of your comment. As I said, we are starting to teach him about sharing (thus the original question). However, your answer stated that he can't learn with Elmo because Elmo does not model reciprocal behavior. Expecting reciprocal sharing behavior as a condition of learning implies that the learning comes from seeing the behavior in other children, and not from parents saying it on their behalf.
    – user420
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 14:16

Why should he have to share with Elmo anyway? In his little play world, your son is president, king and dictator for life. Bossing his toys about provides a useful outlet.

--- EDIT ---

In response to this comment and downvote:

I don't think this is a constructive answer. Can you expand further to explain why you think this is a useful learning premise? An outlet for what?

  1. I don't think this is a useful learning premise. This isn't about childhood learning. This is about a child being allowed to play with a TOY. Not everything has to have useful learning as an aim. Kids should be allowed to have fun, and a kid playing on their own, with their own toys should be allowed to boss them about a bit, if the kid wants to. Now oviously, if they start pulling limbs off or disfiguring them then that should be stopped, but let a child have some fun with their toy without instantly judging them, for Heaven's sake!

  2. As to an outlet, an outlet from having to do what you are told all the time, and from constantly being told what to do. Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't tell our kids what to do, far from it. I am saying that they should also be provided with a means where they can play at being in charge too. In the child's play world with Elmo, he is the boss.

  • 1
    I don't think this is a constructive answer. Can you expand further to explain why you think this is a useful learning premise? An outlet for what?
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 10:10
  • 3
    I have enhanced my response. Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 10:58

Yes, it's just a toy, however I also think the way the play with toys can sometimes be an indicator of how they'll play with other children or animals. We ask our children to play carefully and respectfully with their toys. With their stuffed animals, we ask them to treat them gently, as if they were real animals. I don't think there is anything wrong with doing this.

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