This month the bloggers of All Things Kids are bringing you a series on Sibling Play. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series, listed at the bottom of this post!
When I think of my childhood, I most often think about my brothers and sister. They were my playmates and heroes (and sometimes my tormentors!) throughout my formation years, and we are all still very close today.
One of my dearest wishes for my boys is that will have a similarly close relationship with each other. And while they do often tangle over toys, here are a few tips I have learned along the way to keep things (relatively) peaceful:
7 Tips for (Mostly) Peaceful Sibling Play
1. Teach to take turns
Whenever my boys fight over a toy, the rule is that they each get to play with it, but taking turns. Whoever had it first gets the first turn, but then the brother gets a turn, etc. Usually after that they have both moved on to something else, but at least they are learning the principle of sharing.
2. Offer a different toy
Of course, Baby still doesn’t quite understand the idea of “taking turns” yet. Frequently it will happen that he is playing with something that Monkey wants, and Monkey is impatient for a turn. In that case, he has the option of finding another toy to exchange with Baby. Of course, Baby has the right to refuse, but usually he is so happy that his older brother is handing something over to him, that he is willing to trade.
3. Have multiple “favorite” toys – within reason
If there is only one car or train, inevitably kids will fight over it. Within reason, we try to have multiple cars or trucks and so on, so that they each have one to play with. At the same time, I personally don’t like to always give them identical toys. I don’t think it eliminates fights, and I also think it’s good for them to have opportunities to learn to share and be patient. Still, within reason, if the toys are relatively inexpensive, there is no reason to set yourself up for arguments! Having several cars or stuffed animals eases some of the tension. You can also choose activities like play dough or a dance party that are easy to do together. We had fun with this indoor “leaf” pile!
4. Create a low stress environment (from Jaime of Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tail)
Having a calm space to play sets the tone for their interactions. Jaime (mother of three active boys) tries to only have out what they can play with together at one time. She has found that an open space without a lot of clutter or extra toys goes a long way towards peaceful play.
5. Give them a chance to work it out
When I put myself in the middle of things as a referee, there are more arguments, not less. When I give them space to work things out, rather than jumping right in, often they are able to come to an agreement. Now, of course, at this age I do have to watch out for the safety of my little one (and the lego creations of my older one), so I don’t ignore disagreements. Rather, I try to wait to step in until I see there is really something that needs mediation. In the future I won’t always be present on the playground or in the classroom as they begin to navigate social relations on their own, so it’s good to give them some practice in a safe environment.
6. Try a change of scenery
When my boys are having trouble playing together well, moving to a different space – especially outdoors – always helps. It removes the immediate toys that were causing the problem and distracts them from their disagreement. Going outside especially tends to put everyone (including Mama!) in a better mood.
7. Provide opportunities to play separately
Finally, it is important to recognize that not all play time has to be together. As a youngest child, I can testify to the importance of giving children space to develop their own interests. For my boys, Monkey enjoys having time to play with his “big kid” toys without a toddler grabbing or breaking them. Little brother’s nap time gives us time to do activities like science experiments that I normally can’t do if I’m watching the Baby. For Baby, it is also important to have time to explore toys at his own pace, without an overly enthusiastic older brother jumping in.
What are your tips for peaceful sibling play?
Be sure to check out my Sibling Love Pinterest Board!
Other posts in the Sibling Play series from All Things Kids: