I used to argue with my younger brother all the time when I was growing up. We had similar interests and only had an 18 month age difference between us, but every time we played together, it would start off ok, and then end in an argument. I’ve always wondered why this happens with siblings. Some get on really well and rarely argue, where as for others it always ends in tears!
In this article, let’s look at how you can encourage your children to play together, and if it’s difficult, whether you should force the issue.
Why should siblings play together?
Here are some reasons why siblings should play together:
- They learn about competition, so they can better understand about winning and losing.
- They can learn from each other, by noticing each other’s behaviour.
- Motivation. A child will often try harder in an activity if their brother or sister is present.
How do you encourage siblings to play together?
Above all, it’s important to remember that it take time for children to learn how to play together. Think of it as a skill which they need to master and that they’ll gradually get better at it. Here are a few strategies which will set them on the right path:
- The best way is just to leave them to it with some unstructured playtime. Ensure they are in a safe environment and make a note which activities result in a more productive play session. The outdoors is a great place for them to come up with their own game so try going to a park, the garden or some nearby woods. Allow them to harness their creativity!
- You can also show your child how you play with the other sibling. Try playing a game with just one of your children and let the other one see you do it. They can see how you play fair, while respecting their sibling and have fun at the same time.
- You can also try some team games. If you have 2 children, you could play a board game with parents’ vs children, or one parent and child vs the others. If you’re outside, you could try some team sports like tennis, football or some other activities.
- Give the older child some responsibility and explain to them your expectations when they’re playing with their brother or sister. You can assert that they are a role model to their younger sibling, who looks up to them and learns from them.
- Compliment them both if they play well together until the end of the activity. Kids love to be praised!
- Don’t interrupt them. If they are playing nicely, it’s best you leave them to it.
Should you force them playing together?
No, you shouldn’t force siblings to play together. Cooperative play takes time to learn and children aren’t born with this ability. Be patient and give it time. If you try and force things too quickly, it can cause arguments and more confrontational behaviour, which they won’t forget. All it will do is make them more reluctant to play with each other next time.
What age do siblings start playing together?
It depends on the relationship between the siblings, but cooperative play normally starts from aged 4+. Toddlers younger than this may well play in the same environment as other children and interact a little, but there isn’t really any sense of cooperation and working together. Therefore, you may have to wait until your youngest is around 4 years old before they can really start playing with their older sister or brother.
What activities can siblings play together?
Here are 5 simple activities you can try if you have some younger siblings. These ideas and more are courtesy of Playtivities.
- T-Shirt walk
Get an old large T-Shirt and put both children in it! Let them walk around the garden on the grass. If you have to do it inside, choose a room without any sharp edges on pieces of furniture.
- Apple roll
Ask them to roll an apple between their bodies without it dropping to the floor.
This game is fun for parents too so you can do it as a family. However, let both siblings play it together as an activity.
- Build a tower together
They can do this with Lego pieces, or from other objects found around the house (providing it’s safe). It’s a great lesson on teamwork.
- Blind treasure hunt
One of the children places items around the house (or garden). They have to guide their blindfolded sibling to find each item.
How do you teach siblings to be kind each other?
Siblings will argue from time to time. It’s inevitable. As a parent, encourage good behaviour when they’re playing nicely and make sure you listen to their individual needs and frustrations when they’ve had an argument. Furthermore, try not to get involved if they’ve had a disagreement unless you have to. Over time, the children will learn that it’s beneficial for them to be kind to each other rather than bicker and argue.