Playing is an important part of life for young children and should be part of every day, as they learn important lessons through play. If you’ve got more than one child, then they could benefit from playing together. Here are some practical tips and ideas for encouraging siblings to play together.
Many only children long to have an older or younger brother or sister to play with at home, but ironically when there are siblings, playing together doesn’t always go so smoothly. If there’s a large gap between the ages of your children, one or more of them are experiencing sibling rivalry, or they don’t want to play the same games, encouraging siblings to play together can be tricky.
Admittedly, siblings won’t want to play with each other all the time and there’s no point in pushing this. Statistics suggest that siblings get into arguments with each other on average 3.5 times an hour, or approximately 10 minutes per hour (although it may feel like a lot longer to parents!).
Experts in sibling behaviour say that it’s inevitable that siblings will fall out and quarrel with each other, but that this is just part of having brothers or sisters. As long as this is balanced with some amicable play and doesn’t simply consist of fighting all the time, they should grow up well and retain happy memories of the good times. In fact, studies have found that siblings who don’t fight and don’t play together grow up to have far fewer warm and positive relationships than those children who fall out some of the time and have times when they play together.
How to Encourage Siblings to Play Together
Individual play and play with friends is important and siblings should have plenty of time to play on their own and with friends, away from their brothers or sisters. However, making time to play together is beneficial and, to help portray the fact that it’s sibling playtime, you could set aside a time every day, or every couple of days depending on their ages, to encourage play together.
You may need to help initiate the play, or suggest ways in which a game, toys or role play could incorporate roles for an older or younger sibling. Ideas that you provide could help trigger further ideas and inspiration from them and lead to them initiating play on their own on another occasion.
Older children can get frustrated when younger siblings don’t get the rules of board games or other play activities, but role playing games can help get over some of these issues. Evergreen classics, such as playing house, playing doctors or nurses or schools allow each child to play a part at their own level, and with their own role and understanding, and can help bring siblings together in a way that works for everyone.
When your children are playing together well, reinforcing the idea that it’s a good thing can help encourage similar behaviour in the future. If you notice your children playing happily together of their own accord, then make sure that you compliment them on their game and let them know how good it is that they’re playing well together.
You could ask to join in too and, if you’ve got a camera handy, take a photo of them playing. The photo could then be put in a frame where they can see it, as a permanent reminder of what a fun time they had playing together.
Although may seem like hard work to get siblings to play together initially, it’s well worth persevering with. As well as helping pass time, they’ll learn from each other and gain valuable interpersonal and social skills. Finally, if the behaviour experts are right, playing together as a young child can help build their future relationships, which is surely a positive thing.