How you can encourage siblings to play together
Trying to entertain small children is no mean feat, so, when you find an activity that meets the needs of older and younger children you are onto a winner! Although siblings may be close in age, the gap in their developmental age can be vast, which is why this can sometimes feel so tricky. Therefore, when trying to engage older and younger children in the same activity, the best option is to use resources that are open-ended, so that children are not expected to achieve the same result, which is what often leads to frustrations! Instead by using free play, children get to explore at their own pace. Here are four open-ended activities that can be enjoyed by younger and older children alike!
Puppet play is perfect for younger and older children. Older children can choose and use different puppets to retell a familiar story, or even come up with their own story, this is great to improve their recall and literacy skills. You can help children create a little puppet theatre behind sofa cushions or blanket over a table. The good news is, you don’t necessarily need to have puppets to create a show, using people or animals that you already have around the home will reduce the number of toys you need to store plus, it encourages children to use their imagination. Our Nesting Babies are the perfect example of people or animals that can be used in different kinds of play, you can head to our website to learn more about them here. Younger children will love exploring the different characters, and studying their features. They will also learn that stories have a beginning, middle and end far easier than simply using a book because the props used will help them connect more to the story, improving both older and younger children’s development- that’s a win-win in my book!
Playdough can provide hours of entertainment for young and old! Younger children will get so much from the sensory aspect of play dough exploring different colours and textures is brilliant for improving children’s senses. Playdough is also great for helping both younger and older children develop the important muscles in their hands and fingers develop strength for using tools such as pens, pencils and scissors. Older children can use their imagination to create whatever they wish, and use play dough tools to develop their fine motor skills and refine their creations. Extend this even further with some new ideas to extend your children’s development through playing with playdough:
- Put play dough in the fridge or microwave for opposite temperatures
- Add scent by adding food flavouring to your play dough
- Edible glitter is a fun way to add some sparkle to your playdough
- Theme the playdough with something your child is particularly interested in right now (for my child this is Fire Station play, so red and yellow playdough with straws for hoses and taking resources such as trees, people and cats from her toy collection is a big hit!)
Magnets are a brilliant resource for children of all ages to play and explore with! Older children can learn about the scientific elements of magnets or if you use letters and numbers you can help them extend their literacy and numeracy skills too. Children of all ages love to problem solve! Exploring taking magnets on and off surfaces around your home, and problem-solving which is or isn’t a magnetic surface is a lovely activity siblings can enjoy together. You don’t need to buy specific resources or a whiteboard for children to explore magnets, using cooking equipment you already have means you can separate these between different childre. Some of my favourite resources to use to explore magnets around the home are:
- Cake or muffin tins
- Silicone and metal cooking utensils (great for problem-solving!)
- Large baking trays
Of course, magnets are a resource that can be small and easily swallowed, so we’d recommend ensuring this activity is supervised.
Not the woolly kind… Colourful chiffon scarves and an empty tissue box are some of the best resources that I have seen for younger and older children to enjoy together! Younger children will love having them tied together and pulling out the multi-coloured scarves, playing peekabo and exploring looking through the different coloured chiffons. All these games are perfect for getting older children involved, and allowing them to lead some of these games may sustain their attention too! Something for both children… throwing them up in the air and allowing them to fall over children is so much fun!
The great thing about all these resources is they are so versatile, you probably won’t need to suggest how to play with many of them. If you can sit back, allow children to explore and come up with their own ideas, that’s when really deep level learning takes place. Plus… when siblings are free playing together, there is also the most incredible bonding that happens, this is so special for parents to see! We’d love to hear if you have been inspired to give any of these activities a go, send us your pictures to @rosaandbo and we’ll share them on our grid or stories.
This blog has been written by our Resident Play Expert here at Rosa & Bo, Sarah Doman. Sarah is a Hypnobirth and Early Years Expert. She helps families from pregnancy to children of school age to give birth and parent with confidence. You can find her on social media @sarahldoman .