Photo credit: Melanie Elise
Having a sibling is like having a built in play buddy! This can lead to lots of fun, but also brings challenges as children learn how to communicate with their siblings. My girls are four years apart and they often have a blast together, but often get frustrated when they have trouble communicating with each other. As their mom, there is nothing I love more than seeing them play together and get along! I often step back and let them problem solve on their own, but there are times that I take the opportunity to support them as they they learn to navigate communicating with each other.
Here are some quick tips for encouraging sibling communication:
- Find (or create) favorite activities that siblings have in common.
- Do your kids love the outdoors, arts and crafts, trains, or pretend play? Finding a common link between your kids’ interests is a great way to get them communicating with each other. Help them start an interaction with an activity that brings together their interests. You might set up a play scenario with things they both like or observe the times they have the most fun together and encourage those activities.
- If one of your kids loves trains and the other loves animals, mesh their interest together in an arts and crafts project like a collage or painting, where they can make their favorite thing and then show each other what they made.
- If one of your kids loves dolls and the other loves play food, set up a grocery store for the dolls to shop at.
- Give kids problem solving strategies ahead of time:
- Observe the communication impasses that happen the most between your kids and talk to them about other ways to communicate more effectively with each other. This may be trickier with little ones, who don’t have the ability to use these types of strategies yet, but it never hurts to start teaching them early.
- Does one of your kids have trouble sharing?
- Set them up for success by deliberately asking them to give a less preferred toy to their sibling and positively reinforce them by showing them how happy their sibling is when they share.
- Does one of your kids get their feelings hurt easily?
- Talk to the other children about ways that we can talk to the sensitive child that get the message across without hurting their feelings.
- Encourage kids to use kind words with one another.
- When you hear your kids using kind words throughout the day, let them know how happy you are when they speak kindly to others and model using kind words when you speak to others as often as you can (of course we all have moments where we are human and this doesn’t happen, it’s all good, just try your best). This will encourage them to do it more often.
- Let them play together and use their problem solving skills when they have communication impasses. If they are little (or even sometimes with older children) they might need your support in communicating effectively with each other. Keep in mind interactions vary greatly based on the ages of the children and every child’s unique personality.
- Example: Kids are building with blocks:
- You might encourage coopertaive play with a phrase like one of these:
- “Can you help your sister build that tower? Then you can both knock it down!”
- “I wonder how high you guys could make that tower if you did it together?”
- “Let’s take turns building the tower and then knocking it down!”
- Let each child pick a way to help around the house and tell them how awesome it is to work as a team to keep the household running.
- Maybe one of your kids likes to feed the dog and the other likes to throw clothes in the washer.
- Maybe you are cooking together and one child stirs while the other gathers ingredients.
- For those kiddos who are just not into chores, get creative. Make cleaning up the room a game by seeing who can pick up the most toys. Let them try to make baskets by throwing toys into the toy bins.
- Check out our post on making cleaning up fun for more ideas!
- Play school and let everyone have a turn being the teacher.
- Family play time:
- Set up a weekly time where the whole family plays together.
- Maybe Sunday game night or Saturday morning park time. This is not only a fun way to encourage siblings to play together, it also encourages adults to get in on the play action.
- Have a dance party where each family member gets to pick a song to dance to. As parents, sometimes we forget how excited our children get when we engage in meaningful play activities with them. Family fun for everyone!
- Go on a special family outing.
What are some ways you encourage your kiddos to play and communicate with each other? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!