In today’s post we will be looking at some ways that we as parents can give siblings opportunities to strengthen their relationship through cooperative play; we will also talk a little about the challenges and benefits of the age gap between children, and share with you a couple of activities that can be good fun.

Playing is a child’s fundamental way to develop mentally, emotionally and physically during the early years of life. Generally, they enjoy playing with other children, that’s why it’s a great way to bond.

As children grow, they’ll go through different sorts of developmental stages, so siblings that are a couple of years apart sometimes will feel close and on the “same channel” so to speak, while other times the difference in interests, focus, or skills will make it more difficult for them to enjoy playing together for long. Still, cooperative play is possible in all of these stages.

These two little ones seem to get along just fine while climbing their foldable climbing triangle. Playing together is at this stage, their main form of bonding with each other.
This lovely photo is by @
lichen.and.moss

When you have more than one child there is a change in family’s child care dynamic, an extra factor has been added that can make your daily situation so joyful and loving. But it can also bring some fights and tears; I am of course talking about how your children get along. Sibling relationships are deep, evolve, and can be quite complex, your kids share with each other so much more than they do with anybody else in the planet.

Sibling rivalry, cooperation and cooperative play.

It’s so beautiful when they play and discover things together, and even learn from each other through cooperative play!

As parents, many times we envision our kids getting along all the time and being loving and supportive to each other, so it can be a bit nerve-wracking for mom and dad when some days they just can’t seem to keep the peace and any little thing can spark-up a conflict. However, we must understand that sibling rivalry is natural, it’s part of human development as a social being, and that rivalry doesn’t have to always bring about conflict.

Cooperative play in the XXL rocker
An idyllic scene like the one in this beautiful photo is what parents often wish their children would experience while playing together. Moments like this are so precious!
This photo is courtesy of @corihenderson
It’s important to foster in the family the idea that siblings are also great friends by promoting cooperative games for your kids to enjoy.

Many games that children will play are competitive and that’s fine, but in order to balance the field and avoid making rivalry central in their relationship, playing games that work in so far as the kids cooperate with each other is a great way for your children to get along from the start. We will share some examples of cooperative games further down.

Cooperation is just as important as competition and it’s easy for parents to consciously promote it even in the smallest of chores.

For example, something my mother did to very effectively promote cooperation in my family was a game that also got us to help with cleaning up the dishes after dinner. While she washed the dishes, my brother and I would have to dry them and put them in their place. She framed it as a game where we would compete against her as a team: our goal was to work quick enough such that no plates or glasses would rest on the rack for more than a few seconds.

My mom washes the dishes quickly!

So we had to give each other a hand in our tasks and avoid being in each other’s way. My mom is a smart woman, she got us to enjoy cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and to look forward to doing it right because if we won, our prize was to choose what we would eat the next day. As we were so happy when we won, we wouldn’t even fight when we would decide the menu for the next day!

She shifted natural competitive rivalry towards sibling cooperation and house cleaning.
Kids using the Foldable triangle while engaging in cooperative play
Taking turns and playing with a narrative can be a great way for several children to play with the same toy. This lovely photo is by @senaenelson

Another relevant aspect is to understand that as the kids grow, they will reach different development stages, and at times, the oldest sibling will find the youngest one’s games and stories too childish and simple. She or he might even tease the little one out of frustration or boredom. It’s normal and a good sign, it means that your eldest is ready for more complex games and narratives. When this happens, it’s important to give your eldest child some space and ways to develop her or his newly found interests. Remind your eldest about when he or she was her sibling’s age and loved playing those “childish” things too. It’s important to keep empathy strong in the eldest child when she or he reaches that “I’m all grown up now” stage.

If you are our of ideas, check out how you can use your Wiwiurka sets and arrange them for extra fun!

Foldable triangle Wiwiurka in the background
Playing together or on their own, siblings will grow up with play as their common language and joy. This lovely photo is by @susiesnaps_

No matter what age your kids are nor what their age-gap is, cooperative play is fundamental for their relationship.

Having group toys at home for them to play with and learn to share and to take turns on is very effective. Playing gives so much joy to children and sharing joyful experiences on a regular basis is a big part of sibling loving relationships. Of course, each child should have their personal comfort toys and interests, but if they also have something to share while having fun, it goes a long way.

These three siblings are having a blast on their XXL rocker!
Rocking together is a cooperative form of sensory play as they all have to rock together to have fun. This fabulous photo is by @the_jorgensens
The age gap.

Siblings play an important and reciprocal role in each other’s development. The family dynamic also takes shape to a considerable degree depending on the number of children and the way they develop their relationship during the different stages of childhood. And the age-gap plays an important role here.

Pedagogy professionals speak about this relationship with regards to siblings’ learning experiences as a “synergy” where each child can be helpful and reaffirming in each other’s learning.
The younger sibling’s exposure to the older sibling’s learning activities opens the door for many shared learning experiences. What about the older children?

By “teaching” their younger siblings, they practice and reaffirm their own learning and come to understand what a learning process looks like.

Also, once the siblings are in elementary school and are able to read, they can explore their personal interests (for example, the younger one is into dinosaurs while the older one is interested in insects) and share points of view (you’ll get some interesting play-narratives about dinosaurs and insects taking over the world).

This little boy has triplets as younger siblings, but the four of them play joyfully together with toys they can share and promote everybody’s imaginative play.
This playful photo is by @our.wild.rumpus
Fun cooperative and imaginative activities for siblings.

Imaginative play is a natural bonding activity for kids, they are all developing their stories and want to play them out. It’s easy to have kids cooperate when they are being creative, so let the kids work out how the majestic princess of unicorns and narwhals will find the missing magic doggy with the help of super dinosaur boy.

Playing shop, house, or doctor are also great. These games have roles children are familiar with: a buyer and a seller, a doctor and a patient. With a few props children can have fun together enhancing their imagination and their relationship. And for younger children, sensory play is a great bonding experience too!

My kids love their magnetic tiles, building patterns in all their beautiful colors and shapes is something they all enjoy.

When they realized that they could build huge patterns together using every single tile in the house, they had so much fun cooperating and complimenting their final group effort.

family in cooperative play
This is such a fantastic room! So many open-ended toys for the kids to play together or separately. This fabulous photo is by @theworkspaceforchildren.

As a final note, I’d like to share with you two cooperative games that you can teach your kids and then watch them enjoy beautiful moments together.

Rolling Ball.

Tell your children to each hold a side of long piece of cardboard (it can be any discarded box that you just cut and unfold to turn it into a long piece of cardboard by also cutting the flaps) with their hands, place a small bouncy or tennis ball in the middle and tell them that the point is to not let the ball fall while rolling it from one side to the other. With this game each one has the same task and they must cooperate, but they will also start moving the ball in whimsical ways to make it more challenging.

Ball walk.

Stand your kids next to each other side by side. Stick a ball or balloon between their hips. Tell them to walk across the room without dropping the ball. They can’t use their hands to keep the ball in place. If they drop it, they need to start again.

cooperative play with siblings
Allow your kids to be together, but also play on their own at times. Each one has their own interests and their own development pace. Sometimes each one is focused in their own thing and that’s fine. This homey and harmonious image is by @its.rachelanne

We hope you’ve found the suggestions and games we talked about here interesting. See you next week!

Author

Mirza Sánchez

Mirza Sánchez

A passionate writer with a knack for everything global.

Leave a Reply