Monday, August 27, 2018

8 Tips for Encouraging Sibling Play

This post is sponsored by Mattel, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.

One of the (many) things that thrilled me when I found out I was pregnant with Emmett was knowing that Essley (who had just turned 2 when he was born) would be able to grow up playing with a sibling. Now, I know plenty of parents who only have one child (and plenty of people who grew up as only children), and there are pros and cons either way, and the kids turn out just fine regardless of family size. But having grown up with a sister, there was always a hope inside me for Essley to eventually have a sibling. When Emmett was born and Essley held him for the first time, I instantly envisioned blissful moments of the two of them playing together, happily and in perfect harmony.

It took a couple of years, of course, before Emmett was old enough for Essley and him to interact when it came to play. And I'll just come right out and say that when they did actually starting playing together, my idealistic daydream was shattered pretty quickly. I'm not sure why I ever imagined their playtime together as something effortless and peaceful, because it wasn't way with my sister and me. It's also no secret that most siblings (even those that are the same gender and same age) fight and have different interests. But I knew that them playing together was important, and thankfully, over time, I have learned ways to gently encourage play between them - despite the fact that they are different genders and ages (at ages 2.5 and 4.5, 2 years is a big difference). Today I thought I'd share some of the things that have worked for us, with really wonderful results.

1. Pull out the art supplies. Essley is older and prefers markers and paint. Emmett is younger and prefers crayons. They both like play dough. So I pull out all of it at the same time. Any kind of creative activity is a good thing in my book, and by allowing them to create with the materials they each prefer but in the same place at the same time, they're engaging in something they both enjoy, together.

2. Turn on music. Kids love dancing, and I have yet to meet a little one who doesn't start moving when music is turned on. No matter what my kids are doing, if I put on music, they form a spontaneous dance party (which usually turns into some sort of performance for us).

3. Feed happy play. I don't mean literal food (although snacks never hurt); I mean encouragement of happy, positive play when it's happening. If my kids are playing well together, I avoid interrupting them, and make sure to tell them when they'd done playing how wonderful it was to see them playing together. It seems to motivate them to want to do it more often!

4. Find toys they can both enjoy. This is a big one! It can be difficult to encourage play time between a 4.5 old girl who gravitates toward stereotypical glittery, pink, princess themed toys and a 2.5 year old boy who's toys of choice include rocks and dirts (usually thrown at or smeared on something), but it is totally possible. For my kids, their common ground comes in the form of Disney-Pixar Cars toys. They both absolutely loved the Cars movies, especially the most recent, Cars 3. (And I loved it too, especially how it promotes fulfilling your dreams regardless of gender, age, or appearance. Yes please!) Walmart offers so many different Cars 3 playsets and vehicles, so we've been able to put together a whole collection that keeps them engaged for hours. The toys challenge them, are great for their fine motor skills, and encourage them to use their imaginations. The kids each have a unique way of playing with the toys - Essley loves to make up stories with the toys and act out scenes from Cars 3, and Emmett loves to make the cars physically move, drive, and jump. But they also actively participate together with these toys despite their "differences" - which is honestly pretty magical to watch, and the ultimate goal.

5. Bring out the costumes. Most kids I know (even the older ones!) love dressing up. And I've noticed that if I bring a box of costumes into a room, both Essley and Emmett come running. (My favorite was a couple of weeks ago when I walked in and Emmett was wearing Essley's sparkling mermaid costume from last Halloween and Essley was dressed up a king - the best!) Not only do they adore the act of dressing up, but once they're in costume they instantly want to act out pretend scenes together. Then it's on to the next costume change. Thankfully they usually go for different costumers, but if they do argue over one they both want to wear, we try to use it as an opportunity to teach them about the importance of taking turns.

6. Head outside. This is the first summer we've had a backyard of our own, and I've found that having the kids go outside together is a great way to get them to actively play together as well. We have a water table and blow up pool, lots of balls, and sidewalk chalk all waiting for them outside, and they often bring their Cars 3 toys outside to play with on the patio as well. There's something about getting out into the fresh air and sunshine that motivates them to want to interact while they're playing.

7. Grab some books. I am telling you guys, my kids can be in the middle of a full on fight and see me sit down with a book and instantly world peace is attained. They love when we read to them, but they also love play the centers around books with just the two of them. They pretend to read to each other, they play book store, and they act out scenes from their very stories.

8. Reward positive play. This is related to #3 above, but more concrete. We have a responsibility chart with stars on our fridge that we use for chores and daily activities like brushing teeth, but we also use it to reward the kids for positive behavior. If they have a day full of kind, thoughtful play together where they've been sharing and getting along, they each get a star. It works!

And if you're looking for specific toys that your kids will love regardless of gender or age, head over to toys/collectibles aisle at Walmart and pick up some Cars 3 toys. Now is the perfect time too, as Cars Day/Lightning McQueen Day is next week (9/5)!

How do you encourage your kids to play together? Do you have any tips I might have missed?



  1. I love the idea of giving them toys they’ll both love and snap rewarding positive play. These are things we do too!!

  2. These all great tips. Cute toys too! My nephew loves the Cars movies!

  3. Very cute little ones.


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