March 15, 2021

Ask Margaret - How Do I Get My Kids to Play Together?

Ashley asked: How do you encourage older siblings to play with younger ones? With COVID this has been challenging at times - we're all around each other alot. Mine are four years apart - boy age 9, girl age 5.

When we have multiple kids we dream of them romping together all day in the yard as joyful playmates! The reality is often...a little more complicated.

We need to manage our expectations that siblings will be best friends. Especially during the pandemic it is understandable that our kids are tired of each other's company.

Still - there are ways that we can encourage our kids to play together. The best way is to model play for them. When we get in there and play with our kids we set up an expectation that play is part of what we do together as a family. Whether it is simple card games that both older and younger siblings can play together or showing them how to play H-O-R-S-E at the basketball hoop, we can help our kids improve their ability to play.

Once you've introduced play to your kids you need to create expectations around play - set aside times of day as "playtime" during which kids are expected to play together. Keep these expectations really consistent to overcome the reaction of 'I'm bored! I don't know what to do!" If it's really not working spend the first 20 minutes playing with them and then step out of the play with the expectation that they will continue for a set amount of time.

We think of "play" as something that kids do naturally but, in fact, play is something that needs to be modeled and encouraged in order to happen - so don't be afraid to have firm expectations around play and spend some time modeling play for your kids so that they come to value play as an important part of their day.

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