This blog post is provided by special Guest Blogger Julie Kieras from A Year with Mom & Dad.
So my children DIDN’T end up magically loving to share their toys and spend every second together. Hmm… so strange! I thought I could escape the sibling rivalry phase!
But no, like most baby/preschool sibling sets, once the baby became mobile, squabbles over toys began. My kids have their share of not-so-friendly tug of war with toys, screeching when something isn’t to their liking, or trying to banish each other from their play area.
I had to restore peace and harmony! So I analyzed successful playtimes to see what was working and what wasn’t. Here are our favorite creative and cooperative play activities.
Side-by-Side Play. Our fifteen-month-old is at the “parallel play” developmental stage, which means he doesn’t necessarily understand or crave the interactive play of older toddlers and preschoolers. He likes to play near his brother, but not always with him. The boys enjoy playing side-by-side with their classic bead maze. It has enough twists and turns to give each child their “space” of play, while still feeling like they are playing together.
Cooperative play. Toys like unit building blocks allow the boys to choose to play together or on their own. Sometimes they create their own buildings and towers side by side. Other times, because my nearly four-year-old craves interaction, they work together to create towers the baby can knock down. I love watching them laugh together as they play!
Taking Turns. Helping the boys learn to take turns is another successful play activity. Both ages can benefit from learning to share a toy back and forth. It could be as simple as rolling a ball to each other, or more interactive like taking turns with a magnetic puzzle toy. Shape puzzles are great for a wide range of ages, and learning to pass the magnetic wand back and forth gives each child something to do without having to wait too long between turns.
Community Toys. Do you know the best – the very best – strategy I’ve learned for helping my children play well together? Having toys that don’t “belong” to either of them! Toys like our play tunnel keep the boys active on rainy days, engaged for lengths of time, and nobody can say “That’s MY tunnel!” I’m not saying ALL the toys from here on out will be community toys, but I’m moving more towards that direction.
After studying the boys’ play over a few weeks, I realized: the best toys and activities that keep them happy together are ones that fit a wide age range (about 18 months up to 4-5 years) and develop a sense of community.
A play environment full of shared spaces and objects encourages children to play together instead of developing territories and possessiveness. Our home is the first community my children will experience. Helping them play harmoniously at home teaches them to navigate larger play groups and learning communities in the future!
What cooperative play toys and activities have been most successful for your children?