5 Simple Sibling Play Ideas
At 18 months and 3 years, my boys love to do the same activities. As my youngest has gotten older, his interest in the toys and activities that his brother is playing with has continued to grow. I love these interactions for many reasons- it’s fun to see them bonding as siblings, observing my oldest playing is a great learning model for my youngest, and it provides both of them with situations to practice social skills. So, since my youngest was around 8 months old, I’ve been thinking about ways to encourage sibling play and set up activities that are developmentally appropriate for both of them. Usually that involves modifying or differentiating an activity a bit so that it can be safe for my youngest or more challenging and engaging for my oldest. Here are some ideas for sibling play that my boys have loved the most (and that are easy to set-up!):
Sensory bins are one of my sibling play go-to’s because they are easy to set-up, beneficial for skill building, and usually pretty engaging! Ages for these can depend on each child’s development, interests, and the type of sensory material you use, but my boys started playing with these together when my youngest was about 10 months. Many things can work for a bin- a plastic under bed storage bin, a wooden tray, or a plastic basin from the dollar store. A sensory table would be another great option for this kind of sibling play!
For sensory materials at younger ages we’ve used sand, snow, and clear or dyed water. Now that my youngest is no longer mouthing objects we’ve used dry beans, plain and dyed rice, dry peas, kinetic sand, and play foam. I always include a few spoons, cups, or even pots and pans in the tray and they love pouring, scooping, and transferring together. For older toddlers and preschoolers, an extra element can be added by hiding objects inside the bin for them to find and match! I’ve hidden small foam shapes, letters written on a paper towel roll that I cut up into rings, different colored objects to find and sort into colors, and more. There are so many possibilities! Sensory bins are definitely a sibling play favorite at our house.
Small World Play
Small worlds are similar to sensory bins and are another great option for sibling play. There are so many amazing and creative ideas out there for small world setups on Pinterest. I like to keep these pretty simple when my boys are playing together. These are some ideas that we’ve used- kinetic sand with some small trucks, animal figures with fake dirt or bowls of water, small cars with roads and little blocks or empty boxes for buildings. There are definitely tons of options and I love that this kind of play encourages imagination and usually cooperative play.
Modifications for Babies
When my youngest was between 6 to 10 months he was not quite ready to handle different objects his brother was playing with and exploring but he still wanted to be included. At this age I would modify by placing smaller toys, nature items, and sensory materials in Ziploc bags and taping them closed or in clear jars and gluing the lids shut if needed. Even though he was a baby, this made it possible for him to be able to explore and enjoy the same things my oldest was playing with.
Sibling play ideas that involve movement are perfect for rainy days! For indoor gross motor activities for siblings, ribbon pulls and indoor scavenger hunts have been a favorite at our house. For my oldest, I taped ribbons higher up on the wall so that he could jump or climb on a step stool to reach and pull them off. This can be modified for babies by taping ribbons lower on the wall to encourage reaching, crawling, and/or walking. For indoor scavenger hunts, objects like animal figures, puzzle pieces, or flashcards can be hidden around the house for older siblings to find. For babies, the same cards or objects can be taped to the front edge of the couch or a low table. This kind of play also can encourage crawling, pulling up, cruising and walking.
Play dough is a classic and simple option for siblings to play together that can be changed up for different ages in a few ways. This DIY recipe has been my favorite for play dough, especially when my youngest was still putting objects in his mouth. Older toddlers and preschoolers might enjoy some wooden play dough tools, cookie cutters, and other small objects added like pipe cleaners and pom-poms to create with. For older babies and younger toddlers it can be difficult to handle the tools and cookie cutters if their fine motor skills aren’t ready for that yet. To avoid making this into a frustrating activity, I’ve given my youngest rubber stamps to use with play dough. They are usually easier to grasp and he loves to see the picture or pattern they make when he pulls them up.
These are just some of the ways my boys have been enjoying sibling play in the past year. I love that play time together gives them a chance to learn how to work together and practice skills like sharing. I also love that it just gives them a chance to spend time together as siblings! It can be tricky to come up with play ideas for different ages, but having materials that are easy to set up definitely helps! What are some of your kids’ favorite activities for sibling play?
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