Coping with Sibling Rivalry
Half term is behind us, but we are hurtling towards Easter at a rate of knots.
I’m always a little sad to hear people say they dread finding ways to entertain their children during the holidays. There’s always humour on the internet about mums despairing of sibling squabbles and desperate for a return to school.
I confess I’ve had those moments too, where I want to throw in the towel and stop playing referee.
There’s lots of advice out there on how to cope with sibling rivalry, from helping each child to feel treasured to bringing more laughter into family life. Experts tell us that team work and shared moments are important, as is 1-1 time for each child. But I confess that with multiple little people, finding 1-1 moments that the other children respect is very hard, so for me it’s largely a question of finding activities that we can all enjoy together.
Why does Sibling Rivalry Matter?
Well, apart from feeling happy and in control of life, “experience and research has shown that without parental guidance, siblings with bad relationships are likely to grow into adults with bad relationships.” (askdrsears.com)
Fostering good relationships between our children is something that we need to invest time and energy in. We can’t just assume that they will natuarlly all find a way to adjust to each other’s differences. But teaching children compromise, team work, empathy, and untimately love for each other is a sound investment. We never had much when I was growing up, but we had each other, and I can honestly now count my siblings amongst my best friends.
Games which Encourage Sibling Interraction
There are relatively few games that I’ve come across that are adaptable to allow children of different ages to enjoy them together, but here are some of those I’ve found (you’ll note a theme….most are classics!)
1) Guess Who
This is a game that can easily entertain three children at once, without conflict! Two will form a team and work together, while I join up with a younger child to support them. It’s a really fun activity that can span ages 3-10 …but be warned, toddlers just love messing things up by knocking down all the flaps!
This is another classic, although it is now available in a more updated form with electronic card shufflers to add an extra dimension. But what surprised me with this was how quickly my four year old grasped the concept and the purpose of each different card, and was able to play independently. Hours of fun….and toddlers can enjoy throwing the spare cards around the room!
A strange name, but a descriptive one! Each player wears a headband and into this band another player inserts a card, with a picture of an animal, household item, clothing or similar. A central board depicts all the possible items, colour-coded by category. Younger players can be told which colour their card is if it helps them, and then the questions begin….they might be as complicated as ‘am I a utensil?’ narrowing down the possibilities to a category and then the right item, or as simple as ‘am I an umbrella?, using the images on the board to guide their questions. So verbal children of most ages can participate, and really enjoy the game. Those of us who are older might recall the version we might have played of this, which involved post it notes on our foreheads!
Each of these games has great merit and has brought us hours of fun. But they all require a degree of comprehension and to an extent exclude my youngest, who is determined that day-time naps are not something to indulge in! So is there an alternative that includes them all?
Physical activities that engage siblings together
I find that physical activities, be they gentle pillow fights (or shredded toilet-paper fights where you just create a snowstorm by hurling toilet paper), home discos, ‘fashion shows’ where they try on every item of fancy dress (or my wardrobe!), gymnastics displays and mini obstacle courses are some of the best ways to entertain. And if I ignore the mess they create, they really do bring treasured fun for all of us together. Building camps indoors or out, and going on nature trails are also always winners.
But if you want something more structured and perhaps less messy, then a scavenger or treasure hunt is a great alternative.
How Can Older Siblings Enjoy the Same Activity as their Younger Siblings?
This is where I get to talk about my favourite pastime, the treasure hunt game Gotrovo! It’s an easy way to engage all siblings of varying ages with roles that match their abilities.
Gotrovo really is a unique game that includes, rather than ‘manages’ all the children. As one reviewer said: “There are so many different ways to play and it’s a brilliant educational game. We play the game directed by our 3 year old but he also likes to play it with his older cousins. This is possible because the game has a wide range of clues so you can give ones appropriate to their age.”
Older siblings love to lay a trail for the little ones…it really appeals to their sense of maturity, and the need to think logically to lay the trail is great exercise for their minds! Children with good reading ability can read riddle clues and answer them, or support younger siblings in finding the solution. And with word and picture cards laced into a trail too, early readers and non-readers can participate just as fully.
You can read our customer reviews on Gotrovo here.