Many people are surprised by how well my kids get along. My oldest enjoys playing with her younger siblings, despite the age difference. The younger kids play together for hours each day. They aren’t perfect, and of course they argue at times. But, there are definitely strong sibling relationships going on here.
Loving sibling relationships don’t just happen.
I’ve learned over the years that there are definite strategies to encourage this. My husband and I play a big role in how well our kids get along. Our attitudes are important, and we can sow contentment and love or jealously and bickering.
Our goal is to raise kids who still enjoy spending time with each other when they’re adults. We want them to get together at family gatherings and not have to pretend to like each other.
Since our kids aren’t fully grown yet, we still don’t know the final outcome. But, we’re trying! Here are nine of the strategies we use to encourage sibling love.
1. Sibling Play Time
Our daily quiet time is an hour and a half. After that, we enjoy a quick snack and then it’s time for sibling play time.
Each day, the kids pair off and go play together for half an hour. I spend this time with the child whose day it is.
We rotate who everyone plays with, to keep variety in this time. My goal is for each set of siblings to play together once during the week.
Some of their favorite activities are:
- Going on a walk
- Bundling up and playing in the snow
- Turning a box into something
- Watching a favorite TV show
- Playing a 2-person game
- Set up the train tracks and play
- Get out all the My Little Pony toys and create a world for them to play in
- Going “camping” in the living room in a fort
- Using the car rug and cars
- Making a special treat for the family
- Creating a scavenger hunt together
- Using the pattern blocks
This time is dedicated to spending quality time with each other. The youngest sibling gets to select what they do. Since the older kids usually do the bossing, it’s a fun change of pace! This rule also helps the older kids learn to serve and help make the time special for their buddy.
2. Spend Time at Home
One benefit of living in the middle of nowhere is that there aren’t many playmates around. My kids play together or they play alone. Those are pretty much the only options.
We stay home most days, giving them plenty of time to play. If we’re out and about constantly, the bickering starts.
Homeschooling definitely helps too! Building strong family and sibling relationships is one of the reasons we decided not to enroll our kids in public school.
3. Invest in Multi-Age Toys
If there’s a gap in age between your kids, be mindful when you buy toys. Look for ones that are safe and fun for a variety of ages.
Here are some ideas:
- Dress up clothes
- Fort building kits
- Car rug and cars
- Train tracks
- Board Games
- Construction toys
- Nerf guns
- Lincoln Logs
- Mega Bloks
The kids can all play together with most of these. They can create fun scenarios like Andy in Toy Story, and play for hours.
If you only have babyish toys, or toys that have too many small pieces, your kids aren’t going to play as well together. Recognizing their ability differences, and finding ways to encourage them to play together anyways is important!
4. Encourage Independent Activities Too
Spending too much time together can have the opposite effective when it comes to sibling love. Since we are home all day most days, that’s a lot of togetherness.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so we have our daily quiet time. This is the time for independent play. The kids stay in their own areas with their own activities for ninety minutes.
By the time the timer beeps, everyone is definitely ready to play with each other once again. Purposefully separating them for a while makes them more aware of the joy it is to have siblings to play with and talk to!
5. Don’t Make Them Share Everything
Most of our toys are family toys. They are meant for everyone.
But, some toys are special. The kids don’t have to share those with their siblings. Everyone has their favorite stuffed animal. The older kids have some special LEGO sets or Pokemon cards that are their personal possessions.
Special toys don’t need shared. In fact, siblings get in trouble for using a special toy without permission. <= that took some training, but with consistency it's paid off and the older kids are pretty good at modeling this for the younger ones which helps! Letting your kids have some things that are just theirs allow them to be more accepting of sharing other toys. It also helps keep the fighting over those special things to a minimum. Less fighting = more loving.
6. Don’t Compare Your Kids
Everyone is unique and has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your kids.
Doing so is a good way to build discontentment. That’s not what you’re going for.
So focus on the positives of each child. Don’t use words like, “Why don’t you do x,y, or z like your sister?” Let them be unique. Encourage them to be themselves instead of trying to imitate someone else.
Otherwise they may grow up to be resentful of each other.
Along these lines, don’t have a favorite child. God gave you each of your children for a reason, and they are all a blessing. Love them all!
7. Teach Them The Truth About Fairness
Life isn’t fair.
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but it’s true. Don’t set your kids up for disappointment in the real world by making everything equal in childhood. You’ll just encourage negative emotions instead of contentment.
That negativity harms sibling relationships.
Everyone has a different set of skills, abilities, and talents. What comes naturally to one child will be a struggle for another.
Because of these differences, you will never be able to treat your kids equally. So start teaching them contentment at a young age.
When one child gets a special gift, don’t allow the other kids to throw a fit and demand something of equal value. Don’t buy everyone toys on one child’s birthday.
Encourage them to celebrate the differences, to rejoice with others when they receive blessings, and to live a life not full of bitterness and jealousy.
Celebrating life together helps build more love between siblings than keeping score over wins and losses.
8. Speak Kind Words
We’ll often spend a few minutes to share kind words about members of our family. I’ll ask everyone to think of something they love about one family member.
Then we all share.
Next, I name another member of the family. We keep going until we’ve covered everyone.
It only takes a few minutes, but it really teaches the kids to focus on the positive traits. It’s also a special feeling to hear everyone say kind things about you.
So urge your kids to use their words carefully, and speak kindness.
9. Pray for the Relationships
This one really should have been listed first, because it’s so important! As you pray for your kids, take time to pray for their relationships with one another.
Pray that God would help build lasting love between all your kids, help you to recognize signs of jealousy or anger, and give you wisdom to parent your children.
I certainly can’t raise kids who loved each other without the help of God!
How do you encourage strong sibling relationships?
I’d love to hear your best tips! Please share in the comments.