What comes after the season of joy, peace, and goodwill? Three months of stuck-indoors-sibling-squabbles. Inevitably, one present will emerge from the holiday season coveted by the siblings above all the others, resulting in this.
“Mom! It’s my turn! I want it! She’s had it long enough! MOOOOMMMMM!!”
Is there a way to avoid the playtime battlefield? Maybe not completely, but a few select choices might encourage cooperation over competition.
It’s hard to end a game of Chutes and Ladders without at least one child gloating and one child sobbing. As much as we hope these competitive games will teach good sportsmanship, the lesson is often taught through clenched teeth as one parent picks up the pieces.
Cooperative games, on the other hand, offer players a chance to work together in order to reach a goal. Competitive youngsters will appreciate that there is still the chance to win – or lose. But rather than competing against siblings, players have to beat the game itself. Peaceable Kingdom offers a range of cooperative board games that might make game night a bit more pleasant.
There are few sports that are enjoyable to play by yourself. While sports might bring out the competitive side in siblings, they also require someone to play with. If you have a “no throwing balls in the house” rule, check out the Hover Ball. The half-soccer ball glides on carpet, giving it an added bonus: they have to pick up the room first.
Nothing bonds kids together more than the feeling that they've escaped the purview of the grown-ups. Walkie-talkies give kids a chance to share secrets and pretend to be explorers, all while being in separate rooms where they can’t physically fight with each other.
Creating a story to act out is only half the fun of puppets – sharing your work with someone is the best part. Puppets give kids a chance to collaborate, building off each other’s stories until they come up with a show that is all their own.
Every great chef needs a diner to appreciate her artistry, and every customer is entitled to a restaurant that can serve his favorite imaginary dishes – chocolate-spaghetti-sandwiches, for instance. Playing restaurant gives children a chance to practice two important qualities: service and appreciation. Because what makes a meal (even a wooden one) truly special is who you share it with.
When being cooped up indoors is causing everyone to lose their zen, try a little yoga. The Yoga Spinner Game challenges players to attempt different poses, helping to burn off some of that pent-up energy that otherwise manifests as bickering. Some of the challenges require a partner, meaning working together is the only way to win.
While parents might give their kids a doctor kit hoping that it will spark a career in the medical field, the most important skill they can gain isn’t science-related at all. Playing doctor gives children a chance to practice empathy. Pretending to care about a sister’s ailment might actually lead to real caring down the road. After all, practice makes perfect.
The family that builds together stays together. Working towards a common goal – most likely, to build the tallest tower ever! – can help foster a sense of cooperation among siblings. Plus, blocks can capture the imagination of a wide range of ages, helping siblings who don’t normally share interests find something in common. One ground rule is necessary, however: no knocking down a tower that you didn’t build.
If your builders are looking to move on past the classic wooden blocks, check out Squigz, a silicone suction toy for an entirely different building experience.
Because these trampolines are typically only big enough for one, siblings will still have to practice sharing and patience. However, in the long run, indoor trampolines can help kids burn off some pent-up energy that would otherwise be spent annoying a sibling.
Throughout time, nothing has brought people together like the power of stories. Storytelling cards prompt children to create their own stories by using pictures to inspire new ideas. Siblings can take turns telling each other stories, or make up adventures together. The more authors crafting a story, the more creative the plot becomes.
When brothers and sisters have to work together, it becomes harder to fight. Puzzles keep hands busy and mouths somewhat quieter, making them the perfect cooped-up-with-nothing-to-do activity.
Of course, it’s not just the dynamics of young siblings that need a little help. If your holiday gatherings need a distraction from the annual “Is Sean Connery or Daniel Craig a better James Bond?” argument, consider plopping a 3D puzzle on a table to keep the adults occupied.
In a few months, the air will warm up, kids will spend more time outdoors, and some of that sibling bickering will evaporate. Until then, hopefully some of these gifts will help prolong the season of peace.off.