It's an all-too familiar refrain: “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.
Big sibs can join their toddler and baby siblings for a fun show that ignites curiosity and encourages STEAM learning, like Ocean Explorers from Baby Einstein, a new TV series and set of toys that inspires learning with sing along-able songs and characters that will capture hearts.
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.
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.
Here's to lots of happy playing together!