“Wow, they play so well together!” It’s something I hear often….and it fills my heart with so much joy. Every time I hear a friend say this to me after observing Hudson and Sadie playing together, I can’t help but smile. Because I hit the jackpot with these two (and their little sister too). Hudson and Sadie have always played well together. Part of it is their personalities…Hudson loves to be a “teacher” and helper and boss his sister around. And Sadie loves the attention from Hudson and loves to watch and learn from him.
But a big part of why they play so well together is that we have really encouraged their brother-sister relationship at home in very simple, yet consistent ways. I grew up without siblings, so watching my kids play together is so fascinating to me. It’s also very important to me that they love each other and enjoy spending time together. So today I thought I’d share 9 things we’ve done in our house to encourage brother sister bonding.
1. Set aside time to play at home. I know it’s hard when kids get older and have school, sports, activities, and play dates. But we have made a conscious effort to not be busy for the sake of being busy. Each kid has one activity outside of school. The rest of our time is spent at home playing together or going somewhere as a family. We have a play date or church activity about once a week, but I really want to enjoy this time of having little kids in my home….you know, actually in my home! I’m a homebody, and I’ve passed the love of being home together on to all three of my kids. If you are more of an out-of-the-house person, try to set aside some time for your kids to just play with each other at home.
2. Unplug. I’ve found that if the kids have too much screen time, they get cranky, lose their ability to enjoy imaginative play, and fight over what we watch or what video game we play. I’m trying to limit screen time to 30 minutes a day. Some days we have more, and some days we have less. It’s all about balance. But less screen time means more play time!
3. Let them take turns deciding what to play. We always rotate what we are playing through the day and I always make sure they each have a turn deciding what we will play together. Both Hudson and Sadie have surprised me with what they’ve enjoyed doing together! Ignore gender stereotypes! Sadie loves to play cars with Hudson….and he loves to cook up crazy things in her pink kitchen. When they take turns deciding on an activity, everybody wins!
4. Enlist help from each other. Sometimes when Sadie asks me for something, I request that she ask her brother to help her. This may mean getting a fork that dropped, cleaning up a spill, or even washing her hands. Hudson loves to feel like he has a special “job” when helping out his sister. It makes him feel proud. And Sadie loves her brother so much that when he helps her with something she’s always sweet right back to him. Giving them plenty of opportunities to create a supportive relationship is very important to me as a mother. Just gently assisting them to work together is a great way to foster love and friendship.
5. Find appropriate games and toys they can play together. I noticed one day after Christmas that Sadie was acting out while Hudson was playing with a game that was too advanced for her to understand. She desperately wanted to play with him, but the game was too hard for her, and both kids were getting frustrated. A quick aside….I do value independent play and think that playing alone and having some quite time is essential. But when it’s family play time it’s necessary that we play with something age appropriate that all of the kids can enjoy.
It can sometimes be a bit tricky to find toys that both kids enjoy…but it is so worth the experimentation to find them! My kids are all so close in age, which makes it a bit easier. But what I’ve found is that simple is best!Hudson and Sadie are playing with these Baby Born Surprise dolls in these photos….they were such a big hit with all three of my kids!
6. Step out. As much as possible, leave them to work out their own problems. I literally remove myself from the situation and hide out in my bedroom for a while. My kids are shockingly capable of working through conflict when I’m not there.
7. Have them share a room. I know not a lot of boys and girls share a room. But when kids are little, anything goes! I think we often undervalue how comforting it can be for kids to share space, especially in the dark of night, with a sibling. It also gives them time to develop their relationship without guidance or pressure from their parents. Hudson and Sadie currently share a room and it has been the BEST decision. We’ve noticed they have become closer friends by sleeping in the same room and they really look out for each other.
8. Talk them up! Take every chance you get to verbally notice their positive interactions and praise them for it! When Hudson helps Sadie with something unprompted, I always tell him what a great big brother he is. And when Sadie shares her snack or toy with Hudson, I always remind her what a great sister she is to him. Try not to lay on the pressure for them to be examples for each other, and express gratitude for their relationships in family prayers every evening. See the good and speak of it—every day.
9. Remind them that they love each other. This one is HUGE to me because I always want them to know that they have a best friend for life in each other. When we talk about people who love them during our bedtime routine, we make sure we include each sibling. “Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, your brother loves you, your sister loves you…” We also give them a chance to say “I love you” to each other – if they want to. It’s a small thing, but hearing those words is always nice, isn’t it? Nothing melts my heart more that when I close their bedroom door at night and I hear them whisper “I love you Sadie” and “I love you Hudson”. Talk about the sweetest words a mama can ever hear!