Going from one to two is incredibly challenging. Between managing meal times to differing sleep schedules, there's a lot that goes into parenting more than one small child. Whether you work full-time outside of the home, from the home, or are a stay-at-home-parent, you're likely to experience the often occurrence of two little people arguing, taking toys away from one another or simply disagreeing on God knows what.
It's imperative, not only for future social time but for parental sanity, to encourage kind and creative play together. Here, we have compiled 10 ways to encourage your small children to play well together. It may not be easy, but it does get easier. Here are some tips and tricks to help you along your way:
10 DEDICATE A SHARE BIN
Often, while your small children are playing in their play area, they become very protective over their toys. Even while in the car, at the store or in their rooms, they become protective. They know what's theirs and they like to keep it that way. Plain and simple.
But, when you, the parent/guardian, keep a toy bin or basket filled with toys that are purposely purchased for both or all of your children, well then- they must play nicely considering each item isn't owned by a specific person. The 'share bin' is to be shared.
9 SHARE WITH YOUR CHILDREN MORE
Baby-see baby-do. This means that you should be intentionally sharing more with your child to show them how much sharing is caring. Age depending, you can be as elaborate as you want, sharing as much as you can. From snacks to hugs. You don't want them to believe sharing in an overly extensive way is appropriate, but you do want to demonstrate how much sharing can change someone's gratitude towards you. The more you portray the 'type' of person you want your child to be, the more they will likely be that way. Including when it comes to sharing and playing well with their siblings.
8 VOCALIZE YOUR EXPECTATIONS CALMLY
We know, we know. It can be difficult to try and referee 24/7 with small children. Suddenly, someone is pushing the other because they've spilt their 'tea party' all over the floor. Instead of seeing red, take a deep breath. Try and express the issue in a calm manner, to represent the type of outcome you expect your children to use. The more you calmly vocalize and direct your children into a new activity, the more likely they are to calmly play well together.
7 SEPERATE TOYS
In contrast to our 'share bin', separating your children's toys may be the best route, depending on your children: Their ages, their moods and their desire to share. Separating toys can also show a sense of respect for one another's items.
It's ok to have things to yourself. Even at a very young age. If your children play much nicer with separate toys, sharing when they truly feel like it, then that's perfectly acceptable, too.
6 ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION
Communication is key. The parent/guardian is a great example of how the children should communicate together. The more they communicate, the better playing together will be; however, we understand there's an age concern in regards to communication. This is where the eldest child may feel a big amount of responsibility. They may feel they need to communicate for the younger child, though they should be encouraged to allow their younger sibling to try and use their words/body language. Regardless, it's important to encourage good communication, whether through language or body language to influence good play between younger siblings.
5 HAVE A 'SAFE WORD'
If you feel as though you've tried everything, picking a 'safe word' may be the trick that works to allow your small children to play well together. This word could simply be anything. From 'tree' to 'please stop', these options allow the child to stop immediately what they're doing.
From a very young age, children will abide to this new, family rule. Consistency is key. Ensure they are practicing this often, and it will become second-nature in no time.
4 DON'T DEMAND
Touching back on how common it is for the parent to feel like a full-time referee, it is so important not to demand anything too extreme. It's hard to keep calm while your children argue or disagree while they're playing, even at a very young age, but if you, the parent/guardian, continue to demand them to do certain things, they won't be able to build independent thought/free play. It's normal to foresee the future and try and ensure a fight doesn't happen before it takes place, but it's also important not to try and control the situation. Try to ease up on your demands in order to avoid an altercation.
3 ALLOW THEM TO DISAGREE (WITHIN REASON)
...and when the arguments do happen, sometimes it's ok to allow them to happen. Of course, this is within reason. If the children are being physical towards one another, you may want to step in. But if they are arguing over a toy, a book, or something that could simply be negotiated, allow them to figure it out.
It's ok not to intervene at every opportunity. If you were to, they would not be able to learn how to successfully recover from an argument, even if it's between two toddlers.
The more you play with your children, the more you learn how their behavior affects their playtime. Demonstrate sharing with your child. Demonstrate how to react when they get frustrated. Demonstrate how kindly you can speak to them when they make a mistake or speak out of tone with you. If you do not show them, they may never learn. It's important to be hands-on to demonstrate how they should be playing well with one another.
1 REWARD WITH EXCITEMENT
Of course there will be moments where you want to reward your children with a 'treat'. And that's perfectly ok, in our books. But if you are consistent by giving them high-fives and big hugs when they do something very kind, this will encourage good behavior rather than the opposite. If you focus on the negative, the children will automatically focus on the negative, too. It's important to reward the children while they are playing well together even if it's just acknowledging how well they are playing together.