For families with Littles and Tweens/Teens (4 years- 12th grade)
I can hear what you’re thinking, trying to get older kids engaged with younger siblings is a fairytale wish. The maturity difference between my 6-year-old and 13-year-old can seem insurmountable at times, but I understand that the relationship they forge over the next few years will be the basis of how they interact into adulthood.
Most parents think of sibling relationships within an age gap of no more than 5 years. Often, however, we see families come in all variations with age gaps exceeding 15 years. With these age differences, there are strategic things that parents can do to facilitate and invest in the relationships between their older and younger children. Beyond the rites of passage traditions of babysitting and doing things for them, I believe we can equip them with social techniques and shared experiences that will not only develop lasting relationships, but inform skills your older kids can use for a lifetime.
The following are ways to utilize the PLAtime activities and concepts while simultaneously instilling belief in your teen and growing their leadership skills.
When the box first arrives, before playing/sharing with your younger kids, take your tween/teen out for lunch/coffee. During this time, let them look through the box knowing they get first pick and can choose one activity to do with a younger sibling each month (they can rotate which sibling to engage once per month). Ask them if they have any ideas to add to personalize the activity more to that specific sibling’s interest and offer to add needed supplies within $5 range. This fosters an excellent mental and emotional environment to grow consideration, planning, and executive function into your older child.
Agree on a time to set aside for the siblings to play the activity. Challenge teens to notice if these few minutes, giving their all, diminishes the “annoying” ways their siblings attempt to get their attention.
Help the older sibling to initiate the set aside time with the younger sibling. Engage the other siblings if any in alone time or PLAtime to allow the older sibling to focus on the activity with one sibling.
Set the timer clearly communicating that the oldest is giving the youngest some of their time but when the timer goes off, the younger must respect it and allow their sibling to return to homework or other life responsibilities. Guard your teen’s time and communicate your respect for them by helping them wrap up.
After clean up or pack up the activity, ask them both to recount their favorite parts to you over a snack or soda.
Have the older sibling repeat the same activity with another sibling later. Follow the same pattern to establish time and activity as outlined above.
1) If there is an activity that you think your teen would have really enjoyed when younger, tell them you found something that reminded you of them when they were younger. Share with them the memory of them playing in a similar way and see if their curiosity is peaked. It will connect you and you may even find yourselves in a spontaneous session reconnecting with your inner children.
2) Set out two activity cards and the needed items when the older children babysit their younger sibling. Let them choose which one or both they do in your absence…ask them both about it when you get home…not all activities will be liked by every child…some may even discuss how much they disliked an activity TOGETHER. Don’t be disappointed –that is bonding too! Shared experience doesn’t always have to be storybook perfect to connect people together.
PLAtime boxes are designed to be engaging and facilitate relational consistency. We believe these activates enable that consistency between siblings as well as parents. Siblings having fun together and sharing experiences build lasting relationships that will move beyond the address where your children reside.
If you haven’t already, use the above with our Try It Free activity and send us your feedback.
Stay up to date: Our Babysitter Box (coming soon) will be a great tool for your teenager who cares for other children. Developing a relationship between them and the kids they keep will make them the babysitter of choice and teach them to facilitate relational engagement and investing time in others.