Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Play dates and younger siblings

One of our neighbours has a six-year old and a three-year old. She is often complaining to me about the difficulties of managing play dates with her older child without the younger one getting in the way. She even said she was trying to do most of their play dates on weekends when her husband could take out or play with the younger one and leave their daughter and friend in peace.

I had to stop by her house last week and was a little surprised to see the six-year old shut inside their conservatory with a friend while the three-year old, stood at the glass door looking in on them. The mother rolled her eyes at me and again lamented of how difficult it was with the younger child wanting to 'join in'. My two-year old stood with him at the glass door for a moment while I was chatting and I saw the six-year old say to her through the glass, 'no babies!'.

Having a five-year old and a two-year old myself, I am not oblivious to the challenges that can come with play dates and managing the younger sibling in a fair and peaceful way around the older ones. I don't however think the answer is to banish or separate the younger sibling completely from the room in which the older ones are playing. I think it's good for all ages to learn to get along, to share, to respect each other, whatever their age and to generally mix among different ages. Unless the younger sibling is destroying something the older ones are playing with, then why not let them be in the same room and play alongside?

I appreciate that sometimes the older child wants to go to their bedroom with their friend and be undisturbed. Sometimes I do encourage my daughter to stay and play downstairs with me to give the older ones some space. I recognise it is equally important to respect the older child and let them have a bit of private time with their friend, if that's what they want. As with most things, it is all about balance.

Occasionally I have to keep an eye on the older ones to make sure there is no, let's call it boisterous behaviour, towards the little sister. I'm thinking shooting toy cannons at her, even speaking to her in what I consider an inappropriate way. It is rarely a problem though. Some of my son's friends enjoy the novelty of his little sister and are quite happy to have her around. Those with younger siblings themselves are usually particularly at ease with having a younger one in the same room.

Maybe my neighbour's children being both one year older than mine makes a difference but even so, I hope I can continue to manage play dates without making a big deal out of the younger sibling being around. The ideal situation perhaps, which I know some of my friends with two children like to try to do, is to have play dates for both children on the same day. That way they both have their own friend to play with and occupy them, making them less likely to be interested in what the other is doing.

What is your experience if you have two (or more) children? Is it stressful / particularly difficult having a play date for your older child with a younger sibling there? Do you have any ways you manage the situation to make it easier / more harmonious for everyone?
photo credit


  1. Awwww. No experience - even though I've a 4 year old and a 14 year old step-son. But the thought of that little nose pressed up against the glass window. Heartbreaking!

    But if I did have to manage it then I'd probably just give the little one a chance while reminding the older one to try and be a little bit patient as they are simply 'looking up' to their big bro/sis and wanting to join in. And then tell the little one what the rules for being included are. I would perhaps have a favourite activity on standby that little one could do after a time so as to give the big one and their friend some space. It might even be that the big ones THEN want to join in with what the little one is doing - of course I'm totally basing that on an episode (or 4) of Peppa Pig.... ;) xx

    1. I like the sound of your approach! Definitely good to explain to both the older one and the younger one what is expected of them. Having a favourite activity on standby is something I try to do, to make it less disappointing for the younger one to not be around the big boys/girls :-). xx

  2. I chose the inclusive approach. And the two older children usually loved having the little one to play with (he's 3 years younger). As he got older I would often arrange for double playdates so they each had company and they usually ended up playing all together. One on one at the weekend is a good compromise, I think. But the closed glass door makes me shiver. At least have a real closed door and then distract the younger sibling with love and attention. Sigh...

    1. Good to hear what worked with your children when they were younger and that the inclusive approach was successful. I know....the closed glass door seems all the more taunting :-(.

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Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!