The latest issue of MOPS International’s Hello Dearest magazine arrived in my mailbox yesterday. And tucked among the articles on friendship was one I wrote for moms of older kids on sibling relationships titled Summer is Sibling Time. Because longer days and more free time makes for a lot of togetherness. (Depending on how your last 2 hours have gone you are reading this as good news or a horrific reminder that we are only in mid-June.)
Regardless of the circumstances of the hour or day, when kids are together they are bonding and making memories. So what happens when you have a big age gap in siblings? When one wants to go to the water park and another needs a nap? When one is potty training and another is babysitting? Here’s a little addendum to my Hello Dearest article I’m calling, When There’s An Age Gap.
Nine years separate my oldest from my youngest. A twelve-year old has a different attention span and interest set than a three-year old. So what’s a mom to do when planning summer sibling fun?
Find timeless activities: It IS possible to find activities that are universally fun, no matter the stage. Swimming, camping, going to the park are adaptable to any age. Find places where kids can have fun next to each other at their own pace and ability levels. The library, a campfire, an outdoor concert. Much of life, from meal times to playing outside, can be enjoyed from cradle on up.
Set yourself up for success: Keep nap times, stamina, and eating schedules in mind when planning out your day. Take given limitations and work within them, rather than against them. These boundaries can take some of the guess work out of what you can do. You no longer have the burden of choice to “do anything”. But you can do anything between 9:00 and noon that doesn’t require everyone to read or drive, so run with that. And always….always…bring snacks. All ages stop whining, at least for a few minutes, when their mouths are full.
Separate sometimes: Avoid meltdowns by making age-specific activities possible with occasional one-on-ones. It’s okay for the youngest to be a spectator at activities and the eldest to end things early, just not every time. This is where I’m trying to get better. It’s easy for us moms of many to always be multi-tasking and multi-relationshiping. When what our children often desire is a little bit of our undivided attention. It doesn’t have to be long stretches of alone time, but it does need to be meaningful to the child at hand. One might want you to read to him while another might want a bike ride together. The key is making it happen.
Here’s the real truth, siblings with many years between them can have a precious bond. We parents set the tone for how we deal with differences and needs. So let’s celebrate early bed times for the littles as a chance for some big kid activities. And remember older siblings introduce the youngers to big worlds with lots of excitement. They are good for each other. No, that’s an understatement. They are the best gifts we can give them. Let’s remember that.
I’d love ideas from you around timeless activities. What do you like to do as a family (or have kids do together) that spans the ages?