Top Five Activities That Encourage Sibling Harmony

by Julie Snyder

Siblings PlayingEach day you toss together kids with different temperaments and interests. You expect them to play together and get along.

Realistically, your recipe may bring about conflict instead of sibling harmony. Siblings can really get on each other's nerves, and on yours as well.

We would rather hear our kids laughing and celebrating happily than fighting and crying. Here's how you can transform sibling rivalry to sibling revelry!

Setting the Stage for Sibling Harmony

Even before the new baby arrives you can start cultivating friendly family relationships. Talking about "our baby" or "your sister" and firming up the connection between your child and both parents facilitate sibling bonding instead of sibling rivalry, right from the start.

• Set ground rules for acceptable behavior. Your toddler needs to know that you expect gentle touches, no hitting, no pushing and no biting. In addition, your kids need to know that you won't stand for bad language, name-calling, shouting or door-slamming. When they're older, ask for input on family rules and suitable consequences for breaking them.

Without ground rules, some kids push as far towards lawlessly as they're allowed.

• Create situations where your kids find it easy to get along. Traditions and rituals give children the comfort of belonging, the sense of wonder, magic, and celebration.

Family activities can help reduce conflict in the same way. Put simply, you can encourage sibling harmony by just having fun together as a family.

Five Activities Encouraging Sibling Harmony

I'm mom of six children. Our home vibrates with unique personalities, varied interests and conflicting temperaments. Over the years, we've made fantastic family memories with cooperative games and activities. I've listed five of our favorites below.

Dress Up Box

Old clothes and costumes from the dress up box open the door to an imaginary world. Toddlers and preschoolers might be overjoyed just trying on mommy and daddy's stuff and modeling it.

Once your troop dons appropriate attire, encourage them to tap into creativity and make a play or movie. In "real life," one sibling might be more passive, another more bossy. Play acting allows a switch of roles. Learning to think and behave like different characters can improve the sibling bond as well as help them make and keep friendships with their peers.

If you have a video camera, the kids can take turns filming, directing and acting.

Secret Pals

Kids love secrets. Your solution to sibling conflict can begin with a secret -- a secret pal! Draw names and clue in each child who they'll be tricking with acts or kindness, little gifts and kind notes.

At the beginning of each month, we assigned new pals. Our event lasted just a few days. Even a week-long secret pal event boosted happy feeling for the entire month. Each child planned for and anticipated the start of the next round with a new pal!

Cooperative Games

Instead of competing against each other to be the best, games band the kids together as they accomplish a common goal. Our favorites include Herd Your Horses, The Orchard, The Busy Spider Game, Harvest Time and our personalized version of family trivia.

Family Trivia: Have each family member brainstorm details about vacations, personality traits, funny incidents and holiday traditions. Use these to create your personal family trivia game. The kids love remembering happy, silly times and learn more about each other as we play.

Scavenger Hunt: Whether in the back yard or out on a camping trip, a scavenger hunt teams up siblings on a quest to locate everything on a list. If mom or dad has misplaced a book, tool or craft make finding it part of the game.

You can take this activity out into the neighbor or farther. Geocaching or "letterboxing" guide families through a set of clues hidden in public spaces and national parks.

Families worldwide hide small boxes in public places, spreading clues by word of mouth or online for other families to find. Geocaching adds and additional clue -- the treasure's GPS coordinates.

Fun Family Projects

Building a large puzzle or a bird feeder, planning a camp out or creating a gift for the grandparents brings kids together with a single goal. With a little planning, you can find a role for each family member -- drawing, planning, dyeing or painting, fetching supplies and wrapping it up.

Does your family have favorite team-building activities that help your kids work together and play together? Share them here!