According to a new study, rivalry between brothers and sisters can be a good thing when they are toddlers and it can have a positive effect on their development. Cambridge University carried out the study over a five year time span and found that of the 140 children studied, their cognitive and social development was enhanced if they were a sibling.
The research looked at the younger of 2 siblings in various environments: alone, with the family, with friends and at school. Their language, memory, planning skills and inhibitory control were studied and found that the younger sibling had a better social understanding thanks to the teasing of older brothers and sisters. 80% of children have siblings.
Pretend play was very interesting to the study authors, as it found that the younger siblings who entered into pretend play, games that often lasted in different sessions over a few days, were able to articulate, discuss their thoughts and feelings much better than those who didn't.
They also found that sibling bickering was a "useful" tool and that its the start of a skill to resolve disagreements in later life although they did say that sustained sibling rivalry into school years could be detrimental. Relationships change over time, that is natural, but the way that siblings are natural allies is a beneficial thing.
A great way to get children to care for and understand each other is to introduce younger children to the setting. Whether it be siblings or family or friends, seeing how a baby is cared for a loved by his or her mother can be very encouraging to children who don't have the experience of siblings and is a great way to teach love and respect by example.
See if you have a parent willing to visit with a new baby to show the children what they look like, what they do, and discuss the needs the baby has and how much love and care he or she needs.
Allow them to stroke the baby's hand or foot, taking care not to allow them too much access... and encourage them to be kind to the baby. If the baby cries, chat about what could be wrong and how we can stop the crying.
This teaches children to empathise with others and gives those without this experience of babies, a little more confidence around new babies. This kind of empathy at a young age may deter those who are inclined to bully others, because often the bully has no empathy with the child they tease or taunt. This begins to sow the seeds of thinking about others.
Looking at and watching a mother with her child, is also a very calming thing for the children to witness. They have someone to look up to who is not part of their normal surroundings and sees how adults act with children.
If possible, see if the parent and child will come in to visit on a regular basis to see the child's developments and how they grow over a year. Get the children drawing pictures of the baby or making the baby a picture or a rattle to hold when they get to that stage in their development. Handing over a home made gift is a great way to make the children feel very happy about their new little friend.
At ToucanLearn we encourage you to keep a daily diary for your little ones, but if you have children of a school age who can read or write, why not have them record a diary of their baby and toddler siblings? A diary kept by a young child of their younger sibling would make for a fascinating account, you would get a glimpse of their understanding of the world and interpretation of events. If your children are too young to be able to write, then how about trying to keep a recorded diary, making an audio or video recording each day? It's really easy to make audio and video recordings these days, using mobile phones, smartphones or laptops or computers with webcams.
Keeping a diary of a young baby from a siblings perspective would make for an interesting project for you, but would become an invaluable record for your children in years to come!
Having friends and spending time with family is important for a child's development, not just because its fun, but because it's a great way for them to learn more from different people who do things in different ways. Grandad knows all about birds and nature, Granny is great at cooking, Uncle Joe is funny and makes us camps, Aunty Caroline is brilliant at horse riding and lets us try. When children and toddlers are with other people, they watch and learn just as much as when they are with you and its good for them to experience other homes and families.
Try and find out what special skills or interests family members have; especially older generations. Encourage them to teach your children or just spend time with them telling them stories about how thinkgs used to be! It's so valuable to learn about different cultures and people that spending time with our families can be interesting and beneficial for you all.
Similar Aged Children
When they are with other children the same age existing skills can be developed or new things discovered. They communicate, and understand and negotiate. They may squabble but try to find a solution and come to a decision. Try not to interfere and leave them to work out their problems. Obviously if they start fighting, then intervene!
When they are with older children, they may be nurtured or guided by them and can learn about new things and games. Older children can be very caring towards younger ones and can be great teachers. The younger children see this and copy. Older children can also be great academic teachers. See the 5 year old teaching a younger 3 year old how to hold a pencil and do a "loop-de-doop" in order to learn and write an "o".
Encouraging siblings to teach and help each other:
The start of a new school year may introduce significant change in the routine of younger siblings. With older siblings no longer about each day, younger siblings may be upset by the sudden change. They may even experience fear or anxiety if they don't understand the change. Make sure you talk and explain to younger children that their brothers and sisters are starting at school, and if you are lucky enough to spend every day with your children, take advantage of quality time with the younger siblings. Try to take them out on excursions and fill their day with activities. Don't forget to use ToucanLearn as a regular source of activities to do together. Look for a craft activity to do each day at home, and maybe an outside activity to do on a walk. Many of our outdoor activities can be done on the school run itself as you walk to drop off or pick up siblings. If your younger children are upset that they can't go to school, pretend that their craft activities at home are their own school at home - they will love to be able to do what their older brothers and sisters are doing.
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