Where did you get your ideas? Did you consult experts?

During the years it took to write this book, we discovered that activity ideas came to us in so many ways. Firstly, we were living it. Both of us have young children. We watched them play; we made up games in our own yard. Our kids were definitely a big part of putting this book together. Kids are play experts!

Lisa has her Masters in Creative Education and has worked in daycares, as an elementary school teacher, creative movement instructor and more. She loves kids! A lot of the ideas came from her own experiences in working with them.

Heather is the editor of a monthly parenting publication. She works with childcare experts, pediatricians and parents. That’s how she gets her sense of what is important to families and how they could benefit from activities found in SBB.

We tested each one of the 200 activities with other parents and kids. We held events at local bookstores and we tweaked [the activities] until we felt they were perfect.

We poured over other books in the genre, we attending sibling classes at local YMCAs, we networked with other experts in this field. Other parents would mention something to use in passing and we’d be like, “Wait a minute, we could use that!”

Inspiration arrived on a daily basis.

Do you have tips for what to do if siblings don’t get along during an activity?

Try to pick a time when your children are rested, fed and in generally good moods before starting an activity. OK, we know it takes the stars and moon to align such magic but it does happen (sometimes)

Remember that on average, kids ages 3 to 7 will engage in about 3.5 conflicts an hour. It’s normal, it’s natural.
When they fight over possessions, tease each other and even when they are getting along — they are learning valuable life lessons. Lessons such as, how to socialize, negotiate, stand up for themselves, and find their strengths and weaknesses. Girls are teaching their brothers about the mystery of well…girls and brothers are teaching their sisters about the inner workings of guys.

In 2006, Time Magazine published an article stating that siblings are the most significant relationship any of us will have in our lifetime. Our spouses come later in life and most of us outlive our parents. For better or worse, siblings have tremendous influence on each other just simply for the fact that we will know them the longest.

OK, now to the nuts and bolts!

How to avoid conflict in first place

  • Make sure the kids are “in a good place” (see above)
  • Make sure you are too. If you’re over the top stressed, they may go there too.
  • Distraction is key! One child has the purple crayon and won’t let go. The other child needs the purple crayon this instant. Point out another part of the activity to one child. Remind one about his other favorite color, etc.
  • Don’t compare children (ever) Praise individual accomplishments “I really like how you made the sun in your drawing, (name of child).” Don’t compare, “I like how Mike’s sun is yellow and round, you should make yours look more like that, Casey.”
  • Pick an activity that fits the mood, weather and timeframe.
    • For quiet times or low-energy times, we recommend Show Me a Sign (page 242) or Name Plates (page 213)
    • For intense times, we recommend Yoga (page 94) or Morning Stretch (page 76)
    • For high-energy times, we recommend Soaring with Scarves (page 92) or Green, Yellow, Red Light (page 134)
    • For family bonding, we recommend Questions in a Jar (page 231) or Adopt a Family Tree (page 265)
    • For independent play (parent sets up, offers supervision), we recommend activities from Let’s Pretend chapter (page 43)

We found the best book for parents who want their children to simply get along is Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. Here’s an example of how their magic approach works.

You’re dishing out stickers for an activity to your children when one inevitably screams, “Hey, he’s has more than me!” What do you do?

A. “Oh, it sounds like may need more for your project. Do you want a few more?”

B. “Oops, you’re right, he does have more. Here you go!”

C. “That’s not true.You both have the same!”

Correct answer: A. Answer A takes the issue of equality out. You give according to need. Answer B, will likely result in five more back and fourths of who has more. Answer C, will not satisfy this unhappy costumer.

Get this book. It will save lives!

Once conflict arises, try this:

  • Wait. If the children are both verbal-abled see if they can work it out.
  • Get involved by describing the situation.This will help to acknowledge their positions.

Express confidence that they will arrive at a solution or if they are young, you offer a solution.

If an older child complains that he doesn’t want to do a baby activity

  • Acknowledge his feelings.
  • Show him the book and tell him he gets a special part for his age. No baby stuff for him!
  • Let him suggest ideas to make the activity extra fun for him!

Do you have any tips for what to do if a parent starts feeling stressed during an activity?

Take a deep breath. Heard that one before, right? A few weeks ago, my kids and I were playing Upty-do from the Let’s Pretend chapter I had gathered up some hair accessories and gel. They had fun styling each other’s hair and then they wanted mom to have a turn. Let’s just say, at the end my hair was sticking out in every direction and I ended up with gel on my cheek. (SHOW photo) Yeah, I got stressed out. Here what worked for me:

  • Count to 10. You need that time to gain some perspective.
  • These activities are not about perfection or following instructions or even completing activities. We’re just giving you ideas. Let your family take it to where they want to go.
  • Remember it’s about play. If they’re having fun, you should too.
  • Messes happen (see next Q&A)
  • Sit back and watch. Sometimes, if you “remove” yourself for a moment, you can see some magic happen.

Not all parents are very artsy – some feel very uncomfortable doing that stuff with kids, in fact. Many may also not like messes. Do you have tips to help parents get out of their comfort zone and give some of these a try?

Here’s the bad news: Kids are messy. Here’s the good news: not all these activities are.

We’ve organized the book into themed chapters so you can easily find ideas that will be fun for your children (and stress for you!). There are ideas for outdoor and indoor play, creative movement (no mess here!) kitchen adventures, learning exploration, pretend play and more.

If messes make you a little crazy, try these suggestions:

  • Start with activities that don’t require materials like Freeze! (page 166) or Opposite Olympics (page 192) All the activities in Creative Movement are mess free too!
  • Teach about the importance of clean up time, with Helping Hands (page 236)
  • Allow time for clean up (good opportunity to teach teamwork and responsibility to the kids!)
  • If you’re not sure, skip the activity – there are hundreds more in this book that will prove loads of fun!
  • Try not to sweat it! We know parents are creative people – they have to be with all the juggling they do to run their households. You may not consider yourself an arts and crafts person but you’re crafty when it comes to organizing a family. That being said, take the one of our token messy activities like Window Letter Paining (page 202) where kids practice letter writing on a (you guessed it) window. You may think, “No, way am I do this on a window” and change it up and go into the garage and tape a paper on the wall and still get the developmental benefits (writing horizontally) without a head explosion. These activities are meant to use in any way that works for you and your family.

Other good news. Sometimes you don’t have to be part of the mess.

To varying degrees, each activity requires parental involvement – whether that be in the form of activity prep and set up and/or general supervision (this is especially important when babies and toddlers are part of the mix). That being said, our hope is that each activity sparks independent sibling play. For instance, in the Let’s Pretend chapter, a parent may help set up a post office and then her kids use the space and the props for play. (Our kids are known to do this activity for 45 minutes a time).

What are the general guidelines for the different age groups?

You’ll find over 200 activities in this book and each has been designed to engage multiple children of varying ages. The four age groups represented in SBB generally mirror these descriptions:

Baby: 6 to 12 months old

Toddler: 1 to 3 years old

Preschooler: 3 to 5 years old

School age: 6 to 9 years old

Regardless of a child’s specific age, we suggest reading each activity in its entirety before getting started. It’ll allow parents to tailor the activity to their children’s unique interests and abilities. And because children develop at different rates, parents may find a suggestion for another age group will work better for your child.

How much time should be allotted for the activities in your book? Are some longer than others?

Our first answer to this question is: It depends. It can last as little or as long as you and your children decide to make it.  Keep in mind that young kids, especially very young kids, have very short attention spans, while older kids last longer.

Activities in the Let’s Pretend chapter involve about 5 mintues of prep time and if your kids get really into the imaginative play it could last for an hour or two! In general, there are activities that last about 5 minutes (Table Memory in the Out & About chapter) or up to an hour. A quick skim of the material grid and activity instructions should give you a sense of the time involved. Some are simple with no materials required and others are involved. The average activity will last about 20 to 30 minutes. With 200 activities, we’re confident you’ll find one that fits every timeframe.

Regardless of what the “experts” say, the child’s internal clock is the real guide. So, if a child is whipped and moving on, end the activity. If a child is focused and having fun, keep it going.

And, in general, how would a parent know when to stop an activity? (remember today’s parent is often playing with their kids while thinking of other things!!)

Just like anything else, it’s best to stop an activity if the kids have stopped showing interest in it, one or more children are tired, hungry or have stopped playing nicely and require some downtime (reading or coloring independently). However, if you need to stop because it’s closing in on dinnertime or you have to go somewhere make sure you offer a five-minute warning and tack on a few extra minutes for clean up!

Something to be said about alone time

We’ve written a book full of activities for kids to do together. Let’s face it, siblings spend a lot of time together and busy parents need simple ways to entertain their children. We also strongly believe in the importance of sibling relationships and know that this book creates the groundwork for happy memories and fun times together.

Throughout the day, try to find a few minutes alone with each child. Read books together before bedtime, talk a walk after dinnertime or get on the floor and show interest in what they are playing with. A happy child knows that they are special to their parent(s). Happy siblings know that a parent loves each of them uniquely.

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