Help younger and older siblings learn to cooperate, play together


April 11, 1992|By Donna Erickson | Donna Erickson,King Features Syndicate

Educators in elementary schools across the country are developing ways to promote interaction between students in upper grades and students in lower grades. In these partner programs, the children interact in a variety of ways, from doing good deeds for each other and attending assemblies together to encouraging and teaching one another. Teachers are finding that when big kids teach little kids, the cooperative projects benefit both the older child, who gets a boost of self-esteem as a role model, and the younger one, who enjoys and is motivated by the special relationship.

On the home front, it's often a challenge to encourage play between older and younger siblings. Because of developmental differences between most siblings, it is often difficult to provide safe and enjoyable activities that a toddler, for example, can enjoy with big brother or sister. Yet, it's always a pleasure for parents when they observe their children cooperating and learning from one another. Here are some ideas you may want to try:

* When your 5-year-old is finger painting, your toddler can enjoy a simple "messless" version. Pour finger paint into a large plastic bag with a zipper-type closure. Close the bag tightly and supervise your child as he or she makes designs with the paint by pressing on the plastic bag.

* Encourage your budding reader to try out new skills by reading a bedtime story to a younger sibling.

* For a little exercise and laughs, here's a special version of "Ring-Around-the-Rosey" that you can play with two children. Instead of the standard circle, the three of you stand side by side. Place the younger child between you and the older brother or sister. Join hands and begin singing the rhyme. As you sing, the older child, on the outside, runs quickly in a circle while the adult pivots. The younger child, in the center, simply walks between them. Everyone has a good time, especially when the song ends with "we all fall down."

To share your comments or ideas for family projects, write Donna Erickson, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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