The Crucial Role of Play in Sibling Relationships: Building Bonds That Last a Lifetime


By: Jennifer Stein

Jennifer is a communications expert, active play enthusiast, and proud mom to two.

From childhood squabbles to adult confidants, sibling relationships are often the longest lasting in many peoples’ lives. Did you know sibling relationships are emotionally influential and can have a lifelong impact on mental health?

Ever wonder why siblings can be such a force for good in each other’s lives? It’s all backed by science and proven through research! Sibling camaraderie is a powerhouse for nurturing kindness, empathy, social skills, and academic competence. Those close-knit bonds during the rollercoaster of adolescence are like secret armor against teenage angst and a cheer squad for personal growth. And when life’s storms hit, a strong sibling alliance is the ultimate shelter, helping each other weather everything from schoolyard spats to family feuds.

So how can I, as a parent, help to strengthen this crucial relationship early on between siblings? One sure way to nurture this bond is through PLAY!

Play isn’t just child’s play; it’s a shared adventure that forges bonds deeper than their blackhole of a toy box. Whether it’s engaging in imaginative play or athletic sports, these shared experiences create lasting memories and strengthen the foundation of trust. They’re practicing life’s big lessons in the world’s smallest playground – our homes.

Engaging in play activities is not only enjoyable for young siblings but also helps foster their development and a relationship that will last a lifetime!

Here are some play activities that you can try at home to help encourage sibling camaraderie:

  1. Pretend Play: Spark their imaginations with pretend and role-play games! My children have been engaging in pretend play together since they were just 3 and 5 years old, and they continue now as they grow. A favorite is what they call “Pet Shop” – one plays the shop owner and the other plays the customer looking for that special new pet. You can also suggest a play theme for your children if it seems like they need a little prompt to get them going, for example “Superheroes and Villains’ and it helps to have some fun costumes and open-ended materials around that are easily accessible for them to grab – this will enhance their imaginative play experience.
  2. Building Blocks: Building with blocks allows siblings to work together promoting teamwork, problem-solving, and fine motor skills development. AND, of course we use our Blue Blocks! We have a few set sizes, but the best sets for an at-home space is our Brick Set and Small Blue Blocks. I have never needed a play prompt with the Blocks. Blocks are a classic and kids are immediately attracted to them. My kids play with their Blue Blocks almost every day they are so versatile they are a part of a bunch of play activities, including pretend play!
  1. Outdoor Play: Fresh air activities, such as playing tag, riding bikes or scooters, and exploring nature together are not only vital for a child’s overall development, but also enjoyable activities that can be done amongst siblings. Engaging in physical activity (seasoned parents know to never pass up opportunities to run some energy out) while enjoying fresh air and sunshine – this is a win-win for all!
  1. Arts and Crafts: My kids love doing arts and crafts, especially together! Set up a designated crafting area and provide a variety of materials such as colored paper, markers, crayons, paints, clay, and more. Sometimes my kids will just sit and draw together and other times we will bigger craft projects that we will all do together. What I noticed is that my kids love to share their designs with each other and are super encouraging, giving positive feedback about each other’s designs.
  1. Board Games and Puzzles: Age-appropriate board games and puzzles are great for promoting cooperation, turn-taking, and problem-solving skills. We love board games, but I’ll be honest when we first started playing, we quickly found out my daughter does not like to lose – a lot of those games ended in tears. This was a great opportunity to discuss appropriate actions and reactions and model goods sportsmanship.
  1. Reading Together: Encourage siblings to read books together or take turns reading to each other. This not only promotes literacy, but also fosters a love of reading and creates opportunities for bonding over shared stories.
  1. Sensory Play: Set up sensory bins or trays filled with materials such as rice, pasta, water, sand, or like we recently did, shaving cream and our Small Blue Blocks. Siblings can explore different textures, colors, and sensations together, stimulating their senses and promoting sensory development.
  1. Obstacle Course: We love making obstacle courses and they are super easy to set up! We use our Blue Brick Blocks a lot when doing obstacle courses, but you can use items that you would find around the house or your backyard. You can even use chalk to draw out an obstacle course in your driveway or sidewalk by writing out simple prompts for them to follow to make it to the end. We have made courses where they compete against each other, who can run it the fastest, or they each run it separately, no competition, giving them the opportunity to cheer each other on!

Play is a powerful catalyst for nurturing strong and healthy sibling relationships. Through play, siblings learn to communicate, negotiate, and compromise – all essential skills that translate into healthy relationships later in life. After all, today’s playtime squabbles are tomorrow’s coffee catchups.

Whether it’s through imaginative play, outdoor adventures, or simple games, the time siblings spend playing together is invaluable in shaping their relationship and creating memories that last a lifetime.