Activities for siblings with a big age gap

Are you looking for fun activities for siblings? Mum-of-three Heidi Scrimgeour has these top tips and ideas

A large age gap between siblings can come with its challenges, but there can be lots of benefits too. Heidi shares her experience, plus some of the best activities for siblings that kids of all ages can enjoy.

Activities for siblings

Images from Getty | Words by Heidi Scrimgeour

There are just 21 months between my sons. Yes, that meant I had two children in nappies at once, but it also meant I had a toddler who napped at the same time as his baby brother, which felt like I was winning at parenthood.

When my daughter came along, however, my sons were seven and nine years old. They were thrilled, of course, but I was suddenly aware that the logistics of family life were about to get considerably more complicated.

On the upside, having an age gap between kids meant the older ones were lots of help with a newborn. My daughter’s big brothers gleefully attended to her every whim. Nothing was too much trouble, from fetching a clean nappy to putting on her shoes.

Fast forward a few years, and my children are now seven, 14 and 16 years old. Let’s just say the age gap has become more pronounced than ever. Everything from choosing a family board game to watching a film together has become a lesson in artful negotiation.

And yet, age-gap parenting has as many wonderful moments as it has tricky ones. Reflecting on what I’ve learned from seven years of juggling a big age gap between children, here are my tips for making the age gap between kids work to your advantage.

5 top tips to help siblings bond

Don’t give up on family time

It’s difficult – but not impossible – to find a film a teenager will be as keen to watch as a six-year-old. The key is a conversation. Try saying to the older child ‘We’d love to plan a family night around a film you’d all enjoy – any ideas?’ and let them come up with solutions. My eldest recently suggested revisiting the first Toy Story film for a trip down memory lane, and my youngest loved it. Wonder Woman also appealed to everyone.

Don’t always give in to the youngest

The youngest child probably ‘feels’ the age gap more, as it affects them the most – they can’t do things that their older siblings can. But older children can resent the youngest getting away with things they didn’t. Treat the children equally, and encourage them to see the age gap as a challenge to be worked around rather than a problem to put up with.

Activities for siblings

Focus on the joys of an age gap

An age gap between children has plenty of perks. The older ones eventually become babysitters, and the younger ones keep the magic of childhood alive in the house long after the older ones are too cool for such things. Watching my teenagers race my daughter to see what Santa had brought this Christmas was one of those lovely parenting moments where I realised that the age gap between our children hasn’t just complicated life – it has added something very special to our family.

Be creative with holidays

Holidays are possible with an age gap between kids – they just take a bit more organising. Don’t assume children of different ages won’t enjoy similar pursuits. My youngest has loved learning to kayak with her teenage brothers, and they’re not averse to an afternoon on the beach with buckets and spades.

Think of the fun ahead

Age gaps mean little in adulthood, so when it all seems too much, focus on gathering your kids around your table in years to come, enjoying relationships finally uncomplicated by an age gap. And factor in that you may even be able to pack your younger child off to visit their adult siblings once they’ve left home, making you the envy of your friends.

10 of the best bonding activities for siblings

TV shows: The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing can appeal to different ages, and The Masked Singer pleases everyone in our house.

Board games: Simple card games like Dobble suit all ages, and Dixit is a firm favourite in our house that all ages can enjoy.

Reading: Try asking the older child to read their favourite childhood classic the younger one. The Harry Potter books are the perfect choice.

Nostalgic toys: Get out the long-abandoned Barbies, dolls, Star Wars characters or Marvel action figures for some fun for all ages.

Outdoor games: We set up Swingball in our garden in the summer and all the kids spent hours playing it together.

Swimming: Age gaps seem to disappear in water!

Bowling: Get the older ones to show the younger ones how to score a strike, then let the younger ones win.

Drawing: If you have an arty older child, get them to teach the younger ones to draw. That makes them an instant hero.

Shared interests: There was a brief point where Pokemon interested all the kids in my house. That was a sweet spot of age-gap parenting!

Crafts: Younger ones can never get enough of craft activities, but even teens can get absorbed in a bit of sensory or crafty play given the chance.