For those who have brothers or sisters, or have watched your children play with their siblings, you know sibling relationships are unlike any other! As a parent, you might think, how you can get siblings playing together at home.

About 4 in 5 children grow up with at least one sibling, and most likely spend more time around siblings than their peers. This time together can help in forming a special bond. Kids learn to play together!

Here are some tips to encourage sibling play.

Allow them to have unstructured playtime.

While making sure they stay safe, let them make the rules of their time together. Try out make-believe play or let them pick the game of the day. Encourage unstructured play by enjoying some time outdoors.

Note the activities they enjoy and try your best to replicate them.

If you notice your children get along best when they’re doing a certain activity, find ways to replicate it. For example, do your children like tossing a ball back-and-forth? Try changing up the object they toss, or adding an extra challenge.

Let your children see you play with and care for their siblings.

Lead by example. Let your children see how you treat their siblings, so they understand how special their sibling is—and how special they are, too!

If you make a mistake, that’s ok! Let your children see how you apologize or make amends. This helps to set a good example of how they can interact with each other.

Encourage communication between your children.

Even if it’s as simple as goodnight and good morning! Communication is an important part of bonding, and setting the building blocks will benefit them in the long-run.

A great time to foster communication is at the end of the day. Here are some great wind-down activities to strengthen their bond.

Give them opportunities to be on the same team.

Play games that are siblings vs. parents, or siblings vs. friends, so they get a chance to be teammates. Try some of these games that they can play together in the car!

Emphasize kindness between siblings.

Getting a pet is a great idea to get siblings to play togetherSiblings can have a way of knowing what makes the other one tick. While fighting is natural, when possible, encourage and emphasize compliments and kindness. Ask them to say something they like about playing with their sibling to that sibling, or if they give their sibling a compliment, point out how nice that was of them to say!

So why is sibling playtime important in the first place? Well it turns out playtime is more than fun—it’s key to building social-emotional skills! In fact, sibling relationships help in all areas of development, including communication and strength.

Here is just some of the good that can come out of siblings playing together.

  • Siblings get to see each other’s behaviors—and learn from each other. Younger siblings often see and learn from older siblings, while older siblings have a chance to practice responsibility, teaching, and leadership.
  • They motivate each other. Children tend to be more into an activity when a sibling is present. Many siblings watch and imitate each other, and they will push each other to do better.
  • They learn a healthy sense of competition. Playtime can often take the form of game play, which involves winners and losers. But losing can be hard. Games help children practice and learn how to handle winning and losing, so there are better outcomes for everyone!
  • The benefits long outlast childhood. As children grow older, they will experience more benefits from their sibling bonds. They will have someone who shared the same home as them and can relate to them.

If your child has siblings, playtime with their brothers or sisters can be very beneficial. So help them go get playing—together!