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Big age gap between siblings: How to keep them both busy?

Εver since the pandemic started, I realized how difficult it is to have children with big age gap, stuck all day at home. Specifically, mine are 9.5 and 5 years old, so they have limited common interests. They can play together for a maximum of thirty minutes. Then the fights begin. They go like, “Leave me alone!”, “I want to play by myself!”, “I’m bored!” and so on. Then the oldest one doesn’t want to play anymore, while the little one chases her crying and begging to play a little more. The older one wants to see “Lady Bug”, while the younger one wants to watch “PJ Masks”. Therefore, I hear “Mom!!! Natalie won’t let me watch what I want!!!” or “Mom!!! Helen doesn’t want to play with me anymore!!!” and so on.

In this case, I feel like they play with my nerves, like playing on the guitar strings. I could even sing the “Hysteria” by Muse at that moment! Constantly, I have to think of various activities in order to keep them busy during the day. Otherwise, the laundry will remain in the washing machine overnight, the food in the oven will burn and the house will remain up and down until tomorrow.

It’s true that the unfavorable situation with the coronavirus lasted too long and we all got disorganized at some point. While in the beginning things used to go with the flow, they gradually changed. Suddenly, from the direct physical interaction at school and extracurricular activities, children switched to the distant interaction, with an unknown duration. More specifically, for us, the change in the daily routine of the girls affected their behaviour and their relationship. Unfortunately, for the worse. So, I was thinking and thinking what to do? Trying to figure out some ways to keep them both busy while they were at home. Here are a few ideas for kids with a big age gap: 

Puzzles for different ages: For little ages, wooden puzzles are the best, they don’t break or bend. We have 5 different wooden puzzles with 30 to 50 pieces. While for the older one, we have got 3 different puzzles with 100 to 300 pieces. There are also 3D puzzles. For instance, in the shape of a planet or a lamp that illuminates at night. Those are usually numbered on the back, so the child assembles it easier. Choose puzzles with vivid colors and favorite heroes and also avoid boring and neutral designs.

Books with creative activities: For preschoolers, there are many books with educational activities that include colors, shapes, numbers, letters, words, crafts, matching exercises and more. For older children, let them choose a children’s book they would like to read. A story they might like. Thus, they enrich their vocabulary and spelling skills. Usually, my little daughter imitates her big sister. So, I give them their books and they can sit quietly for up to 45 minutes. 

Spot the differences: Print the same picture for each child individually to spot the differences, with characters and themes they like. Also, you can give them small stickers to stick on their own image each time they spot a difference. Let’s see who will find the most!

Make memory cards: Use a white hard paper, such as a cereal box. Then tell your kids to draw different patterns and animals on it, each one twice. Then cut them out and the memory cards are ready to play and guess!

Get out of the maze: Print various mazes (labyrinths) for children and let them find the way out.

Like the old good days: Do you remember those carefree days when we were little? Back then, one of our favourite all time classic games was the “Hopscotch”. So, grab some chalks guys, go out at the yard and start drawing squares and numbers.

Split it: On a large white paper, the hard one we usually use for crafts, draw a horizontal line right in the middle. Next, give each child a watercolor brush, watercolors and let them create an abstract drawing on each side. That way, they don’t forget to share the space, while simultaneously, they are doing a common activity.

I hope you found the above ideas useful!

Do you have children with big age gap? How do you keep them occupied?


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