I have two children, 33 months and 14 months old. They're both tall for their age, very physical types; climbing, running, etc. They both like to play with vehicles of all sorts, balls, ride on trikes.

That all sounds like a great recipe for kids getting along - except that the older one resists playing with his younger brother, because the younger one isn't able to play 'properly' yet, and just breaks the train tracks, throws toys, etc. - all things you expect a 14 month old to do, really, but not something a 33 month old can handle.

We still want them to play together, though, and are trying to think of ways to help them play together at this age such that they can both enjoy it. Sometimes reading books together works, although the younger one resists that some - he wants reading time to be him-only, as older brother will otherwise take over. Playing at the park ends up in parallel play, but at least it's nearby. Other than that, though, in terms of in-the-house stuff there doesn't seem to be much that works.

What strategies can we employ to help older brother cope with the difficulties playing with younger brother can pose? What kinds of activities might be more successful?

2 Answers 2


Try activities where the older brother's more advanced skills help younger brother do something at his skill level.

Have older brother build block towers for younger brother to knock over.

They could play peek-a-boo.

Older brother could "teach" little brother about body parts (cheeks, chin, elbow, hand, foot, etc) by pointing at and gently touching an appendage of baby's while saying the name.

Singing songs for the baby is sometimes quite entertaining for baby too.

In general, many of the games designed for adults to play with babies can be adapted for an older sibling to play with the baby.

That said, I would also suggest having a safe place for older brother to play big kid things where little brother can watch but not "help" with trains or legos or whatever else he doesn't want knocked over. We put a superyard around the "big kid" play area, and everything else in the living room is fair game for little brother.

  • Good point on walling off an area for big brother. We sort of do something like that now, but we could probably completely barricade a part of his train table (right now little brother can sometimes come back there, though it's hard for him).
    – Joe
    May 18, 2014 at 19:53

Maybe don't push it, they might start to resent each other.

They'll surely end up doing something together, which you can note and encourage. With age they will surely start to enjoy each other more. I remember family games of monopoly with my younger sister by 21 months. Not sure what the 14month can play... rock, paper scissors?

At this point you might take the opportunity to teach understanding, acceptance, patience... and how to deal with others that don't do what you want :)

  • + 1 for pointing out that positive reinforcement will usually work much better than redirection (even if it has fewer opportunists to be put to use .)
    – Jaydles
    May 17, 2014 at 19:27
  • We do this now (positively encourage the play when it happens, and largely don't force it otherwise). However, what I'm looking for really is how to help the older brother cope with the frustration - in part because he's trying to play with his younger brother and failing, and in part because he can't always avoid playing with him.
    – Joe
    May 18, 2014 at 19:52

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