Friday, 14 August 2015

Entertaining Kids With Large Age Gaps (and Surviving)

Let me guess - you're having one of those days with the kids? You know, the usual kind: Some overly-sweet moments of pleasure which are all undermined horribly by frequent bouts of sibling in-fighting, tantrums and general malaise.

You've seen the title of this article and thought to yourself  "Yes! - Some answers, at last!"

Well, I am so sorry to say that while this post might give you a nice little break from it all; a moment to reflect, regroup and de-stress, it won't give you the answers you may crave.

What it will do, is probably leave you agreeing with me, that basically, kids are often not as much fun as the idea of them seemed, pre-children.

There are so many rules to navigate and take-on and lessons to be learnt as a parent, yes?

Just when you think you've got it all sorted, those rules slide in a completely different and unforseen direction and then, back to square one it is. Only, that 'square one' has since morphed into another shape entirely and you're left mediating the chaos anew, without your previously well-honed parenting skills:

Your rules, your ideas, your hope. 
Yup, it all needs re-thinking.

Wine anyone?

Which brings me in a rather loose, (though deeply thought-provoking way), to age gaps and your offspring:

What is the perfect age gap between siblings? Is there a perfect age gap between kids? How do you deal with the issues of age gaps between kids? Are there even any issues to note when there are age gaps between kids?

Answers please?!

So many of us grown-ups spend an insane amount of time plotting out the expansion of our families. Some of us plan our kids down to the exact month they should be conceived in an effort to maximise the absolute best time to produce siblings in order to increase the 'bond' we all presume they'll have with one another.

Others just make their babies when they feel it's time to 'go again' or simply discover that they're already on the way without planning, (before they've even had a moment to think when did that happen?).

I've got to say, with my six, there's been a bit of all of that in the mix as far as family planning went.

Did it help at all? Do the kids get along because of it?
I honestly really don't know and in part, because I don't know parenting any differently.
(I promised I didn't have the answers remember?)

My main reason for having such a big brood, (apart from my crazy, broody over-drive from which I always seemed to suffer), was that in having lots of kids, they would in theory, run off together and play with one another...

and leave me more or less alone.

I've gotta say, that sort of worked and it sort of didn't!

While my kids do run off together and play like one, big, (sometimes) happy group, I on the other hand, am left with so much work in their aftermath, that my alone time is certainly not in the least bit recognisable as any form of leisure time.

Have kids? They'll play!

In truth, I have to say, age gaps between kids of any size are all kinds of good really.

Kids being kids naturally like the company of other kids and we've had the experience of age gaps both large and small with our own. There's always the inevitable fighting, but there's also lots of laughter and happy times to be had together.

Do kids play together regardless of their age gaps? Absolutely. The games kids of multi-ages enjoy together with their siblings are creative, inventive and often touching.

I love to watch them all problem solve a play-house build for example: The big ones will design and the little ones will do the easier tasks of furnishing it with toys. There's giggles all round and it's such a pleasure to watch. Those are indeed warm, fuzzy, 'I've done something great as a mum' moments.

Other times, the bigger kids will play with a bored younger child to keep them entertained when prompted which is where my original plan comes in to play - there are always lots of babysitters!

So it seems, the bigger the age gap, the better they get along and the tighter the age gap, they'll also have fun, (though maybe peppered with a few extra little tiffs due to age.)

My ultimate words of advice though, for keeping kids of all ages entertained, would be to keep a well-stocked toys and games cupboard and always stay one step ahead of the chance of bickering. When things are sliding on a downward slope, bring out a forgotten game from the stash and hope for the best. It usually always works.

Failing that, there's always wine.

This post has been published in conjunction with the Hello Mamas website.
Hello Mamas is a unique social website for women which connects mums with other mamas for friendship and fun.
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  1. Now here's a post for thought!
    My kids are four and a half years apart. They are a dream!!! Honestly. They are a dream. My daughter took the role of "big sister" with gusto and my son can't live without her. Sure they butt heads. She is 15 and needs space, he's 11 and needs to be noticed. But I can honestly say that 90% of the time they enjoy spending time together. Of course they each have their own big activities they participate in outside the home which then makes being home together all the more appealing.

    1. I agree. I have a gap of 4.5 years between the two youngest and they're quite perfect together. It's so lovely to see the way kids can get along.

  2. I wrote a thing on weekendnotes on entertaining teens to toddlers - it's very hard to find activities that keep everyone happy (including the parents). It's do able but usually costs a lot!!

    1. Great! Usually when we're out, we give the teens some freedom to go their own way where possible, even for a short time so that they're entertained. Often my eldest two want to stay home these days and that has helped to cut costs considerably!

  3. My eldest is almost 13, youngest is almost 3! Add in my step kids at 11 and almost 14 and you have some serious age gaps- but the big ones love entertaining the little one- it's worked so well for our family. Plus, WINE! ;)

    1. It's great when the older kids are mature enough to not feel as burdened by the company of the younger ones and it's definitely something that a bit of a gap fosters. Plus WINE!

  4. I've found it gets trickier as they get older- my eldest 11 and the next one is 7 then 5. If we are out as a family it can be tricky finding activities that suit all age ranges.

    1. Actually, 11 is a tricky age isn't it. They're on the cusp of teens and need parental supervision as they're not old enough to go it alone. Hold your breath, it will pass so quickly and your freedom will come! (As per above comments!)

  5. I love your honesty. We have a 3 year gap and I find Dora just smothers Moo with love and really doesn't know how to play with her yet. I look forward to when they do :)

    1. So soon now! Just wait for the youngest to be a toddler... It will be so cute!

  6. I've always wondered whether having mine closer together was a good idea or not - particularly now I'm the midst of weaning and toilet training uggh!!! Love this post and agree if all else fails wine will be my best friend

    1. They're busy times but wonderful ones. Enjoy it while it lasts. That particular memory is amongst some of my favourites with my eldest two who were right in the same margin.

  7. My siblings are all close in age. We played and ran around together, we even had enough for a game of rounders in the back yard! Except when my sore loser brother cracked it and stomped off. We all had our different personalities, but we had one thing and that was love. No matter happens we still love each other.

    1. Things just don't change! Personalities is another thing entirely.

  8. Kids will fight and kids will not ... my siblings and I have fairly even gaps between up but that also leads to a big gap in age from oldest to youngest. Myself and the next are 3 years apart and got along fairly well but had our moments. My next youngest sister is 10years younger than me and we also get along well, better than the two of us with closer age gap, maybe because she looks up to me. My little brother is 14 years younger than me and I became his second mummy which is a whole other kettle of fish in term of sibling relationship. When I was home and he was younger we spent a lot of time doing fun kid stuff together and I was quiet happy to pander to his entertainment needs, and the youngest sister too. I also became their baby sitter which I was pretty happy about most of the time because being their sister they were good for me and more likely to muck up for mum ;) I think it doesn't really matter whether close or far apart, the relationships change and personalities are what come into it the most.

    1. I have found that the older children get along well with the younger ones that are not closest in age. It's quite funny that. Maybe they are not threatened in any way by the younger sibling in the way an immediate one would be. It was the same when I was growing up and I see this now with my own kids. And yes, personalities are the key to the success of it all, as you say. :D

  9. This is a really interesting post and really, who knows if kids are going to get on no matter the age gap. We're past the stage of having kids 'close' together as it didn't work out for us last year so the age gap will always be more than 4 could be good, it could be bad...what will be will be I guess!

  10. I learnt very quickly that there is no perfect in the parenting world. My girls are 3 years apart and we have a mix of good and bad days.

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