A guide to closing the age gap between siblings.

 I have been told, “you’ve got your hands full!”

A little background information is needed to know where I am coming from. I am a mom of four kids. Their ages are 9,5,3, and 2. When you add in my fun nephew, he is right in between at age 4. It is like a set of stairs! That covers a wide range of abilities. I try at family gatherings, parties, holidays, and everyday to do what I can to help these kids by giving them the tools they need to be successful, well-rounded, and independent individuals.  I do have my hands full, but hopefully, below I have given examples of how I have found success in accomplishing tasks with such a range in abilities.

Grocery Store

While shopping at grocery stores, it is inevitable to have to wait. We typically have a wait at the deli and at the registers. My husband and I have worked out a system where he waits and orders at the deli and I watch the kids. During this time, I will direct the kids to the produce section. It is only feet from the deli. I find a nice place that is not in anybody’s way and I begin my “lesson”. I will talk, discuss, and ask questions about the local produce we see. We usually pay attention if there are any special seasonal items or not so commonly seen items and start with those first. Typically, I will as my youngest questions regarding color or shape. I will ask my third born to identify the object. At this time, if it is an unknown item, I may have to tell them the name and give a little description. (i.e. gourds at the fall time) I will move on to my second born and ask him questions about it, like if he can group it into fruits or vegetables. Is it a root vegetable? Does it grow on a tree or bush? I may ask him to compare and contrast items like a banana and a plantain. I will ask my oldest harder questions like to spell the name without looking. We may use a scale to practice weighing items. Depending on how long the weight is at the deli, we get a few rounds like this in where everybody participated and we kept moving on to more items to keep the discussion lively and interesting.

The grocery store has many possible engaging opportunities. Depending on age, a child can hold a small clipboard with the grocery list and can cross them off after finding the item. The list can be words if they can read or they can be pictures.

Identifying the isle numbers above them for the younger children. You can also discuss what is in that isle which provides real life problem solving skills on how to find needed groceries. This shows grouping and categorization.

The older children have the chance to do mathematics with coupons, money, rounding, and recipe ingredient amounts needed.

Even older kids can use a calculator, use decimals, discuss budgets, sale prices, and so on.

Egg hunt

An egg hunt is typically done around Easter time. However, I just threw a “dinosaur” themed birthday party for two of my sons. We had a “dinosaur egg” hunt. These eggs were distinguished as dinosaur eggs by having dots on them. Before the hunt began, I took the time to divide up the eggs and locate them according to skill level. For my daughter, the youngest, hers were left out in plain sight close to the driveway. For my littlest son, his were back a little, but in plain sight. For my second son and nephew, theirs were all the way in the back of our yard by the bushes. For my eldest, he had to find them hidden very carefully throughout the yard. It was a hit! No tears. It didn’t take anyone too long and all were successful.

Dixie Cups

When one child asks for a snack, seems like they all want a snack. Am I right? Well, I am not comfortable giving the same snack to all my children. So I use Dixie cups to help me disguise my rationale. For example, we had purchased red, white, and blue     M & M’s for the Fourth of July. They wanted some as a snack. So, in the Dixie cups, I gave a decreasing amount of candy in each kids’ cup. The oldest got the most with a few and by the youngest, she had only a couple. Everybody is happy!

Wrapping Paper

This one is my favorite!!! With four kids, Christmas morning can be a little chaotic! I am the type that is taking videos and pictures to capture the look on their faces when they see their presents. While doing this, it is hard to read and pass out the gifts. For a while, my oldest passed them out. Then it hit me. I CODED THEIR PRESENTS. I wrapped each kids’ presents in one certain themed paper. The first year, it happened to coordinate with their Halloween costumes because they were obsessed with the character. Each kid knew which ones were for them. Even my one year old at the time knew hers were the pink princess ones! It went so smoothly. A $3.00 roll at Target was enough for the whole job for each kid.

Assigned Colors

Similarly to the wrapping paper, my kids have somehow been unofficially assigned a color. They all seemed to gravitate towards one certain color. I used that to my advantage. They all know what their color is and they know who belongs to what. The toothbrushes are color coded. Even their sunglasses in the car can be passed out due to the coloring code. We have the famous IKEA plastic ware which the kids can use the coloring code to help set the table. I have bins I use for different things throughout the house they can access. I have four shoe bins by the front door in which they know where their shoes go and where to get their shoes. My one year old was able to complete this task independently. Again, it’s about helping them foster independence.

Easter Eggs

Again with the eggs? Yes. This time, they are not plastic. We are talking about dying Easter eggs! I know kids make messes, but dye?????????? That stuff is permanent! I bought the special kid-friendly bib aprons, special spoon, and even whisk device to aide in this process. Despite my best efforts, we had meltdowns over not being able to see, reach, pick the eggs up………….Then I tried this. We all gathered around the kitchen table. My eldest was able to dye the eggs regularly. For my middle two boys, I found these white paper mache eggs from Wal-Mart. They used markers and colored on the eggs. My youngest daughter used these same eggs and placed stickers on them. Since they were all white, they all looked the same, and everybody had a good time!

Pumpkin Carving

Due to circumstances, we were unable to purchase a large pumpkin to carve this past Halloween. So I bought 4 of the Styrofoam pumpkins they sell at the Dollar Tree. My husband worked with my eldest and they actually used tools from previous kits and carved the Styrofoam. NO MESS!!!!!!! It was great. For my middle two boys, I also purchased from the Dollar Tree, two kits with face pieces that you insert into the pumpkin. It’s like a Mr. Potato Head situation. I won’t say that all the pieces ended up perfectly where they should be, but they had a great time being able to do this activity on their own. And I assisted my daughter whom I gave sticker face parts to place on the pumpkin. We displayed them for all to see!

These, hopefully, have been good examples of how everybody can be involved with an activity and how everyone can participate as a family. Please let me know what you thought of my ideas. Is this something that I can continue to give ideas on in the future? Is there anything specific subject matter I can address?

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