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How to bridge the age gap between your kids.

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As a work-from-home mum of three young children I know all too well that it can be really hard to find one activity that suits everyone. Games that the oldest child likes to play are far too advanced for the youngest, and baby-focused games are ‘boring’ for the older ones.

My eldest son is five. He’s so ready to start school, but my husband and I decided to hold him back until next year. The last six months have been testing, because he gets bored easily at home. It can be a challenge to find activities to keep him stimulated and entertained. His mind is craving to learn new things that will stretch his way of thinking.

My middle child is three. He is only just starting to move into ‘big boy toys’ but lacks the coordination that some of the smaller parts require. He gets frustrated easily when he tries to play with his older brother’s toys, but has lost interest in his younger sister’s baby toys scattered all over the living room. His interests are varied and his attention span is comparable to a goldfish at the best of times, but his creativity is building by the day.

And then there is my baby, a one-year-old today. Obviously her interests are more basic but her tiny mind is developing at rapid speeds and every day she amazes me with her new skills and her interest in the world around her.

Three kids, three very different ages. Images: supplied.

I’m lucky - all my children get along (most of the time) and love spending time with each other. Provided the activity fits the brief, they all have a good time. I’ve found that the key to success is finding something that allows each child to express their creativity.

Building bricks.

For those looking at ways to entertain a wide age group of children I have found that building bricks are without doubt, the way to go. The great thing about sitting down with a box of bricks is that the possibilities are endless, you can build whatever you want.

You can build trains, cars or boats. You can create a stable for your animals or towns for people. You can build mazes or castles or race each other to see who can build something the fastest. You can even encourage your children’s memory by building something, showing it to them and asking them to build one themselves from what they can remember.

Toddlers are amused by the bright colours and shape of the bricks, and older children are challenged by the building and construction element, so it can be used for solo or group play sessions.

Painting.

My kids love painting but being the one responsible for the cleanup, my heart sinks a little when they ask me if they can paint. A recent scour of Pinterest led me to an awesome mum hack that makes painting accessible for each child.

Basically you squirt a whole lot of paint inside a large zip lock bag with a blank piece of paper inside. Zip up the bag and let your kids go nuts.

You can add glitter or small foam stickers and create scenes for your kids to decorate. Older children like expressing themselves through more lifelike drawings while the younger one can happily sit in the highchair and feel the squishy textures with her fingers, moving the paint around without the mess.

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"A recent scour of Pinterest led me to an awesome mum hack that makes painting accessible for each child."  Image: iStock.

Cooking.

Cooking is not only a great bonding activity but if you choose a dish like ‘make your own pizzas’ your kids can express themselves through their food. Set them up with bowls of cut up pizza toppings (think healthy things like capsicum, tomato, baby spinach, chicken) and let them go wild.

My eldest son is currently enjoying a ‘safari’ interest so his pizzas usually resemble lions, complete with olive noses. My one-year-old is happy exploring the tastes and textures of the different toppings, watching as everyone decorates their bases.

Music.

Music is the perfect creative outlet for kids of all ages and they can all play together. You can either set yourself up with proper instruments like triangles, castanets, xylophones and chimes or you can use everyday objects that you can find around the house.

Upturned bowls make great drums - complete with metal spoon drumsticks if you can stand the noise. Many kitchen utensils make unique sounds and a container with rice in it is the ideal maraca when it needs to be.

"Music is the perfect creative outlet for kids of all ages and they can all play together."  Image: iStock.

It doesn’t matter the age of the child, all of them can engage together in a creative activity like music and if you really want to step it up, get involved in making up your own rhythms and sequences to challenge older children’s memory skills.

How do you bridge the age gap between siblings?