Just a few short weeks ago we added our 5th baby to our family. My older boys (13, 11, and 6) were excited to help prepare for the baby and were ready to take on their role of big brother to our new little one. I guess it was easier for them since they have both been through this whole deal before. They knew that mommy would be busy with the new baby and would ask them to pass a diaper or burp cloth from time to time. They also remembered that even if I had to ask them to wait just a few minutes longer, I would always get back to help them and cuddle.
What was different for my 2-year-old, was that he had never experienced this before. He was our baby! Although we had been telling him that the baby was coming for months, there was no way that he could possibly fully understand what that would mean for him. I did take a few intentional steps to ease the transition for him. After all, a new tiny person entering the world brings lots of changes! Here are my top 5 tips for preparing your toddler for a new baby.
1. Include them in Planning
When shopping, call your little one over to help pick colors or styles. Be sure to say thank you! It’s easy for a young child to feel powerless and unimportant so asking for their opinion means a lot. You can pick a few options that you would be equally happy with and let big bro/sis have the final say on which option to go with. When setting up the nursery you can set a basket and have your child fill the basket with diapers.
Once the baby arrives, be sure to remind your toddler of the choices they made before the baby came. “Wow, remember when we went shopping for this onesie? You picked a great color. I’m sure the baby loves it!”. To tie in your prep activities, you could have them help you with easy tasks. A daily task could be to fill up the diaper basket. Create rto-do lists for your prepertion and have your child check off things as they are complete (use stickers to add some fun!)
2. Role Play
Some kids learn best through practice. Plus, role play is a great way to learn through play. Get down to their level and use a stuffed animal or doll to pretend play what a day with a baby is like. Show your toddler what changing a diaper looks like and feeding. Since these things will have to be done around the clock, it’s good that your little one is aware of their role during this time.While you’re at it be sure to point out and demonstrate the need to be gentle with a new baby.
Be sure to explain the steps out loud and ask your child to help you. Grabbing a diaper or bottle helps them to see that you do want them around and that they can actually assist in everything running smoothly.
3. Graduate them to “Big Kid” Status
One of the biggest changes that I have seen in my 2-year-old is his ability to do things on his own. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were called on for everything that he needed. He was getting bigger and was capable of doing some things on his own but we just didn’t see it.
Once he started to do some things on his own (get undressed, get the books that he wanted to read, clean up his toys) we were able to let go of the reins on some things and let him at least try to do more on his own. PRAISE is the best motivation for a toddler. So, we make a big deal of every new thing that he does on his own.
We also realized that even if he can’t do things on his own right away, after acting them out for him and allowing him to try it out, he was able to catch on to things really quickly. Overall we learned to not underestimate his abilities. As long as it’s safe, let them go ahead and try to figure things out on their own, Putting on and taking off clothes is a great thing to begin with.
There are hundreds of great books that highlight the joys (and fears) of becoming an older sibling. Your toddler will be able to see that they are not the first child to go through this experience. They will be able to get a preview of what having a younger sibling looks like from another kids perspective.
While reading the books point out the similar items that can be found in the pictures as well as your home. That will help to connect the story to real life. We all learn so much from books. try using books to help prepare your toddler for a new baby!
5. Show Pictures
You’ve heard the saying, a picture says a thousand words right? Try this – Find some old pictures of yourself, partner, other children, and your toddler. Use them along with pictures of those same people at other stages in their lives to show that everyone starts out as a teeny tiny baby. This will help prove the fact that the infant stage will not last forever and that it is a normal beautigfu part of life.
All kids are different so their journeys to becoming comfortable with the idea of having a new sibling will be different. With that in mind, try using some of the above tips along with your unmatched understanding of your toddler to help them. Be patient, calm, and deunderstandig with yourself as well. Sometime, this will feel like too big of a battle to fight but rest assured that your toddler will fall in love with their new sibling just like you. Lead with love!!