It is a commonly acknowledged fact that toddlers often have a difficult transition when it comes to new babies … especially when those toddlers have been only children for awhile. It’s a big adjustment to go from having the focus be on just them to having to share all their parents’ attention with another needy sibling. If you do a quick online search for books for kids about new babies or new siblings, you’ll come up with a miles long list. Obviously it’s an issue, but the hope is that with a bit of planning and some constructive tools in your parental tool belt the transition can become at least a little bit easier.
Here are a few helpful ideas I wanted to share to hopefully ease this passage into being a sibling for your toddler …
1. Prep them with books and stories about siblings
Before the baby arrives you can start preparing your toddler for their new sibling with books on the topic. There are a variety of great books out there to prepare older siblings for new babies, so just Google away. We’ve pretty much read them all. Another thing that was really helpful for my family was making up stories about my daughter and her soon-to-be baby brother going on adventures together. It really helped get her excited (you can read more about it here).
2. Make them your helper
Giving your child jobs that they can help out with once the new baby arrives will help them to feel more involved and connected. The jobs don’t have to be big. Even simple tasks like grabbing a diaper for you or helping to give their baby sibling a bottle will give them a sense of pride and help them feel included.
3. Get them a gift
Okay, so I realize that this probably sounds a lot like a bribe and I suppose that technically it is, but who cares if it works, right? Pick out a special gift for your child from their new sibling that they can open once Baby arrives. We got our daughter a princess dress. She loves all things girly, but we had never gotten her anything princessy before, so getting a present like this from her little brother earned him instant cool points.
4. Ask for their input
Having a new sibling around can make a toddler feel left out at times, so be sure to ask for their input when possible. Asking for your toddler’s opinion on little things such as, “Do you think the baby would like to wear black pants or striped pants?” will help them feel important.
5. Remind them of all the fun things they can do that babies can’t
Babies may seem like they get all the attention, but there are still plenty of things that they can’t do. When your child gets to do something extra fun, try to remind them about how great it is that they can do such fun things that their baby sibling is still too little for. That’s one of the perks about being an older sibling!
6. Invite your child to mimic you with their own “baby”
Invite your little one to play parent alongside you with their own baby doll. When you have to attend to tasks with the new baby, they can work alongside you mimicking those same tasks with their own doll. Diaper changes, feedings, tummy time … it’s a fun way to help your child practice helping and being gentle as well as keeping them engaged during the unavoidable tasks that come along with having a newborn.
7. Remind your child of their own baby days
Show your toddler photos of his or herself as a baby. Talk about how tiny they once were and how you had to help them with so many things back then too before they became a big kid and could do things for themselves. This can create some common ground between toddler and new baby.
8. Schedule some one-on-one time with your toddler
Show your little one that you still have plenty of love to go around by being intentional in carving out one-on-one time with them still. Go on a walk without the baby, have an at-home ice cream date in the backyard once you’ve put Baby down for a nap … get creative. It’s all about quality of time, not quantity. Simple gestures and intentionality will make your toddler feel loved and remind them that they are still very important to you.
Do you have any other suggestions for helping a toddler get acclimated to the idea of a new baby?
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.