You’ve announced to the world that your adorable tot will will soon be a big brother or sister. Maybe you’ve even cut into a cake or opened the box of blue or pink balloons. Your little one is starting to get curious about your growing belly…now what?
Just before my twins turned two, we were thrilled to tell them that would be big sisters. While my belly grew, so did my anxiety about how they would handle the new baby as well as my absence while in the hospital. Our “new baby” is now three and I can honestly say that jealousy has never been an issue. Here are my tried-and-true tips to prepare toddlers for a new baby:
1. It’s our baby.
Every time you talk about the new baby, always say “our baby.” Help your toddler feel a sense of pride and understand that the baby is a gift to the whole family. Encourage your toddler to sing, talk, or tell stories to their baby while still in your belly. Don’t forget to tell stories of your toddler when he or she was in the womb, too.
2. What’s going on in there?
Showing my toddlers computer animated videos of babies in the womb was like unlocking a mystery for them. We even watched the one where the baby is born because they wanted to know. Since it’s computer generated, it was purely factual and there wasn’t anything “gross” about it. There are videos for many stages of pregnancy, so we watched each one when our baby was in the weeks covered. Both toddlers were extremely interested and talked about becoming a doctor or nurse after learning about how babies grow.
3. Be choosy about new baby books.
Pre-read any new baby book before reading it to your toddler! In many books about a new baby, the big brother or sister hates the baby for the majority of the book. Then, on the very last pages, he or she decides that they might like the baby after all. Do not read these to a toddler. Why would you want to give your toddler the idea that they won’t like the new baby or ideas of mean things they could do or say to the baby? No, thank you!
There are many great books out there, but I can personally recommend this book as well this book. They are a perfect balance of being real and positive. (Both have a big brother option as well.) They include great tips for parents at the end, too. Read them often with your toddler!
4. Prepare space for the baby together.
Include your toddler as much as possible in getting ready for baby. They can help put together a shelf as well as fill it full of board books and baby toys. If you buy something for the baby like blankets or a lamp, be sure to ask them for help in trying it out. I let them help me unpack tiny clothes and fill a basket with diapers. Consider letting them help make some art to hang in the baby’s room, too.
5. Welcome Home, Baby!
Leave a poster board, markers, and stickers to make a welcome home sign for the front door or to stick in the front yard. It was an important project to do with their grandma while we were at the hospital and my tots were were very proud to be the ones to announce it to the neighborhood.
6. Let them eat cake.
The new baby should have a birthday cake when he or she comes home. Your toddler will whole-heartedly agree with me here. We talked about how the baby couldn’t eat it, but we’d take a picture for her to see when she was bigger. They felt pretty smug that they would get all the cake for their baby’s homecoming celebration. They got to choose the flavor, frosting, and decorations. We packed it all in a birthday gift bag and left it in the baby’s room so they would know where to find it when I was at the hospital. They were beyond excited to bake a cake with grandma to have when the baby come home.
7. Choose a birthday gift for baby.
You may want to have your toddler choose or make a gift for the baby. Your baby just had a birthday after all! Maybe it’s a book, baby toy, or something the baby can wear. They could even make their baby a onesie with fabric markers. My twins still remember the onesie they chose for their baby sister even though they were only two.
8. Celebrate with big brother or big sister gifts.
Wrap up some small activities or toys and put the gifts in your hospital bag. After you get the sweet pictures of them cuddling the baby for the first time, there isn’t much for a toddler to do in a hospital room. We never said the gifts were from the baby, because most toddlers are too smart for that. We were celebrating that they became big sisters! I also wrapped up this button art activity for them to open at newborn photos after they were done and it was time for photos of just our baby. It was a hit and they were very cooperative knowing there was another big sister gift when they were finished. It also was perfect for our new busy bin.
9. Make a busy bin.
Trust me on this one. Make busy bags by hosting a swap or just stash away some toys and activities now that you can bring out when you need your toddler to be busy, but do not want to turn on the TV again. Put all your activities in a bin unreachable to your tot, so you can quickly pull out a bag. Just hand it to your toddler to explore while you do what you must with the baby. Some of the most popular toy bags at our house were a bag of Lego Duplos and bags of play food and dishes. Even though many bags held their own toys, by the time the baby came, they were just like brand new toys again. Check out this post for some more ideas!
10. Let your tot know what to expect.
Talk about what will happen when the baby comes. Who will be taking care of them while mommy is at the hospital? Let them know that if they wake up one morning and your chosen person is there making them breakfast, that means it’s baby time! How exciting! We talked about the details of things they would do while mommy and daddy were away. Making the cake and sign for our baby was discussed many, many times. Highlighting the special “big sister” shirts they would get to wear to come hold their baby for the first time was always included. This repetition helped them to know just what to expect in their little lives when the baby finally came. My little one who tends to be anxious, did amazing. I really think the repetition of talking through what to expect was key for her.
11. Last, but maybe most important…
Plan to leave your hospital room to greet your toddler coming to see the new baby for the first time. Give hugs and kisses in the lobby and let them have you all for themselves one last time. Give them that secure feeling right away that your love for them has not changed. They can see that you might look a little different, but you are still mommy.
Then, hand-in-hand, you and your toddler can go meet your new baby and start this precious new chapter in your life together.
What tips would you add to prepare a toddler for a new baby sibling?
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