Feeling left out on a sibling’s birthday was never a problem for me. I was born the day before my brother’s birthday. Growing up, we shared a birthday party or had our own parties just a day apart. Needless to say, I never experienced jealousy, because I had just had mine.
Then I grew up and had twins. No problem there!
Seven months after the twins’ second birthday, we added a baby sister.
Problem? It doesn’t have to be.
Real life doesn’t hand out consolation prizes, so I’m not talking about buying the siblings a gift, too. I’m talking about teaching siblings that it’s ok to have a day that’s not all about them and discovering the joy in bringing joy to others. Here are some of my favorite ways to build excitement for siblings who won’t be blowing out the candles:
Discover the Joy of Giving
- Very sneakily, take siblings to choose a gift for the birthday child. This can be tricky when you have siblings too little to understand money, but just narrow down the choices for them based on where you shop. Mine love choosing gifts from the Target dollar spot or book store. You can also decide the category of the gift (such as games, puzzles or art supplies) and then let them choose it from that section of the store.
- Being sneaky and secretive about finding a place to hide and then wrapping the gift is half the fun for siblings.
- Long after her birthday, one of my preschoolers was playing with her dollar spot toy and said, “This is very special to me because my sister buyed it for me. That shows sisters love each other.” Best dollar ever spent!
Collaborative Age Art
- Get big piece of poster board and cut out the number of birthday child’s new age.
- The child who is having the birthday chooses the colors and paint technique, but all siblings work together to decorate it.
- Dot markers, sponge painting, driving cars in paint…there are tons of fun and easy ways to decorate it here!
- The giant number makes the perfect birthday decoration and can hang on your child’s bedroom door until their next birthday.
- If you are having a party, siblings can serve as your all-important party assistants. They can accompany you to buy party supplies, help bake the cake, put stickers on the invitation envelopes, and fill treat bags.
- Siblings can have special jobs at the party, too. From leading a game or being the photographer for older sibs, to handing out napkins and juice boxes for younger ones, there are many jobs that can be done by a sibling.
- Before you do anything you would normally do for your child’s birthday, stop and ask yourself if a sibling could do it, or at least help. Chances are, they can and will love it!
- If the party centers around an activity like swimming or bowling, consider letting older siblings invite one friend. When I was school-age, I remember being glad that I wasn’t the only girl at my brother’s all boys parties.
Sneaky Surprise Decorating
- After the birthday child is in bed, let siblings sneak out of bed and super secretly help you tape streamers in front of the birthday kid’s door.
- Decorate the table for breakfast by putting on a colorful table cloth, sprinkling some confetti, and arranging the gifts at the birthday child’s place. Blow up and toss some balloons around and hang a birthday banner for a fun birthday morning surprise.
- Expect LOTS of muffled giggles!
Talk About It!
- Don’t hesitate to acknowledge moments when you sense siblings are feeling jealous, left out, or just a little bummed. Your empathy can be proof they are not forgotten or unloved, even though all the preparations are not for them this time.
- Bringing feelings out in the open lets them know that having those feelings are ok and will move on soon. Just talking about them usually helps those negative feelings move on even faster!
Despite doing the majority of these things, I could tell some jealously was creeping into my four-year-old twins as they helped me wrap gifts for their sister’s second birthday. After addressing those feelings, we talked about how much we thought she would like each gift and predicted which one she would be most excited about. Of course, I made sure to play up how much I thought she’d love the gifts they chose. They began to see the birthday through their sister’s eyes, becoming excited for her in the process.
When we listed all the things they got to do because it was her birthday, they started to get more excited for themselves, too. Because of her birthday, they got to go swimming, see friends and family, and of course, eat cake! In fact, we figured out that there were only two things they didn’t get to do: blow out the candles and open presents. That was it! Every other fun thing about birthdays was for them, too.
I knew we had successfully navigated what could have been a big problem, when I heard one of my twins say, “I can’t wait for my sister’s next birthday!”