5 Tips for Toddlers with New Siblings
Adding a newborn to the family when you have a toddler can be both marvelous and overwhelming. I remember sitting in awe of how sweet my almost two year old could be with his new brother, excited for the relationship they would share. At the same time, however, I was shocked at how big my toddler now seemed and even a bit sad.
I worried about what I had done to him; was this fair? Shouldn’t he still be the center of my attention? How would he cope with all the new challenges of having a sibling when he was still so little? And a host of other worries, but the exhaustion that comes with parenting two and then three very young children has allowed me to forget many of them.
I can safely say 10 years later those worries were needless. I love the bond my closely spaced kids share and the intensity of parenting in those early years doesn’t last forever.
5 Tips for Toddlers With New Siblings
Let your toddler hear you tell the baby that he or she has to wait while you are helping the toddler. So frequently they hear that they must wait while you attend the baby.
Get a baby doll small enough for your toddler to handle and help your toddler parent and explore their baby doll. There will be things your toddler wants to “help” with that are just beyond their ability or that you need to do yourself for sanity’s sake, and that’s ok. A doll can be the perfect redirection when your toddler wants to play or help with the baby in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
Stock your kitchen (or let someone else) with easy to grab snacks for the toddler. Having some pre-filled sippy cups and single servings foods such as granola bars, cheese sticks, crackers and the like will give you both some grace when you can’t get to making a meal in a timely fashion and you know that your toddler NEEDS to eat.
Go ahead watch a movie, if the only activity you can muster with your toddler is sitting on the couch together, don’t beat yourself up. Lean into the moment, watch a movie you can both enjoy. You can still make it a chance to connect by talking to your toddler about the movie and how much you enjoy their company.
Help your child burn off some of that toddler energy by teaching them some movement songs like The Hokey Pokey, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes,Itsy Bitsy spider, and Where is Thumbkin. Eventually you can rest on the couch with the baby and sing for them while they do the movements.
Remember, adding a new little one to your family is a big adjustment, it’s OK to meet your own needs when you finally set the baby down, whether you need a shower, a snack or 20 minutes to read a chapter of your book, what ever fills your cup. Sometimes you have to put your oxygen mask on first. You will be better able to help your toddler weather the slings and arrows of this new phase in life if you are not running on empty.
Helpful Books for Toddlers with New Siblings:
Little Miss, Big Sis – sweet story of a little girl becoming a big sister. The text is short, simple and rhyming, so it works well for young listeners.
The New Baby – Mercer Mayer’s familiarLittle Critter has a new baby sister and he gets to learn how he can help his mom and dad and what the baby will be like. Helps give kids realistic expectations of what it’s like to have a new baby in the family.
Baby on the Way – Great book for toddlers and preschoolers who want to know more about pregnancy, birth and the new baby. You can easily tailor the amount of information you give using this book.
More resources for keeping your toddler busy when you have a new baby:
- Free 7 Day Toddler Activity Challenge – planned-for-you SIMPLE activities
- Indoor Energy Burning Toys for Active Kids
- 5 Tips for Toddler Play When You’ve Got Something Else To Do
- 5 Simple to set up Toddler Activities
What tips would you add for helping a toddler adjust to a new baby?
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My 4 yo son does not like to play or like to spend time with his newborn sister, I don’t know what to do any suggestions??
My daughter didn’t want to play with her newborn sister to start with. In fact it took a good month for us to get the “baby sister on your knee” photo.
I was a bit disappointed as friends kids were so excited about their new siblings.
I think what helped me is remembering I hadn’t fallen in love with my husband at first sight and realising maybe that it was the same for her. So I just waited. The girls found their way of being and now are so happy together.
It is really hard not to do anything, but maybe try that. After all I’m sure you have enough on just now!
Much love and energy
Each family has to do what works for them for sure…what worked for me was (I took off work 2 weeks before baby came and )every day I played, read books, went on stroller walks with my toddler…and talked about when baby comes he’s going to play with us…told him I loved him and that he was going to be a great helper and a big brother soon…once baby came he got to hold baby…once home each time baby needed to nurse he’d sit beside and we would read books, got toddler to help get a clean diaper for baby… so far they get along great! I think their personalities help but no guarantees on them never disagreeing as they grow up together. (They are 20 months apart)
Thank you for all these great tips. I’m curious though, I have #2 on the way and a 2 year old, and I’m terrified about what my sleep situation will look like once baby arrives. My toddler is the “once I’m awake, everyone needs to wake up too” type, and I don’t know how that’s going to work out with overnight feelings with a newborn, especially those first few weeks. Any tips?
I guess, if I were doing that stage over again I think I would concentrate on helping the 2 year old learn to sleep better in whatever way works for your family and I’d make sleep a priority over everything, because now that I’m not sleep deprived I’m so much healthier and parenting is easier. At the time I was expecting my second I think I tried some things, but didn’t stick with any one thing long enough to see if it truly helped sleep. So I guess my key would be, if you are concerned about sleep right now, ask yourself what one thing you most think you should try to shift and give it a try…but that being said, give yourself and your kid a lot of grace. It will be what it will be and you’ll find a way through.
I’ll ask this week in my Creative With Kids newsletter and see if anyone has better advice for you and let you know!
Thanks for reading,
I had my 3 babies decades ago – but now there are grandchildren and I have employed with success the same technique when a new baby arrives.
Strike a balance between acknowledging that the older one will “always be your baby,” and “isn’t it fun to be so grown up!”
As a grandmother, I liked to hug the new parent and say, “Oh! I miss MY baby. I love you SOOOOOO much!” Or I might ask if the older sibling needs rocking or cuddling or wrapping in a blanket – and letting “baby” cry. Sometimes I might reverse it and say, “Now I’ll be the baby and you be the mommy/daddy!”
Emphasize everything fun the sibling can do that the baby can’t. No ice cream for baby! No playing on the swings for baby! Baby is too little for matchbox cars/princesses, etc. Aren’t you glad you’re not a tiny baby any more?
It is so hard not having enough hands – or enough energy! – for two or more little ones at the same time. But everything works out fine! I say a prayer now for all new mamas: may they have good helpers through such a demanding and rewarding phase of life.
This is so loving, thanks for sharing! ~Alissa
mary ann kerr
One thing I did for my firstborn, was have little hot wheels wrapped up. If a person dropped by with a gift for the new baby, I had a gift to give my toddler. I also had a friend watch the toddler when we picked up the new baby. The baby was asleep up stairs and my toddler and I played together, since I hadn’t seen him for a few days. Then I asked if he wanted to see the new baby. Prior to having the baby, we went through animal sounds and I added whah! whah! for baby sounds. He started to cry when the new baby did, and I just laughed and said, “The baby says, whah!” He was all right after that.
That last paragraph is very important when your breast feeding.
Thank you for this! Baby #3 is due in June, and this will be so helpful for our almost-2-yr-old 🙂
Going to use these on our two year old when our twins arrive!
Great ideas! : )
Great ideas!do you think for 4 year old to connect with their sibling??
Here are some ideas for connecting with babies – many of them are so simple that a 4 year old could enjoy them with their younger sibling too: http://bouncebackparenting.com/simple-joys-with-baby/
Thanks, her final tip is relevant too, sometimes putting baby safely into their bed while u shower & they scream is the only sane thing to do. Just remember their still safe, nothing’s going to hurt them, certainly not a bit of crying which they’d probably do anyway whether in ur arms or not!
Beverley Rademeyer Moreland
Most important thing is letting your toddler feel part of the new group. My little girl just turned two when her sister arrived. From the minute she was born her big sister held her. Whenever I looked she had crept into her crib and was loving her. I had to spend a week in hospital battling pulmonary embolism so big sister helped out so much.
Love this article thanks
We do #5 with “If you’re happy and you know it”. It’s perfect for when I’m nursing and my toddler loves all of the silly things I get her to do!