Playtime Activities for Babies and Older Siblings
Readers frequently write me wondering how they can still connect with their older child once they have a new baby. Today we welcome Rachael to talk about the solutions she’s found for including the baby in big sister’s activities. ~Alissa
I have two girls.
My oldest is 2 ½. Right around the time she turned two, we started to find our playtime sweet spot. Nature walks, science experiments, pretend play, puzzles, painting, baking, building—it was glorious and messy and fun.
Then along came Baby Sister. As many mothers do, I worried that the poor second child would feel ignored and overlooked. After all, how were we supposed to include a baby in our hands on playtime?
Luckily, including the baby (now eight months) has been easier than I imagined! Here are a few of our favorite activities:
Activities for Babies and Big Kids Together
Make Some Noise
You don’t have to wait until the baby is old enough to bang on pots and pans to include him or her in your musical play. At our house, my oldest daughter loves to serenade her baby sister. The baby raptly listens to our renditions of “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Now that she’s a little older, the baby also joins us in our exploration of musical instruments. Both girls love to “strum” daddy’s guitar and pound the piano keys.
Does your future doctor need a patient? Let the toddler listen to the baby’s heart or pretend to take his temperature. Has the toddler planned a tea party? The baby will happily be her guest! Need students to fill the classroom? Or a supervisor to sit at the construction site? Or guests for the doggy wedding? Let your tot assign the baby one of these oh-so-important roles.
While it’s true that a lot of toddler toys are inappropriate for babies, activities can often be modified to include multiple ages. Sensory play is one such example. Yogurt is safe for (most) older babies to eat and is a great sensory material for babies and toddlers alike. Likewise, both your baby and toddler will enjoy smushing hair gel or shaving cream in a sensory bag.
Should you choose a sensory material that’s not safe for a baby, perhaps the baby can participate by playing with the tools. For instance, when our toddler played with grass seed, our baby joined the fun by chewing, dropping, and shaking the spoons and ice cube trays we included in our sensory bin.
Enjoy the Show
Toddlers love to entertain, and babies make great audience members! Our baby shares my love for physical comedy. If her big sister spins so much she falls over, collapses on the bed, or slips while running on the slippery hardwood floors, the baby will erupt in a fit of (adorable, contagious) baby giggles. Help your toddler find that special thing that makes the baby laugh—peek-a-boo, tickling, raspberries on the belly, funny noises. Laughter is a great way for siblings to bond.
By helping your toddler to include his or her younger sibling in your playtime, you’re allowing your little ones to bond and see the fun potential of having a sibling. With any luck, this relationship will continue to grow and they will become lifelong playmates and friends!
Be sure to visit Rachel’s Blog, Nothing if Not Intentional, for lots more baby and toddler play ideas!
For more fun things to do with babies and toddlers take a look at the Zero to Two eBook!
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Morgan Lena Moss
Even with the newborn, I’ve had her older sisters get their babies and take care of them while I’m taking care of sister 🙂
Perla Karam Skayem
Joelle Rahme Saade Nour M. Ibrahim
Andrea Dunkley Katrina Anderson
Catherine Ramsay x
Thanks Rosie. Max will like the doctor idea, with Charlie as his little patient U0001f60a
Myms 'n' Aj Atanacio
Teh SimonandDaisy rhought you might like to read this so youve got some ideas up your sleeve 🙂
At what age do you wean the elder sibling off being the one who has the audience, attendant, general helper……. Guess the personality makes that work or not.
Jaimie MacGibbon 🙂
Brittany Mesman, leading his little brother to do things he knows is not allowed isn’t considered playing together?! 🙂
Sarah Westfall there might be some good tips in here for you!
Claire Kirby x
Angela, this isn’t really in the inclusion / joining in spirit, but we baby-gated off an area for my older child, not the baby, in the playroom. We called it his “office”, and that was where all the tiny choking hazard toys were and where he could build without baby destruction. I could play with the baby just outside, and we could all see each other and talk to each other, so there was at least some connection. My son loved inviting people into his office. Not nearly as nice as Rachael’s suggestions, but it was a big help for us.
I’m definately trying this with no. 3. BUT what am I to do when little one wants to “help” with bigger ones’ lego buildings and destroying them in the process? Any suggestions?
Rachael :: Nothing if Not Intentional
Hi, Angela! Oh, man. That’s tough! We’ve had some success with encouraging our toddler/preschooler to build towers specifically for the baby to knock down. The toddler likes the process; the baby likes the destruction. 🙂
Or the baby and toddler could take turns rolling a ball into (and knocking down) towers and walls. That way the destruction could be an approved and important part of the playtime for all of the kids.
We’re also trying to teach our girls how to take turns even from an early age. For instance, the older child can’t take a toy from the baby (even if the baby is too little to understand that this is a problem) until the baby drops it and loses interest. Similarly, we tell the baby (even though she can’t fully grasp the concept) that she needs to give her sister space to play/build/create. We don’t want our older daughter to resent the younger one even though the baby is innocent and unaware. 🙂
Your scenario might also be a good time for parallel play. Maybe the older child could build something more complex while the baby builds a simple tower out of chunky wooden blocks?
What do you think? Do you see any of those ideas working in your house? Please let me know if you think of other ideas or would like me to brainstorm some more! 🙂
What I have found with my own kids and I see the same with my grandchildren, that when the younger one is ready to be included in the older kids activities they will let you know.
My daughters first 2 kids are almost 6 and 41/2 and the third is 2. A few months before he turned 2 (or maybe a hald year)he started following whatever the big ones did and insisted on being part of everything. Until then he didn’t really care and just hung out with them and did his own thing until he started becoming more aware of joining in.