Bringing a new baby into an already established family with an already established routine can be a bit challenging for everyone, but especially for toddlers. Their worlds are often rocked by the shift in attention. Because of this, I was a little nervous about how my daughter would handle the transition once her little brother arrived.
Here are five ways I’ve learned to help our toddler bond with our new baby:
1. Gift giving
I read that many parents help their little ones bond by purchasing a gift for the older sibling from the new baby. We decided that try this out, but we also let our daughter pick out a gift for her little brother. He “got” her a Frozen dress (a toddler’s dream come true) and she picked out an adorable little Woody sleeper for him. Not only was she excited about the gift-giving, but she was over the moon when they finally got to wear them together. It was almost like I could see the wheels spinning in her head about all the future fun dress-up she has planned for the two of them.
2. “Play” together
Newborns don’t make the greatest playmates, but finding little ways for the new siblings to “play” together can really help to build a bond. We like to read together and “play” with all of Baby Brother’s new toys together. He can’t really interact yet obviously, but it’s fun for my daughter to feel like he’s included in the things she’s interested in.
3. Make your toddler your helper
Depending on the age of your toddler, they can actually be very helpful once the new baby arrives. Before I had Baby Brother, I started teaching Big Sister where certain things like diapers were so she could help out and bring them to me. Not only is it a great help when my hands are full, but it gives her a sense of pride to be trusted and given responsibilities and helps her feel included instead of left out during the otherwise mundane tasks like diaper changing.
4. Play up the “big kid” role
While your toddler may have moments of feeling jealous of the attention that the new baby is getting, we’ve found that playing up the “cool” factor of being a “big kid” really helps matters. When our toddler gets to do special things, we talk about how fun it is that she’s such a big girl to be able to do x, y, or z (i.e. “What a yummy popsicle you’re having! Babies can’t eat popsicles, but I bet he’ll like popsicles when he’s a big kid like you!”). It reminds her that while the baby may be getting more attention at times, there are definite perks to being the older sibling.
5. Give them plenty of attention
It is a fact of nature that newborns are pretty needy, and as such, they’ll require an extra portion of your attention for a bit, but making sure you go out of your way to pay attention to your older child whenever possible will not go unnoticed. Keeping as many of the routines that were important before the new baby arrived is a great place to start. Even in the midst of a busy day, I always try to stop and listen to my toddler, cuddle in the morning when she wakes up, and sing and say prayers at bedtime. These are little moments during our day when we get to bond together, and I’m always looking for more so that she can be assured that I still love and care about her very much and that she hasn’t been forgotten.
How did you help your toddler bond with a new baby, or how are you planning to do so once Baby arrives?