Preparing your toddler for their new sibling is an exciting time, but it can also feel daunting when you’re worried about how they will react.
Sharing your attention with a new baby is not your toddler’s first choice.
They’re used to being number one in your eyes, and soon they will have to share your attention with another little person. But it’s not just another person, it’s a person who will cry and take up nearly all of your energy.
This new beginning is going to be tough on your toddler. With your attention about to be seriously divided, it’s a great time to prepare your toddler for what’s to come.
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How your toddler may react to a new baby
When a new baby arrives, it can be really confusing for your toddler. Having two to deal with is a whole different ball game to just dealing with one baby, which probably felt like a challenge enough on its own at the time.
When the baby arrives, your toddler may:
- Feel jealous
- Lash out at the baby – expect a couple of bops to the head for the baby (your toddler won’t be able to hit them hard). Try to stay close and anticipate when your toddler is getting too rough.
- Resist bedtime
- Throw more tantrums – this is a classic attention seeking reaction. Try not to get angry, and instead comfort your child through the tantrum.
All of these things make your life trickier as you try to look after a newborn. The first few weeks might be tricky, no matter what you do to prepare your toddler for the new baby.
Using this time to get your toddler ready for the change is a good idea, as you can cushion the blow and mentally prepare them for what’s about to happen.
It’s also a nice time to get quality time with your firstborn, as you may feel like you’re missing the time you used to spend together when the baby comes.
Ways to prepare your toddler for a new baby sibling
1. Talk about the baby
Introduce your toddler to the concept of having a newborn baby in the house by talking about it as much as possible.
Show your toddler any scan pictures you have of the baby as often as possible. Talk about how long until the baby will be here and explain how amazing it will be to have a new sibling.
Be really positive with every little detail, keeping your voice upbeat and talking about all of the amazing things your toddler will be able to do with their sibling.
Use visual aids wherever you can. For example show your toddler the car seat the baby will be using. If you have set aside a specific area for the baby, with a bouncy chair or play mat for example, talk about what the baby will be doing there.
All of this can help to make what’s about to happen feel more real to your toddler.
2. Show your toddler their own baby pictures
The baby days will be fuzzy in your toddler’s memory. Show them their own baby pictures and talk about all of your happy memories from days when they were a baby.
This will remind show them what having a baby will be like, and get them interested in the whole change that’s about to happen.
3. Get them a book
There are lots of books out there that offer a great insight into what having a newborn baby sibling will be like for your toddler.
Reading to your toddler gives them the attention they crave from you, and it’s also a very easy activity for you to do with them when you’re exhausted from being pregnant.
4. Give your toddler tasks
Make your toddler feel important by explaining how much you are going to need them when the baby comes.
Tell them they can help to pick out the baby’s clothes and that the baby will love to play with them.
Explain that your toddler will be the older sibling and that this is a really important task. Your eldest will love feel they are going to be important, and that they have seniority to the baby!
5. Quality time is important
Now is the perfect time to spend as much quality one-on-one time with your toddler as you can.
Do fun things together, such as baking at home or going to their favourite parks. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make it quality time for them.
6. Give your toddler a “baby” to look after
Does your toddler have a doll? If not get them a little doll and show them how to take care of them.
You could set up a simple bed for the doll in your toddler’s bedroom so they can pretend to put them to bed.
This can show your toddler how they can help to care for their sibling. It’s also a great opportunity to teach your toddler about how gentle they will need to be with their baby sibling.
7. Let your toddler pick a gift
Tell your toddler they have a big kid task of getting a gift for their new baby sibling.
Take them to the shops and pick out a gift for the new baby. Try to steer them towards the newborn toys!
You can then get your toddler to help wrap the gift up and write/make a card to go with it. They will love this activity.
In secret, you could also pick out a gift for your toddler that comes from the new baby when they are born.
8. Get your toddler to help with redecorating
If you need to juggle rooms around to accommodate your baby, make it as exciting as possible for your toddler.
Get them to decide on what colours the room will be and let them help you when organising the clothes into drawers.
If your toddler will need to move rooms, then do it sooner rather than later. Switching to a different bed should also be done as soon as possible so that it’s not too close to the baby arriving.
Remind your toddler they’re the big kid and how important it is being the older sibling so that they don’t feel like they are losing out on anything.
9. Choose easy activities in the third trimester
By the third trimester you will be slowing down and having a boisterous toddler won’t be helping with your energy levels.
You don’t have to keep up with crazy busy schedules all day every day to please your toddler. Choose simple, at home activities such as building blocks, playing in the garden and making things together.
Gentle walks and swimming are great for you in pregnancy, but remember not to tire yourself out too much.
10. Maintain your toddler’s routine
Your baby will need to fit around your toddler’s routine, although there will of course have to be a little compromise here and there.
Maintain your toddler’s routine throughout your pregnancy, as big changes may make them feel more anxious about the changes that are happening.
11. Stock up on your toddler’s favourite things
Make sure your cupboards and fridge are full of your toddler’s favourite things to eat for when the baby comes. Although you don’t want to resort to sugary treats all day every day, a bit of bribery with a favourite snack can really save you every now and then.
When you’re feeding your baby, whether breast or bottle feeding, you’ll have no hands free to do things with your baby.
It can help to make a few busy boxes up for your toddler to play with while sitting next to you on the sofa. These may be organised by colour and include favourite books, materials, small toys, kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons, basically anything your toddler may find interesting to explore.
I hope these tips are helpful and give you some good ideas for preparing your toddler for the new baby!
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