Baby on the way? We’ve got fun (and helpful!) new baby activities for siblings that will make helping kids adjust to a new baby SO much smoother. Read on for our tips on creating a DIY new baby boot camp to help your kids get ready for their new brother or sister.
So you find yourself pregnant with baby number two (or three, or four), and you’ve done everything you can think of the prepare for the new baby. You’ve got the car seat installed. Your crib is set up. And you’ve got a month’s supply of off brand diapers ready to greet your new bundle of joy (hey, this is baby #2 after all).
You’ve done everything you did last time to get ready for the new baby, but there may be one tiny detail you’re forgetting: this time, you already have a kid (or two), and they’re likely to have some feelings about the new kids in town.
Too many well meaning people try to get older siblings ready for a baby by talking up how much fun having a brother or sister will be. They tell them that they’ll get to hold them, and play with them, and teach them to ride a bike and stuff.
As you may have realized, those things are FAR into the future. Mostly, babies just cry and sleep in the beginning. And we don’t want well meaning siblings trying to strap a newborn to their scooter, do we?
Nah, we need to give kids a more concrete way to welcome their new baby. New baby activities that will actually get them prepared to be a big brother or sister, and activities that will be useful in real ways once the baby arrives.
Here are ten ways to help kids adjust to a new baby before their sibling arrives.
This post contains affiliate links. You can read more at our disclosures page. Thanks for supporting The Salty Mamas!
Our rising Big Brothers and Big Sisters have always been the most excited about feeding the baby. Visions of holding a perfectly happy, non-squirming baby dance in their heads. This is what being a big sibling looks like! But as us Mama’s know, feedings isn’t all peaceful babies drinking bottles perfectly. So Step One was preparing my big kids for the realities of feeding a baby!
Okay, so your kids probably aren’t going to be too helpful when it comes to breastfeeding. But if you’re planning to breastfeed, it’s important that you explain this part to your kids before the baby gets here. My 3 year old expected that she would be feeding her baby brother as soon as we got home from the hospital. As I was planning to have him take both breast and bottle, we wanted to establish breastfeeding first – which meant no bottles from big sister for a while.
Explaining this to your kids can help manage their expectations. And who knows, they may become a really supportive source even for breastfeeding!
“It’s okay baby, you got this, the booby’s right there.”
– 5, future lactation consultant, apparently
— The Salty Mamas (@saltymamas) September 10, 2020
To teach bottle feeding, we got each kid a bottle and started by reading the numbers on the side of the bottle. We talked about how much babies drink – not a lot! – because their tummies are so tiny. Have your kids practice checking the temperature of the milk on their wrist to make sure it’s not too hot, and not too cold. Like Goldilocks, most babies like their milk to be just right! Then we talked about making sure you’re holding baby’s head up and how to give him the bottle.
For successful, kid-assisted, bottle feeding, you’ll need a few things. Even better if you can have these things early so they can practice! Once we were feeding a real baby we realized that the kids definitely needed to use a Boppy to help keep him supported! Make sure your Boppy has a nice soft cover (we love this one!) so that your kids will love getting cozy with it.
Related Post: The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Breastfeeding Like a Pro
Even if your kids are too young to help with actually burping the baby, it’s important they know about this step! In my house, our 7 year old can burp his baby brother, but our 3 year old definitely isn’t ready. She does help pat his back when I’m holding him however, so it’s still good to practice. Show kids how to hold the baby (or how you’re going to hold the baby) and practice patting the back correctly.
Even if you don’t want to have your kids help burping, it’s good for them to understand that you’re not “hitting” the baby, but are helping him to burp. Show them on their backs how you’re patting him so that they see it’s not hurting him. (And have them practice on you so that they’re not “burping” too hard!)
Hopefully your littles ones won’t get spit up on, but it might happen! Like burping, it’s good to let them know that this is a possibility. In the past, I’ve forgotten to mention that babies spit up – sometimes a lot! It can be very concerning to big siblings to see their baby spit up, especially if they’re not prepared. They may worry that the baby is sick, or that there is something wrong. Let them know spitting up is totally normal and the baby is going to be just fine.
Bathing was another very exciting prospect for my older kids! They – again – pictured and happy baby getting a peaceful bath. They were distraught when their brother had his first bath at home and screamed through the whole thing. Turns out baby was a lot more fussy – and slippery! – than they imagined! When baby is very small, plan for kids to be observers and assistants rather than participants. They can hand you washcloths, help pump soap and get you a towel. For a while, though, they should probably be hands off while baby is actually in the bath.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t fun ways to participate! My kids loved helping to dry their baby brother and put a little baby lotion on his arms and legs. Then, once baby got a little bit bigger, they were already used to the routine and became great helpers with sudsing the little guy up and helping rinse him off.
Having said that, it’s never too early to get some good practice in! If you have a baby bath you plan on using, get your child a baby doll that they can bathe. You’ll want to make sure it’s an all plastic doll (vs a soft body doll) so that it can safely get wet. We like this cute baby for all our bathing practice. Have your little ones practice lathering up a washcloth and rinsing the baby safely.
One of the most important parts of getting Big Brother or Big Sister ready for baby is to teach them all of the safety issues that come up when you bring home a newborn. To prepare my kids for their new baby, we played lots of games to discover all the Do’s and Don’ts of having a baby in the house. Rather than me make a list and just tell the kids how to treat baby, we sat together and decided to make a list as a family with lots of input from the kids. They came up with some great things to add that I might not have thought of like, “Don’t scare the baby!”
Then I typed up our list and put it on our fridge. Here’s what we came up with:
Make a list that fits your families needs and concerns and remember that you can – and will – need to adjust it once baby arrives!
Another fun game is “What is Safe for Baby?” This game is simple to set up because it uses every day items you can find around your house. Grab a wide assortment of items and put them on a tray or table. Have your kids separate them into items that they think are safe for baby and items they think are dangerous for baby. We used soft toys, very small toys, hard books, paperback books, coins, and batteries. After your kids make their piles, go through them and discuss why they deemed each item “safe” or “unsafe.”
Dialogue about why things are safe or not is very important so that your kids can understand more thoroughly and feel like they are a part of the process. In our house, that this game becomes important to play again in a few months as baby becomes more mobile or as new things become “safe” or “unsafe” in his environment.
Are your little ones a little too little to be very hands on with baby in a meaningful way? That doesn’t mean there aren’t jobs they can definitely do!
Bringing Baby Supplies
Teach your littlest “big” siblings about the different things baby needs. Have them see and touch these items, and most importantly, know where you keep them! Toddlers can still be quite helpful playing a sort of baby version of “Fetch.” Big siblings as young as 18 months old can help out by bringing diapers, wipes, burp clothes, and pacifiers as needed! This makes them feel engaged and helpful – which can go a long way in keeping them from feeling replaced, but rather making them feel needed.
Bringing Mommy Water and Snacks
Self serving? Sure! But I know that when I am taking care of a new baby – especially if I’m breastfeeding – I’m always thirsty and often wanting snacks. Much like my kids have an area in the pantry of approved kids snacks, now I have one too! Set up an area of Mommy snacks so your little ones can bring you a granola bar or a bottle of water while you’re feeding the baby. Also helpful for those times when you’re trapped under a sleeping baby and can’t get up. Again, it’s a small thing that your child can do, but may make them feel like they are a big help!
Pack the Diaper Bag
You’ll want to oversee this so you’re not standing in a parking lot with a blowout and no wipes (not that I’m speaking from experience!) Having big brother or sister help pack the diaper bag is a great project. They can practice counting with diapers, practice folding extra clothes, and will feel a great sense of accomplishment and responsibility when you have just what you need because they packed it. Take this to the next level by buying your child a diaper bag of their own to carry. We love this small crossbody bag, perfect for the new big brother or sister in your house.
Playing with Baby
Let’s face is, there’s a lot that you can’t do with a baby – yet! And your kids might be feeling pretty discouraged with all the rules. It’s important to remind your kids that the baby will get older and be a lot more fun soon. It’s also helpful to focus on the things your children can do right away with baby.
Read to Baby
Even my reluctant reader was excited at the prospect of reading to his new baby brother. While getting him to read to me can be like pulling teeth, he’s more than happy to sit next to his baby and read to him. If your little one isn’t reading on their own yet, remind them that the baby can’t read either! She’d love to hear about the pictures or have them tell her what they remember about the book. Not only is this fun for your little one, but these techniques help facilitate their reading skills as well!
Perform for Baby
My kids love having a captive audience. Usually, it’s me. But now their number one fan is their baby brother and it is a win-win situation! I can cook dinner and they perform for their brother. Once baby gets a little older, they’ll be handsomely rewarded with smiles, and eventually even giggles! Encourage your children to sing, dance, and save up all their goofy antics for when their new baby is around. Our baby has spent COUNTLESS hours in this bouncy seat while his brother and sisters keep him entertained.
These new baby activities for siblings should be just the thing you need to help kids get ready for a new baby. And as a bonus, it’ll give you a meaningful way to prepare for your new baby while spending a bit of extra quality time with your older kids.
But don’t worry, your big kid(s) are going to be just fine. And so are you. You’ve got this, mama.
Looking for more new baby inspiration? Head here next-
- Celebrate YOU With These Amazon Baby Registry Hacks
- Postpartum Freezer Meals for a New Mom
- 4 Fun Things You MUST do While Pregnant (and One Responsible Thing)