Preparing A Toddler For A New Baby

Newborn Baby In Hospital

We are excited to announce that we welcomed our second daughter (who we will refer to as ‘E’) into the world in Mid-March.

At the time of writing this, she is nearly 6 weeks old, and things are going well as we’ve settled into life with two under two!

Overall K is adjusting great to being a big sister and we feel that the activities we did to prepare her for this big life change definitely helped.

In this post, we are going to share how we prepared K for the new baby before she arrived and what we’ve been doing since she’s been home to help the adjustment go smoothly.

Talking About The Change

This one is maybe the most obvious and natural, but because it’s the most important we felt we needed to mention it first.

From the start of the pregnancy and all throughout, we talked to K about how there was a baby in mommy’s tummy and that she would be getting a little sister.

Whenever we talked about the baby we tried to talk about how K would be involved in the process.

A big change like this can be tough for a toddler, but we feel that talking about it is important and helped prepare her.

Reading Books

This one piggybacks on talking about the change, but we purchased a variety of books that were written to help children adapt to becoming a big brother or sister.

Here are the 5 books we purchased and read to K throughout the pregnancy:

You Were The First – This was the first book that we purchased back in October. It’s a real tearjerker for any parent out there. It highlights baby’s milestones and some of those memorable firsts. 

Hello In There – K really likes this book because of the playful flaps. The momma’s belly grows with each page as the little girl excitedly waits for her sibling’s arrival on the outside. 

Waiting For Baby & My New Baby – This curious older sibling has lots of questions before and after baby has arrived. 

I Am a Big Sister – This one may be our favorite. The little girl adjusts to being a helpful big sister (the same author wrote a book called I Am a Big Brother too!) 

We have found reading books helpful in preparing her for a big changes in the past (we did this with her floor bed transition), and think it was a really big help in this change as well.

Prep For Environment Changes

Big changes to the environment can be overwhelming for little ones and, as you probably know, it can feel like baby items take over the house.

To help prepare K for all of the new items that would be around the house, we made DIY Baby Item Language Cards with pictures of some of the bigger items we have. This included items such as the Bassinet, Car Seat, Stroller, and Nursing Pillow.

We put these cards in a basket on K’s shelf as an activity. We would name the item and talk about what it’s used for, where it will go in the house, etc.

As we got closer to the arrival of Baby Sister we brought these bigger baby items out and set them up in the house.

This gave her some time to explore them on her own terms and not in those first few days of Baby Sister being home, this also gave us time to set safety limits around some of the items.

Baby Activities

Baby Care Basket

K has a doll that she loves and calls “baby.” She sleeps with it, includes it in her play (ie. doing yoga and dancing 😂), and likes to have her close by when she is eating.

Inspired by @MontessoriInRealLife, we put together a “baby care basket” that has items used to care for a baby:

  • Blanket
  • Change of clothes and diaper
  • Wooden bottle
  • Brush
  • Toy
  • Baby mitts
  • Hat

This was one of K’s favorite activities on her shelf for months, and we hardly ever rotated it out because she loved it so much.

When she was helping dress the baby, changing it’s diaper, brushing it’s hair, etc we would explain to her that this is what we will do with Baby Sister.

Watching her be so gentle with her doll, giving kisses and patting it’s back was just the sweetest. 💕

Baby Washing

This is a great practical life activity that also includes sensory play, and helped prepare her for Baby Sister’s baths in the sink.

K enjoyed this activity for quite some time in her Montessori toddler class before we introduced it to her at home. To this day baby washing is still one of her favorite activities.

With this activity, we slowly modeled the different aspects of washing baby one step at a time (ie. holding the cloth in one hand while rubbing the soap against it.) As she washed baby in the tub we labeled the different parts of the body.

We were sure to include K in giving E her first bath (and most since) and she absolutely loved it. She was so gentle (as she was with her doll) pouring water over her and helping wash.

Baby Body Parts Language Cards

This is another great shelf activity (inspired again by @MontessoriInRealLife) that offers great language opportunities learning the name of different body parts.

We created Baby Body Part DIY Language Cards that contain pictures of baby body parts (we also included cards of a baby being breastfed, a baby diaper, and baby diaper change).

When we first started we would label the parts for her, and after some time she would name them herself (in her words 😊).

We made sure we didn’t “quiz” K about what each body part was until we knew that she had mastered them all – something we learned from The Montessori Toddler book by @TheMontessoriNotebook when she said:

“Prompting is kind of a test for a child. And there is generally only one correct answer, so if the answer they give is wrong, we have no other option to say, “No, that flower is yellow, not blue.” Not exactly great for building confidence. Instead, we can continue to name things, ask questions to arouse curiosity, and use observation to see what the child has mastered and what they are still practicing.”

It’s important to note that with the activities mentioned above we let K take the lead and didn’t introduce them or have them set out all at once.

When introducing one for the first time we would include it on her shelf or her table, show her and then let her decide when she wanted to engage with it. We didn’t want to overwhelm her with everything at one.

“The Big Day” Prep

The last step to our new baby prep was to get K familiar with what would be happening around the birth day and meeting her new baby sister.

We made one last basket with DIY cards that contained pictures of:

  • The hospital
  • Hospital room
  • K in her car seat on the way home from the hospital
  • K’s first bath
  • K napping on her first day home

We talked about how we will be going to the hospital to have the baby (that she would stay at home with Nana) and that she would come see us there to meet E.

Unfortunately, our plans of having K visit in the hospital didn’t work out due to COVID-19 not allowing for visitors, but we stayed positive and made it work anyway (we ended up video calling with K from the hospital for her to meet Baby Sister instead).

Instead of having this memorable moment together as a family at the hospital, we got to have it at home in our family room which made it even more special.

Bringing Baby Home

Here are a few things we’ve done after bringing E home to help make the transition go smoothly.

Kept Our Regular Routines

Toddlers thrive with routines, and we tried to keep K’s daily rhythm as normal as possible. COVID-19 put a bit of a wrench in those plans as far as going to school for half-days, but we kept everything else as regular as we could (same morning and bedtime routines, etc.)

It took a couple of weeks but we have found a new daily rhythm that includes starting her day with Zoom Circle time (with her classmates and teachers), a planned craft or activity shared by her teachers, outside time and also time for her to engage with activities off her shelf or others around the house.

Plenty of One-on-One Time

We have ensured that K has continued to have time with just one of us (without E around). This can be difficult when only one parent is around, but with two of us home, we have each been able to spend a lot of time with her one-on-one.

We were even lucky enough to have Nana stay with us the first 10 days after coming home, so there were even times when we could both be together with just K in those early days.

Given Her A Role In Helping

We wanted to make sure K felt that E was her baby too, so we’ve been having her help with things like diaper changes, picking out her clothes, bathing her, etc.

The activities mentioned above did a good job preparing her for helping out, and she’s loved being apart of taking care of her baby sister.

So, How Did It Go?

It was extremely important to us that K felt happy and was able to understand this change as best she could at her toddler age, and we are pleased to say that overall things have well.

We went into this without any experience but learned from a lot of great resources (which we will list below) that helped us set up a plan to make things go as smooth as possible for K.

Parenting expert Janet Lansbury wrote in her blog post “older child who — no matter how much he or she wanted and adores the baby — can experience the new family dynamic as a loss of the life she had before and a threat to her secure place in the family and in her parent’s hearts.”

We knew we could expect some struggles for K that could lead to changes in her behaviour and we wanted to make sure we recognized it and did what we could to help.

There was a week or so after the initial few days of having her home that we could see K was having a little bit of a hard time.

It’s tough to describe this short “phase” she went through, but she was getting upset at by things that normally wouldn’t upset her and she needed extra love at times (i.e. she would want to be carried by daddy around the house a lot).

We made sure that we were always there for her when she needed us to support her through those difficult moments. We felt that it was important to keep that connection with her at all times and that that helped the phase pass by quickly as now at 5 weeks, she seems back to herself.

It can be upsetting knowing that your little one might be going through a hard time adjusting. As mentioned with lots of love and connection sent their way (along with preparing them for the change beforehand) you can feel better knowing you did what you could to help the transition and your little one will be thrilled to have a new best friend.

It has been so precious watching our first baby girl embrace this new role. She loves giving her sister kisses on the head, pats on the back and hugs when she is crying. She “shushes” her to try and soothe her and we see her acting out many of the things we do with her doll and stuffed animals.

We are so excited to watch the relationship between these two evolve overtime as the grow.

Helpful Resources For Helping A Toddler Adjust To A New Baby

Janet Lansbury Articles: Helping Kids Adjust to Life With the New Baby & Helping Our “Good” Kids Express Hard Feelings

Janet Lansbury Podcast: How and When to Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling (or Any Big Transition) 

Montessori in Real Life Blog Post: Becoming a Big Sister 

Simon Davies: The Montessori Toddler Book

Are you preparing a toddler for the transition to big brother or big sister? Is there anything not listed in the article above that your family is doing to prepare for the change? We’d love to get some more ideas in the comments below 🙂

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