Let Them Grow: “Toddlers, Meet the New Baby”
Getting Big Ones Ready for a New Little One
I just had my first baby. I have been waiting excitedly for nine long months to meet her and finally two weeks ago she arrived. I am not the only one who has been waiting anxiously for this little love. There is a gaggle of toddlers all in which can’t wait to meet the little munchkin, whom they named Chocolate Chip Cookie for all of my pregnancy.
Chocolate Chip Cookie will be joining our troupe as the youngest among a slew of rowdy toddlers. So the question is how to prepare them to handle a newborn, how to encourage them to be kind and gentle, to be caring and loving. How to teach them about the world infants and how it differs a great deal from toddler universe.
Talking about the baby arriving is the easiest thing that one can do to prepare a toddler for the arrival of a new baby. Discussing how babies eat, sleep and cry. How they can’t play yet, but will soon grow big like their friends, siblings and parents. We have spent the last three months asking the toddlers questions like:
Does Chocolate Chip Cookie eat cookies?
Does Chocolate Chip Cookie eat apples?
Does Chocolate Chip Cookie drink juice?
The toddler’s love answering these questions, especially when we make them fun and engaging. The response to all of these is “No silly, she drinks mama milk,” or “ No silly, she eats mama milk.” Besides the questions and the multiple discussions we have about Chocolate Chip Cookie, we have come up with some great ways the toddlers can help care for her.
Bigs doing Big jobs
Toddlers like to feel wanted and needed. They can actually be very helpful. By keeping a routine and keeping things organized, a toddler can help with an infant in many ways:
- Helping push the carriage
- Getting things for diaper changes
- Helping with a bottle
- Getting and putting in a pacifier
- Rocking her in the swing or cradle
- Singing and reading to her
Engaging the toddlers in the preparations for Chocolate Chip Cookie has been very exciting. It helps them understand the difference between themselves and the tiny little Cookie creature. However, it does not have to be all talk, there are some fun art activities that older siblings or friends can do to engage infants in their play.
Gifts from the Heart
Toddlers love to make gifts. By helping them make gifts for the new baby, they explore the meaning of generosity. They have a sense of pride and it shows when they are gifting their beautiful project to that special someone. Gifts can be anything from a simple coloring picture, to more elaborate arts and crafts. Here are a few ideas:
Creating a family and friends photo project is fun and easy for a toddler to do. They can relate to photos of themselves, the family and their friends. Include photos of the older children and the baby. Having them create a photo project for the new baby is a great way for them to involve themselves in the baby’s life and have pride in creating a gift for her. Simply print out photos of all the people important to the infant and have the toddlers glue the photos onto colorful sheets of paper. Add colorings, stickers, stamps or paint to make it more personalized. From here you can create a photo book by stringing the sheets together, a photo wall by laminating the photos and gluing them to a poster board or creating a mobile for the infant.
Mobiles do not have to be complicated. A simple way to make a mobile is by using an embroidery hoop or a green branch shaped and tied into a circle. Punch holes in the photos, using a string attach them to the hoop. By attaching a string to three points on the top of the hoop, the hoop will hang straight.
Sensory bags are fun for both infants and toddlers. They are fun to make and can be made almost totally by the toddlers. These bags are made by filling a gallon zip lock bag with almost any thin objects, be sure they are not sharp in order to not tear the bag. My favorites include glitter, stars, sequins, buttons, and foam letters. After the toddlers fill the bags with the odds and ends, fill the bag with colored hair gel or corn syrup to add a unique texture to bags. You can also add food coloring to brighten it up. As an extra precaution, be sure to duck tape the bag on all edges to prevent leaking. Let the infant touch and squish the bag with her hands or feet. Be sure not to allow the baby to lie on the bag, this is a suffocation hazard.
The sensory bottles are similar to sensory bags. I prefer to use small water bottle to prevent them from breaking and for easy handling. They are easy for a toddler to create on their own. Simply provide the toddler with glitters, stars, feathers, buttons, sequins and other fun objects. Use a tray or work outdoors, because like the sensory bags, this could get messy. A funnel will help your toddler fill the bottle easier. Simple fill the bottle with the glitter and other objects, then fill three quarters the way with water and one quarter with vegetable oil, and add a few drops of food coloring to make it colorful. When you are done, glue the top shut with a powerful glue to prevent it from leaking. Infants will love to stare at these sensory bottles and toddlers will love to show it to them.
Toddlers love to create; they love to help and they love to love. Having an infant in the mix can really add to all of these awe inspire toddler feelings. Making sure they are included rather than excluded is the easiest way to ensure a healthy balance and a sustainable friendship between infant and toddler. I am looking forward to having Chocolate Chip meet all of her new friends, as much as they are looking forward to meeting her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candice Chouinard has worked with youth of all ages and backgrounds, creating and implementing programing for children. She revels in hand-on, long-term, messy projects that are both fun and educational. Candice comes from a background in creative writing, as well as, child development and psychology. She owns and operates a day care in Northampton, MA.
(Photo credits: (cc) jamieanne)