It’s important for siblings to play together, but when there’s an age difference, the word ‘play’ can mean different things for each child. Having to juggle sibling dynamics with the stress of childcare could leave you feeling down for the count. Fortunately, there are ways you can encourage play time that is fun for Baby but also gentle enough for a newborn. And once you develop a game plan, you’ll start to feel like everyone’s on the same team.
Level the playing field
To a degree, aggressive play is normal between siblings. But if you’re worried about aggression coming out during play, it may help to keep an eye on how much attention Baby is getting from the family. Since play can be a way for children to express underlying frustration, making sure that Baby is feeling loved and noticed can help dissolve any animosity before the games even begin.
Instead of encouraging only a few types of play, let Baby and the new baby interact in a bunch of different ways. Ask Baby to sing songs or tell stories to their new sibling, or to draw pictures that describe things like school, a friend’s house, or what life was like before the family got its newest member. Tickling and gentle touches and kisses are great (and adorable). You can also take the two on walks, with Baby leading the way.
Teach and practice assists
Asking Baby for help with the newborn is a great opportunity to help them feel important and needed. If it’s framed as something the two of you can do together for the new baby, or as something that they can do to be a great big sibling, just about any activity can be important in Baby’s eyes. Giving Baby the chance to assemble items for diaper changing, to grab formula for the fridge, or to pick out items of clothing for their sibling can help Baby feel involved. And it can make things easier on you, too!
Don’t stop coaching
Interactions between both siblings are opportunities to teach lessons about love, respect, boundaries, and physical control, among other things. If Baby is being rough, let them know how and why those actions aren’t acceptable. Explain why certain games aren’t appropriate for a newborn, or why the baby does or doesn’t do things.
Never throw in the towel
Despite any setbacks or moments of stress, your hard work will pay off. Raising siblings isn’t easy, and it’s impossible to know the final score as the game begins, but in time your family will get into the groove that’s right for everyone. You’ve got some star potential on your team!
- “Introducing your toddler to a new baby.” NHS choices. National Health Service, March 20 2014. Web.
- “New Sibling in the Home.” AskDrSears. Ask Dr. Sears, 2016. Web.