How to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby

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Small brown-haired toddler kissing pregnant belly of brown-haired mom wearing white frock.

When it comes to preparing your toddler for your new baby, a little work ahead of time can go a long way.

As any parent who has watched their two year-old rebound after a spill off the couch will tell you, those little turds are resilient, so don’t sweat it if you’re about 8 minutes away from the big reveal. You all will get through it.

But if you have a little time before your new baby arrives, here’s a list of tips to help prepare your toddler for a new baby, including:

How to tell your toddler about the new baby

If your toddler is anything like mine, the fact that my belly had become big enough to balance an entire place setting on top of did nothing to alert him to the fact that there was a human growing inside me. When you think about it, pregnancy is a bit of a mind fuck for the best of us, so it’s pretty fair that our toddlers don’t have a full grasp on the concept. Depending on your toddler’s age and maturity level, there are a few things you can try to help them understand what’s going on.

Older kids
For kids who are a little older (like, over three) letting them know what’s going on can help them understand changes you might be going through, such as getting more tired, having less energy to play, and feeling nauseous.

Younger kids
For kids who are under three, break the baby news later in your pregnancy, when they’ll have a visual cue to tie it to (we’re talking about your belly here). Since really little kids have basically no concept of time, try to associate the baby’s arrival with something more concrete, like a change in season, or an upcoming holiday.

Tips to Prepare Your Toddler for their new sibling

Show them a Pic
Showing your toddler photos of yourself when you were pregnant with them can help them to connect to your pregnancy on a more personal level, which might help them understand better and get more excited. 

Prepare them for changes in their routine.
If you’re planning to have a C-Section, you aren’t going to be able to do any heavy lifting afterwards (including carrying your toddler), so it might be wise to ease off on carrying them well before baby arrives to avoid the whole “mommy won’t pick me up because of the baby” association. Likewise, if your partner is going to be taking over tasks you usually take the helm on, like bedtime, preschool drop off, etc. start sharing the duties ahead of time to prevent a shock to the system (for your toddler, and maybe your partner, too).

“Our baby”
Regardless of their age, try to get your toddler on board with the new addition to the family by referring to the baby as “our” baby. While it’s true that you’re the one doing all the work to grow the baby, everyone in the family will experience a shift in the family dynamic once it actually arrives, so it’s nice to give them some ownership over the experience, too.

Bring out baby gear like a swing or rocker a few months in advance.
Consider even putting a stuffed toy inside to get your kiddo used to seeing how it’s used so it’s not a novel item that they want to climb on and explore when a real baby is using it to sleep!

Give them a promotion
Let your kid know that being an older sibling is a big responsibility because they’ve got to teach the baby how not to be an asshole when it grows up. Okay, maybe leave out the asshole part, but seriously – get them hyped up on their promotion and let them know how important their new role is going to be. A lot of kids really buy into this.

Safety chats.
Have lots of talks with your current kid(s) about what kinds of things are safe for baby to eat to avoid any choking hazards in case they decide to try to “help” with feeding time. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that any small toys or food are out of reach once your curious baby is on the prowl to taste-test everything in sight, but it doesn’t hurt to have your older kids on the lookout, too!

Nail the sleep routine.
Try to get your child into a consistent sleep routine before the baby arrives, if possible. It will be a definite respite to have at least one kid who knows how to sleep through the night (unfortunately, babies are pretty shit at this).

Get them involved in the prep.
Let your toddler help pick out some décor for the baby’s room, a cute new outfit for the baby’s closet, or a stuffed animal to gift their brother or sister (and buy two because you know damn well they’re gonna want it for themselves when you get home).

Get Them a Doll
To help get them more involved in your pregnancy experience, many parents have recommended giving your toddler a doll. Showing your toddler (boy or girl) all of the ways that they can help to take care of the baby when it arrives, and giving them a chance to practice on a baby of their own, can give them a sense of responsibility and pride that might get them to buy into the whole thing. Obviously, your toddler won’t be changing any actual dirty diapers, but practicing on their doll can help prepare them for some of the things they’ll soon be watching you do.

Best Dolls for a Toddler Getting a New Sibling:

  1. Corolle Dolls
  2. Melissa and Doug Dolls
  3. Baby Alive Dolls
  4. Manhattan Toy Baby Stella Dolls

Read a Great Book Together
Most parents swear by the tried and true “read your toddler a ton of stories about becoming a big sibling” idea. Here are a few books that parents have loved.

mom reads board book to toddler to prepare him for a new baby

Best Books to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby

  1. How Big Is Baby Now? by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
  2. The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
  3. I Am A Big Brother! by Caroline Jayne Church
  4. I Am A Big Sister! By Caroline Jayne Church
  5. Let’s Care for Baby! By Geraldine Krasinski
  6. The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  7. Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  8. Hello in There: A Big Sister’s Book of Waiting by Christine Roussey
  9. The Baby Is Here (Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood) by Angela C. Santomero
  10. You Were The First by Patricia MacLachlan
  11. Peter’s Chair By Ezra Jack Keats
  12. Snuggle The Baby by Sara Gillingham
  13. We Just Had a Baby by Stephen Kresnsky

What are your tips for preparing your toddler for a new baby?

Do you have any tips for preparing your toddler for the arrival of their sibling that we missed? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Our next recos: Toddler Games to Help You Survive Pregnancy Fatigue

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