This pregnancy has been the second time we have walked this journey: the journey of preparing preschoolers for a new arrival. We told the girls after our 12 week scan, and so its been a long wait for them... Six months to begin to get their heads round the huge adjustment that is about to take place in our family (just to clarify... The baby has not arrived yet! The photo below is the girls with their little cousin, and he has provided lots of practice for them!) This time round it's been somewhat different... Ava was only eighteen months old when Heidi was born, and the preparation was much more simplified, but yet we have found the same things have helped our girls to get ready.
I've chatted to a few friends recently about how you begin the task of preparing little ones for a new sibling, and I am by NO means an expert... But I thought that maybe sharing some of the things we've done might help someone somewhere!
1. BABY TIME
One of the most helpful things in our preparations this time round has been the arrival of the girls' baby cousin just shortly after we told them we were expecting. They saw their Auntie go from pregnant, to having a real, live baby - one which they have thoroughly enjoyed cuddling, kissing and generally fawning over! Another friend of ours had twins last year, and Heidi loves nothing more than doting over those baby girls. Exposing siblings-to-be to as much baby time as possible is a great way to prepare them... Explain how you handle a baby, show them how to be gentle, let them help change nappies and bath and feed. All of it will help them get excited about the prospect of their "own" baby!
2. DOLLY LOVE
We've always encouraged the girls to be careful with their dolls. I don't know how much is just their characters, but we've not had to encourage them to love dolls at all... They have instinctively fussed over their baby dolls as long as I can remember. There have been times where dolls have been chucked on the floor, thrown across a room and been a little roughly handled, and I've been pretty strict on that. These may be only dolls, but we have to be careful with babies in our house... Real or pretend! This is particularly helpful with smaller ones... For children of two or under, if they can learn how to handle a dolly gently, you're half way there already!
Show them the scan photos, take them to check-ups, let them hear the heart beat, let them feel the baby move... All of this will help move that baby from the realm of abstract to the realm of reality. Ava has so enjoyed this aspect of the involvement this time round (last time she was a bit too young for this one). At three and a half, one of her favourite things is to lay her little hands on my tummy, chatter away and wait for some response. Baby's been pretty good at giving her a good kick back on most occasions, which she's been delighted by!
We've had the scrapbooks out a lot the last few weeks... Heidi loves to sit and leaf through her scrapbook... Looking at baby pictures of herself, asking questions about what's going on. They love to look at their scan photos, and see pictures of me with them in my tummy. All of it helps them understand the process that there's a little person in there who will also one day look back at their own baby pictures!
5. READ STORIES
5. READ STORIES
There are some stories that we've found particularly helpful in preparing our girls for what will happen, both when the baby arrives, and what life will be like afterwards. My favourites are below. Za-Za has seen us through both pregnancies and is a fabulous yet simple story which very clearly explains what will happen. The girls both love it. "Clare's New Baby Brother" was the book I was given when awaiting the arrival of my sister nearly 28 years ago! It's proved to be a firm favourite too! And "There's a House inside my Mummy" is just lovely...
I've been careful with the books I've read to the girls though... I have found some of the "preparation" books to be a little on the negative side... You know, how Mummy and Daddy won't have any time for you any more etc etc, and while I recognise these books are trying to prepare the child for the inevitable "sharing" of Mama's time, I've always wanted to keep the prospect of baby's arrival a more positive experience. Why plant negative thoughts when they hopefully won't amount to anything?
6. SHARE THE EXCITEMENT
6. SHARE THE EXCITEMENT
One of the things Ava has really loved is being able to share her excitement with her friends at school... Taking in a copy of the scan photo, telling them about her trip to the midwife and hearing the baby's heartbeat. All of that "sharing" has helped her to get excited too. Last week, one of my lovely friends, who's a childminder, popped around with her little group to find out more about new babies. The children had great fun learning how to swaddle a baby, looking at my scan pictures, asking questions and listening to stories. They are so fascinated by the whole thing, and Ava and Heidi were thrilled that their new baby in Mama's tummy was the centre of attention.
I'll keep you posted as to whether they've worked or not once this one arrives!
Any other top tips for preparing siblings-to-be?? Leave a comment and share the wisdom people! We're all keen to get fresh ideas!