From the moment you find out your pregnant again, to the moment they place that baby in your arms, there is joy. You have crossed over from being a family of 3 to being a family of 4. Then you bring the new baby home and you realize the safety hazard a toddler can be for a new baby. Your once tender and sweet toddler all of a sudden becomes this monster, ready to poke the new baby’s eye out.
Just kidding, they are really just curious and want to give so much love to the new baby, but don’t know how. At least that is the story of our family. From the moment our toddler met the new baby, she was so excited, and wanted to give her all the love. Even if that meant smothering her in a great big bear hug. Not all toddlers are indifferent to the new baby. Some are overly excited, and have all the love to give. But let me tell you, not all toddler love and affection is safe. Like when the toddler trys to play peek-a-boo with the baby by throwing a blanket over its face. NOT SAFE.
I can now say that our toddler still loves to play with the baby, but our number of hazardous incidents has downsized immensely.
This is how we are teaching our toddler to safely play with our new baby.
1. Create Visual Boundaries
Having a new baby becomes an opportunity for toddlers to learn about boundaries. For us, we created a boundary for the little baby by putting her in the middle of a blanket. And our new rule was, if you’re on the blanket you have to sit. No walking on the blanket. You have to sit. Also, we had to create clear visual boundaries like “Don’t touch baby’s eyes.”
2. Lots of Reminders
This gets old fast, but lots of reminders. I felt like a broken record, but toddlers have short attention spans, and learn by repetition. So anytime our toddler even looked like she may cross a boundary, we reminded her.
3. Discipline Unsafe Play
This has been the hardest part of our teaching moments. Shortly after we brought the new baby home, we had to introduce the time out. It kinda broke my heart, but it worked. If I had reminded our toddler of a boundary and she ignored it, she would have a time out. Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a huge punishment. We simply picked a “time out” corner in our house. Made sure there were no toys or distractions in that corner, and she had to sit there for 1 minute. I like to call it discipline instead of punishment, because we’re teaching our toddler to take a breath an refocus. Running on the blanket where she could potentially fall on the baby is dangerous. She needs to refocus. Getting so jealous that she bites the baby is also dangerous. She needs to refocus. Its teaching her to take a breath. Take a minute. We as adults, more-or-less, no how to do this. We take a beat when we are emotionally overwhelmed and going a bit cray-cray. Toddlers don’t know how, so time outs can be a teaching tool.
4. Praise Safe Play
Anytime our toddler plaus safely with the new baby we made a big deal of it. Laying on the blanket next to baby and talking softly. “Woohoo! Good job playing safely.” Bringing a toy for the baby to play with. “You go girl.” Bringing the baby a pacifier. “You are such a good big sister.” Its important that not all the words coming out of our mouths are “no’s” and “don’t’s.” They also need to be told what they can do.
5. Encourage Her To Show Off
Big kids can do things babies can’t do. We celebrate that with our toddler! We encourage our toddler to show the baby how to dance or “teach” the baby what a triangle is. It makes her feel proud and see how important she still is.
6. Point Out Things Big Kids Can Do
On the flipside, there are a lot of things babies can’t do that big kids can. Point that out too. “Babies can’t eat waffles. They can only drink milk. How boring!” Or “Big girls can play with legos, but little babies can’t.” We celebrate these things as well.
To see how we combated sibling jealousy, check our the baby devo: Miriam And Her Baby Brother
How have you taught your toddler to play with their new sibling? What part of having a new baby has been a learning curve for your family. Comment below.