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Preparing For A New Sibling With A Toddler: The Montessori Way

It can be very stressful introducing a new sibling to any child, especially a toddler. My daughter was 22 months when her little sister was born and I was really worried she would have a hard time with a new sibling. I'm a Stay At Home Mom and during my pregnancy, we had 3+ months of full quarantine, so she didn't have much interaction with any other children before I gave birth. So, I tried my best to get her ready in a respectful, Montessori way.

I have to say she adjusted really well. There are definitely moments that are completely normal with a toddler, but overall she is sweet and kind with her sister.

Here are some tips that I used to prepare my daughter for her new sibling. Shopping links are also included at the end of this article.

How To Prepare A Toddler The Montessori Way:

  • Books – Gift your child a book about becoming a sibling (shopping links for suggested ones are below). The first book I purchased was “I Am A Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church. There is a Big Brother version as well. There are also some sweet, personalized books out there from Wonderbly and I See Me!
  • Baby doll – If they don’t already have a baby doll, get them one to practice nurturing behavior.  I highly recommend a Montessori-aligned Miniland doll: it’s realistic, anatomically correct, and affordable. The best part is that is also water safe, so you can practice bathing it! Another thing to do is take a newborn-sized diaper for them to put on their doll.   
  • Point Out Babies In Real Life – If you see a crying baby while out, talk about how maybe the baby is hungry, tired, etc. If your child isn’t around any babies try to join a multi-age playgroup that has babies in it. The idea is that they will see how baby’s act differently than them and that babies do cry.
toddler meeting their new baby sibling
  • Take Out Baby Stuff Early – Take out baby gear and toys ahead of time, so that they are familiar with them. This is especially good if taking out gear means rearranging their stuff. The novelty of the baby toys will hopefully wear off by the time the baby arrives as well.
  • Not Holding Baby During Introduction – I had read this suggestion in a Facebook parenting group and thought “this makes sense!” By not holding the baby, you can give a hug and snuggles before the official introduction. My daughter had seen me hold babies and never showed jealousy, but I figured it didn’t hurt to try this. It was easy enough to place the baby on the bed and allow her to come to her on her terms. It worked out really well.
sibling setting up high contrast cards for babya
  • Art Activities For The Baby – We painted high contrast cards and made a Montessori-aligned mobile for the baby. My daughter really enjoyed making them and she was proud to show her and to see her artwork in use. Her sister is 3.5 months old and she is still so proud and excited to prop up the high-contrast cards and say she painted them!
  • Bring Sibling to Appointments – If possible, try to include your child in some of your appointments. Invest in a fetal stethoscope to have your child listen to the heartbeat at home.
  • Independent Play – If your child doesn’t yet play independently, now is the time to encourage it. It doesn’t hurt to put aside a box of special toys and activities that you can pull out in emergencies. Keep in mind that independent play is developmental and still should only be expected for short times.
  • Breastfeeding – If you are still breastfeeding your toddler, figure out whether you will be tandem feeding, being sure to set any new boundaries ahead of time. Or if you decide to wean before, allow enough time to do so before the baby comes. Plan for activities (like reading together) to do during nursing sessions.
  • Talk About Your Pregnancy – You can talk about how your body will change and be honest and accurate (no storks!). This can be a wonderful learning experience. There’s a great Hape pregnancy puzzle that can be helpful to explain. Or there are some books to help as well (“What Makes A Baby” by Cory Silverberg is a great, inclusive book about conception to birth). Have them feel kicks and say how the baby is saying “hi!”
  • Gift Exchange – Some parents will have the sibling pick out a gift for the baby and have the new baby “gift” something to the sibling.

After New Sibling Arrives

  • Get Them Involved – Have them pick out a homecoming outfit for their new sibling. When the baby is home, have them help you with things like getting/throwing out diapers for you, mixing formula, or handing you things while you're nursing. This is where Montessori methods come in very helpful since it encourages independence and practical life skills!
  • If There Are Any Medical Conditions, Prepare Them – Try to be upfront with anything that may be going on with you or your baby. If there is any medical equipment or medications required, explain it.
toddler holding new baby
  • Being Gentle With Baby – Demonstrate how you have to support their head. Explain how babies are “delicate,” and that you need to use gentle hands. Work on things like not throwing toys around the baby and body awareness. We are working on body awareness/control by doing yoga, but it can be practiced with any controlled body movements (like in songs).
  • One-On-One Time – This may be the hardest, but the most important. I try to make sure that each day I have oneonone time with my oldest. This means no holding baby (so usually while she naps), no TV, no cell phone, and usually child-led play. Trust me when I say I don’t always succeed, but I find we have easier days when I can accomplish it.
  • Babywearing – I highly recommend investing in a good baby carrier! I would not have survived the first 3 months without mine. Check out Sue's recommendations here. If you don't have the funds, try finding a secondhand one or search clearances.
  • Allow Time – Remember a new baby is a huge adjustment for everyone, and you need to allow time for your child to adjust. Be prepared that there are going to be good days and rough days, and that that is completely normal.

I hope some of these tips will ease some of the stress of adding a new child to your family. I found that it really helped my toddler adjust to her new sibling.

Good luck and congratulations! 

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Monday 1st of February 2021

Great ideas! One on one time and involving the toddler(s) in baby care have been key for us.