Encouraging your older child to interact with their baby brother or sister isn’t just about helping them build a bond – it’s good for both their development too. Here are some games you can try and how they can help
1. Play peekaboo
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Playing peekaboo gives your preschooler a sense of their role in the family, while being fun to play for both. “Your older child has the chance to say, ‘Look, I made the baby laugh,’” says Linda Blair, clinical psychologist who works with families. Make sure you tell your eldest to make lots of eye contact with their baby brother or sister.
2. Get their dance on
Sit your baby in their bouncy chair, turn up the music and get your toddler grooving! Your youngest will love watching their big brother or sister. It may even encourage an older baby to try a jiggle too.
3. Let them be in charge of the cot mobile
If your baby has a mobile hanging above their cot, tell your toddler or preschooler that they are in charge of rotating it if your baby is awake and needing stimulation. “Watching it helps your baby’s eye co-ordination, and your older child will enjoy their captivation,” says Linda, who’s author of Birth Order (Piatkus).
4. Create a family montage
Get your older child to choose photos of your family for you to print out. They can then attach them to the mobile above your baby’s cot and talk to their baby brother or sister about who’s who.
5. Discover textures around your home
Send your older child on an errand to collect different objects to show the baby from around the house. Babies love to touch anything that’s brightly coloured or highly textured, so bath towels, cuddly toys or cotton wool would all work well. Your preschooler will feel a sense of accomplishment at helping their sibling, and they’ll have fun too.
6. Build a tower together
Yes, they can build together – well, sort of! With your baby sat in their bouncy chair beside your older child, you can encourage your child to involve their sibling in a building game. “Ask your preschooler to hand the baby a building block to look at while they get on with building the tower,” says Linda. “It will make your older child feel important because they’ve made their brother or sister happy.
“And they’ll also feel good about themselves – they’ll realise how much more skilled they are at building towers than their baby brother or sister.”
7. Make a rattle
Your baby will love shaking a rattle and discovering new sounds. So make the activity more fun for your preschooler by asking them to make one for their baby brother or sister. Simply put rice inside empty, clean plastic bottles and decorate with whatever takes your child’s fancy. Just make sure you seal the top securely, of course.
8. Encourage storytime
Reading is a great way to bond, so ask your preschooler to read to your baby when it’s time for a book together. “You can remind your eldest child not to turn the page too fast so that your baby has time to look at the pictures,” says Linda. “Being involved like this in storytime teaches your older child to see life from the point of view of someone different.”
If the book is a nursery rhyme, your preschooler can try singing the words – a great way to build your baby’s language and communication skills. It just goes to show, it’s never too early to start playing together!
If you liked this article, find out about helping your preschooler build a bond with your baby.