This is Kim, Robin’s sister-in-law. I have three amazing daughters. In my 4.5 years of being a mom, I’ve read a fair amount about parenting and have gotten some really great (and some really terrible, uninvited, and/or borderline-criminal) advice along the way. I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you from time to time.
When I got pregnant for a second and third time, like most parents, I was concerned about how my older children would react. I didn’t want them to feel replaced and I didn’t want them to resent the new arrival.
When I got pregnant with my second child, my first was only a year old. She barely understood what was happening. So, I had her talk to the baby through my belly, try out the bouncy chair and the crib, separate the baby’s clothes, and small jobs like that to help her feel a part of the process.
When I got pregnant with my third, my girls were four and two. They were much more aware of what was going on. So, I tried to come up with more involved activities to get the girls excited about being big sisters to a new baby and to help them feel as though they were involved in the preparation for her arrival. Here’s what we did:
After we decided on the bedding set for the new baby’s nursery a few months before the baby was due, I went to the art supply store and got a bunch of different sized canvases and paints that matched the bedding. The girls and I then measured the space above the baby’s crib and decided on how we would arrange the canvases. [This is a great math/spatial reasoning project for older children.] Once we planned for the arrangement, I hung the blank canvases on the wall. Over the course of the rest of my pregnancy, we would occasionally take canvases off the wall and paint them. As we finished the paintings, we hung them back up so that we could see the “art wall” take shape. It was great to have a go-to project when the girls were bored, plus it gave us the chance to experiment with different painting techniques. The girls loved seeing their work displayed on the wall, and it was fun for them to make a handmade gift for their sister. The girls actually finished the last canvas with their grandma while mom and dad were in the hospital with the new baby. Perfect timing! And it looks gorgeous!
ONESIE TIE DYE or PAINTING
The girls got a tie dye kit as a gift and they had so much fun making their own shirts, so I thought they would really enjoy another project making clothes for their baby sister. I remembered that when my older girls were babies, I rarely chose to put them in plain white onesies when there were so many cuter outfits to choose from, so we took the plain white onesies and tie dyed them, along with some shirts and a receiving blanket. This activity is definitely better for older kids, since the actual dyeing should really be done by an adult and younger ones lose interest quickly. Alternatively, use fabric paint or markers so that the big sibs can be more involved and you don’t have to do it all in one go (tie dye must all be used in one sitting).
BIG SISTER PARTY
Because I was having a third girl and in need of pretty much nothing, I saw no reason to have a baby shower. Instead, I decided to have a “Big Sister Tea Party” to celebrate the girls. I based the activities on a blessingway party, and tailored it for their age. A month or so before I planned on having the party, I started mentioning it to the girls and asked them to come up with a guest list, which I made sure remained small and intimate. Then we went to the store to get them special dresses that were specifically for the party (this helped build up the anticipation, since they were so excited to wear the dresses!). I also made them some garlands for their hair so they would feel extra special. On the invitation, I asked that there be no gifts, but instead guests could bring their favorite quotes about sisters and/or pretty beads.
At the party, we had a few stations. On the main table, guests could make pages for the girls’ “Big Sister Book.” Before the party, I had cut pages to size and printed out cute pictures of the girl as well as quotes about sisters. Guests could glue those to the pages and decorate them with markers, crayons, and colored pencils. After the party, I laminated the pages and turned them into a book for the girls.
At a side table, I had various colors of sculpy clay for guests to make beads for the girls “big sister necklaces.” After the party, I baked the beads and we strung them into necklaces that the girls could wear when they met their sister for the first time. If I were to do this again, I would give guests a little more guidance to make smaller beads. The beads ended up being huge and heavy, and the girls found the necklaces uncomfortable to wear. They still had fun though!
Towards the end of the party, we did belly and face painting. It is “traditional” to use henna to paint mama’s belly at a blessingway, but the henna can stain and takes a while to dry. So instead I went with face painting crayons. First, the kids all came and painted my belly, and then the adults helped paint the kids’ faces. What a huge hit!
And what’s a party without a little something sweet? Since it was a tea party, I made little finger sandwiches and tea, and then after that I made cupcakes. I brought each girl a cupcake with a candle, and the guests made wishes for the girls as big sisters before they blew them out.
Obviously, the party took a ton of planning and effort, but I’m sure there are simpler ways to do it. As long as the big sibs feel special and have a good time, mission accomplished!
These are just some ideas for making the transition to being a big sib exciting and fun. There are infinite possibilities! Work with your soon-to-be big sibs to figure out what you would like to do and go for it!