Ways for Baby And Toddler To Play

I don’t know if it was because we miscarried before having Joy or if it was because my children were almost three years older than the last time we had a baby, but my children were very excited about Joy being born.  Very excited.  Once she was born, there was no keeping them away from her.  We realized pretty quickly that we were going to have to teach them how to play with the baby.  They were going to do it anyway and without instruction it would be dangerous for the baby.

Teach New Baby And Toddler To Play

Here are some things to get you thinking about how you can help your older children play with baby.

Think about what you are okay with your children doing.  This will vary depending on the age of the children and your comfort level.  Can they hold the baby on the couch, pick up the baby, or walk with the baby?  Our 6 year old decided that she was able to carry the baby.  After watching her do it several times, we accepted.  Our 4 and 3 are not allowed to carry the baby but they can sit with her on their lap.

Set ground rules and consequences.

You will want to think about this ahead of time.  Especially if you have an intense, social child like we do.  Most of our rules came about because of something that was happening, it’s much nicer if you can anticipate what will happen and talk about it first.  The most useful rule that we have come up with is, ask first.  Even if I feel confident that the child can carry the baby and play with them safely in another room, I want them to ask me about it first.  If they do not ask first, whatever they wanted to do with the baby is an automatic “no” for the rest of the day.

0-3 Months

Between 0-3 months there is not a lot of play that happens with the baby.  This is a difficult concept for young children.  They want to move the baby and give the baby toys.  Young children are also so energetic and bouncy.  Here are a few things we taught our children:

Move slowly, talk quietly.  This is a big one.  We are reminding them of this frequently.  It is so exciting to them when Joy turns her head and looks at them.  They would perform any circus act that would get them that look.  When she isn’t paying attention, the act gets more intense.  Which brings us to:

Let her look away.  Babies are easily overwhelmed.  There is just so much to process.  Teach your children that when the baby is looking away, let her.  Even though I am not sure how much my 3-6 year old children understand, I explain to them how baby needs time to process.  “When she looks away that is a sign that she needs a break from playing at the moment.  Quietly wait until she looks at you again.”

Not so close.  Kids typically don’t understand boundaries.  They think, “up close = good”.  Show children how far away to hold an item if they want to show the baby something.  And again, it’s okay if baby isn’t interested right now, try again later.

Some activities young children can do with baby:

  • Hold baby’s hands and slowly kiss them, making kissy sounds and pausing to smile.
  • Kiss toes.  Don’t put baby’s toes in your mouth!
  • Sing them a slow, sweet song.
  • Read baby a book

4-6 Months

Baby is getting stronger and much more interesting now.  Here are some games baby might like:

  • Put pillow behind baby (or play on mat/bed).  Show child how to put their thumbs in babies hands and help baby lift themselves into sitting or standing position.  While lift up say, “up, up, up”.  While setting carefully back down say, “down, down, down”.  This game is great because my 4 year old can do it and the baby works out those core muscles.  Of course, they also both like it.
  • Lay on the floor and talk.  My kids love laying on the floor, I don’t know why.  When baby is getting interested in rolling over, put baby on tummy and have sibling sit opposite them.  You can show your child how to show the baby new colors on the play mat or pat hands in front of baby.
  • Sing songs that involve clapping.
  • Dance in front of baby (but not too close!).
  • Play peek-a-boo, slowly.  This is hard to teach little kids.  They want to spring up and shout “Boo!”.  Not only does it scare the baby (well, mine anyway), Mommy can’t handle the noise.  I actually explained to my children about babies not understanding object permanence and that that was why babies liked peek-a-boo so much, not the noise.  I got the “clockworks spinning” stare.  I’m not sure how much they understood.

There are so many benefits to having your toddler play with the baby. It increases their bond and decreases jealousy. Anything that helps young children slow down and be careful is helpful for the whole family and will transfer into other areas of their life. And what mother doesn’t love watching their children play well together?

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