Introducing a new sibling to a child of any age is tough. I’m not talking from personal experience, but from the experience of others who have had a second child and found it really difficult. When you find out you’re pregnant your first child’s life is about to change irrevocably, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Luckily as parents we can prepare as much as humanely possible to make the transition from only child to sibling as easy as possible.
We found out we were expecting in April and the first person I told after I showed my husband the positive pregnancy test was Dexter. I have always been of the mindset that we should be as open and honest with Dexter as possible and didn’t believe this situation should be any different.
Dexter loves to know exactly what is going on and exactly what is going to happen. He is a two year old toddler and routine definitely still dominates his life and he thrives on it! If I attempt to leave the house without first explaining that we will need to take the stairs down and get in the car, I will be faced with the battle of him wanting to go upstairs and not get in the car. If I carefully explain that in ten minutes we will go out, walk down the street and end up in Sainsbury’s where we will buy an apple, I will have a happy toddler who knows what to do and what will be happening.
This is why I decided to tell Dexter from day one that there’s a baby in my belly who will grow in there for nine months before he or she comes home to live with the three of us. How much of that did he understand? Not sure, but I’ve talked about the “baba” every single day since and he will now often point at my belly saying ‘baba‘ and offer kisses and strokes.
The next step was to introduce a doll into Dexter’s life that we hoped he could care for and nurture. I have to admit, when I first brought up the idea of buying a doll for Dexter to my husband, he was against it, but he trusts my parenting and came round to the idea when I explained it would be a good way for Dex to transition to having a baby around the house. Dexter already has a bunny which he loves to cuddle and comes with him wherever he goes, I wasn’t looking to replace bunny, but knew if he could show empathy and love towards this particular soft toy, then he could probably manage to do it with another similar toy.
As well as trying to teach Dexter about love, care and family values, I also wanted to encourage some role playing as well. As a child I loved imaginary play; I played with dolls and toys in my own little world which spurred on my imagination and eventually led to a growing passion for creative writing. It is something I definitely want to teach Dex, knowing that role play is so important in aiding early development.
We used a Baby Annabell Sleeping Brother doll which can be used as a role playing toy from 12 months old. He is very soft and cuddly which is perfect for young toddlers and is available for purchase for around £20.
I turned to fellow blogger Sarah who is passionate about learning through play and trained in Early Years Learning (Check out her Facebook group here which is full on wonderful child development ideas) for some ideas on role playing activity using a doll. She had a wealth of suggestion and we tried three of them below.
Changing Baby’s Nappy
We started with changing the baby’s nappy so I made plenty of space on the bed and asked Dex to fetch me the nappy basket which is where I keep nappies, wipes, nappy cream and nappy bags. He brought it over and I explained what we were about to do and how he could help me. First of all we needed to clean baby’s bottom with a baby wipe. I demonstrated what we needed to do and asked Dexter if he would like to have a go which he loved. I then asked him to pat baby’s bottom dry with a muslin cloth before applying nappy cream which was his absolute favourite bit as he is currently obsessed with sprays!
I then put on the nappy which was slightly fiddly as the nappy was way too big for the tiny baby. Dexter did try to wander off to play with his bus a few times but I just kept reminding him that I needed his help to change baby’s bottom and could he please pass me the next thing I needed and he soon regained concentration on the task in hand. All in all a great success and a simple role play game which was done and dusted in less than five minutes.
Reading and Singing to Baby
We decided to get comfy in Mummy and Daddy’s big bed to read with baby and we chose Dexter’s current favourite book Thomas the Tank Engine and a book of nursery rhymes so we could have a sing-song at the end. While we were reading Thomas he had no interest in baby and preferred using his Duplo vehicle to bang him over the head, but when I started singing from the book he took baby’s hand. I wonder if that’s what they do in nursery? Anyway, it was very cute and something we will be trying again.
Dexter has a small kitchen where he loves pretending to make food and feeding himself so I set it up so we could make a yummy meal to feed to baby. Dexter loved making his food and at first he was a little apprehensive about feeding baby, preferring to feed himself or me, but once I had demonstrated it a few times, he started copying and telling baby how nice the food was. Another successful role play activity and lovely to see Dexter sharing his ‘food’.
We’ve had a lovely time role playing with the Baby Annabell doll and I am hoping with a bit more play Dex will get used to the idea of having another little person in the house who he can help to take care of. It’s been lovely to watch his imagination develop as we have role played together and I’ve watched him become more attached to the doll as the week has gone on, eventually asking for the doll to sleep with one night.
Disclaimer: We were sent a Baby Annabell doll to use in this post.