As our family has grown, the daily work to keep our household running has also multiplied. Whenever we add a new baby to the mix, it takes a little while to redistribute tasks and learn how we can all contribute. As our kids have grown, we’ve found safe, age-appropriate ways they can help with baby’s care.
From diapering to learning how to calm an upset baby (and in-between), children are capable of being taught how to kindly and carefully help their littlest sibling. Their involvement helps kids feel needed and can curtail resentment about this new (time-consuming) bundle of joy.
Why Teach Kids to Help
Families don’t function smoothly with only one or two people contributing. In fact, in this scenario, you will likely get burnt-out, stressed parents. Instead, families should be a microcosm of a healthy society with each member working together for a common goal.
Teaching older siblings to help with a new baby is a fantastic way to instill character traits such as responsibility, teamwork, and task completion.
Begin by taking a walk down memory lane. Look at some photos of your older children when they were newborns. Talk about the types of care you needed to give them and the many ways they needed help. Invite your children to be active partners in helping take care of your new baby.
While there are many tasks that only parents will be able to do, there are also a lot of little ways older siblings can (actually) be helpful. When introducing new ways to help, make sure to model how to safely take care of baby, practice together, and watch your child complete the task several times with your guidance.
As with most teaching, helping children to care for a new baby is initially time consuming but yields big rewards as older siblings are empowered and invested in your growing family.
Wondering how your children can help with the monumental task of caring for a new baby? Here are some tasks just-right for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged kids:
Ways a Toddler Can Help
It’s a bit scary to bring a newborn home with a toddler in the house. With somewhat unpredictable behaviors (and the occasional tantrum), it’s hard to know ways toddlers can be helpful and not harmful to a new baby.
Consider teaching your toddler to help by:
❏ Getting out a clean diaper
❏ Throwing away a dirty diaper
❏ Picking out baby’s outfit
❏ Singing to baby
❏ Gently burping baby
Ways a Preschooler Can Help
Preschoolers are at a fantastic age to learn how to care for babies. They’re independent and excited to be involved in (even mundane) household tasks.
Consider teaching your preschooler to help by:
❏ Assisting with diaper changes
❏ Helping to dress baby
❏ Giving baby his pacifier
❏ Reading to baby
❏ Pushing baby’s stroller
Ways a School-Aged Child Can Help
While preschoolers can be taught ways to help with baby’s care, school-aged children are able to learn skills they’ll use even as they grow up and encounter more children.
Consider teaching your school-aged child to help by:
❏ Holding baby
❏ Soothing baby by rocking/patting/shushing him
❏ Changing baby’s diaper
❏ Feeding baby a bottle
❏ Assisting with baby’s bath
While most of the tasks above will need to be monitored (and double-checked) by parents, having big siblings help will create a sense of community within your family. Strong family bonds are something worth working towards.
What ideas do you have for how your kids can pitch in with a new baby? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.