Our kids were 4 and 6 1/2 this summer as we prepared for the baby to arrive in the fall. They had many questions and wanted to be involved in everything we did as we got things out and ready for the baby.
Here are some ideas for you as you prepare for #3! Some of these ideas may be slightly different for you if you're preparing toddlers for a third sibling, as mine were preschool and school age, but hopefully they help.
Preparing the house for a third baby!
- Get equipment out one at a time. And do it slowly, so they have time to play around with it. Let them play with it. Let them get used to the idea of having a baby in there. We did the swing one weekend, the bassinet a few weeks later, the crib weeks later, etc. Some of this was deliberate so as not to overwhelm the kids with too many changes at once, but also it was due to timing - you're busy, no time to do it all at once!
- Celebrate baby. Kids are typically excited to have a sibling coming, so let them get in on the celebrating. Let them pick out an outfit or toy for a gift for baby. Take them to the dollar store or Target and let them choose a rattle, bib, bottles, outfit, etc. and don't influence what they choose, let it be their idea.
- Little helpers! They love to be involved. It's how they process what's about to happen and change. Let them help decorate the room. They may suggest putting a picture in a certain spot that you're not totally in favor of, or hanging up a blanket that you want to put in the closet... but it's their way of expressing excitement, so let them do it their way. Have them put the toys in the bucket, stack diapers in the bin on the changing table, pick out which changing table cover pad to use first, pick out socks for the hospital bag, etc. The more you let them feel in charge, in control, and helping, the more excited and happy they'll be, less jealous.
- Let them play! The baby won't need these things for a while, so let your big kids explore a bit. Let them play in the baby's room, with the baby's things, toys, rocking in the chair, etc. My 4 year old had so much fun with the baby toys and honestly it was fun watching her play with her old toys again. She restacked the books a million times and read them to me as I folded laundry. It was nice bonding moments before we were busy with baby around.
- Practice. It's fun to let the kids pretend baby is here with a doll and practice how things go. Teach them how to hold the baby, hold their head, rock them, whisper when baby is sleeping, etc. Let your daughter use baby clothes for doll clothes to practice, as well as diapers.
- Be open with the body changing. Talk about how much bigger you're getting. Tell them when you feel baby move, and have them feel baby kick if possible. It's a cool thing, sometimes weird for them, so the more you help them understand the physical process the better. Some moms even take their kids to ultrasounds and doctor visits to hear the heartbeat.
- Take a walk down memory lane. My kids had tons of questions about what it was like when they were in my belly. It's fun to look back at pregnancy pictures and show them their baby books.
- Visit the hospital- We had a great time touring the hospital with our kids, showing them where the baby would be born. It's important to talk about this process- where the kids will be when you have the baby, who will take care of them while you're in the hospital, etc. We talked about this with them about a month before baby was coming, just in case baby came early. We didn't talk about it a lot but just made sure they knew it was coming.
- Prepare the big siblings- We took a really fun big sibling class for free at the local hospital. You can even take classes at hospitals where you aren't delivering. It was a great night for us with our big kids. They even got a doll to practice diapering and feeding. They still talk about what they learned in their big sib class. There are lots of big sibling books to read also.
- Ask their opinion- Everything is changing, even things they aren't aware of just yet. So let them be in charge of a few things that don't matter. Ask their thoughts on where baby's car seat should go in the car, if they mind moving to the back row for baby to be closer to mom in the front. I let my daughter pick out the socks for baby to wear home from the hospital, and help me pack diapers in the diaper bag. I asked my son where he thought we could put the baby in the car, even though I already knew where I'd put the baby. It was good for my big kid to come up with the idea on his own, so he didn't feel it was something being done to him but rather something he was a part of.