Adding a new member to the family is a big change for everyone. It’s an especially big change for the new big sibling, though! They have been used to having all the parental attention on them, and having to share that attention can be challenging. While it’s hard to deny that a newborn baby is in need of a bit more attention than a preschooler who is capable of doing some things on their own, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to successfully explain that to your bigger little one. While there is no gift greater than a parent’s time, when that is in short supply, there are still ways you can share in family togetherness. Here are five suggestions for quiet (and non-messy) gifts for independent play that you can give the newest big sibling in your life. And, hey, who are we kidding: a little bit of material bribery now and then never hurt anyone, right?
1. Their Own Baby
It’s hardly new advice, but consider giving the big-brother- or sister-to-be a baby doll that will arrive a bit before, or even with, the new baby. Little ones love to mimic grown-up behavior, and I’m always incredibly moved by the empathy and caring that toddlers and preschoolers can display. Help the child learn to take care of their baby just like their parents will be taking care of the newest addition to the family. The babies can eat at the same time, sleep at the same time, take a “bath” at the same time, go for walks in their strollers at the same time—you get the picture. At my house, the clear favorite doll is American Girl’s Bitty Baby. Officially, all Bitties are girls, but they can wear the American Girl Bitty Twins clothes, or any baby doll fashions that will fit 15-inch dolls, making it easy to order clothes for a boy baby. Another awesome baby doll choice is any doll from Corolle’s Mon Premier Bébé collection.
2. Their Own Cleaning Supplies
If you’re choosing gifts for a child who likes to help, kid cleaning supplies are fun, too! You can go with pretend play items like Melissa and Doug’s Let’s Play House! Dust, Sweep and Mop set, or you can follow some of the best parenting advice I have ever been given: buy the kid a Swiffer. They think they’re playing, but they’re really helping clean! Additional tip: when assembling the Swiffer floor mop, you can just leave the middle part of the handle/pole out to get a child-sized tool. And whether you assemble a set from the dollar store or purchase a pre-packaged cleaning kit, you can’t go wrong with sponges, clothes, and a spray bottle (or “sniffer,” as my daughter calls it.)
3. Search and Find Books
Search and find books are another great gift idea. The Find It! series from children’s magazine Highlights includes fun themes like At Bedtime, On the Farm, Things that Go, and At the Construction Site. The I Spy series is fun, too, and is designed for multiple age levels, including preschoolers. There are even books that help children learn to “spy” both letters and numbers.
Keep the big sib’s thinking cap on by gifting puzzles! I’m a big fan of Melissa and Doug, who offer great quality and a good price—plus they have a pretty good resale value for you consignors/yard sale folks out there. One of my daughter’s favorites is their Shape Sorting Clock; she can’t yet tell time, but the clock helps with number recognition, placing numbers in order, shape recognition, and color recognition. And she loves to spin the hands, too! While Melissa and Doug makes standard peg puzzles and jigsaw puzzles, I like the idea of the Pattern Blocks and Boards and the Deluxe Wooden Magnetic Pattern Blocks Set, which offer both a puzzle option (recreate the pictures on the cards) and free play (design what you want with the pieces).
5. Kids Digital Camera
Looking for another way to be creative? How about a digital camera? It’s a great way for parents to see the world through their child’s eyes and for a child to record and share what exciting things they saw when mom or dad wasn’t with them. And it’s also a great way to have the big sibling participate in documenting the new family. Ask the child to take pictures of the new baby and of mom or dad interacting with the baby. Enlist visitors to snap family photos on the kid’s camera for the child to see later. And while “digital camera” sounds expensive, it’s really not! You can give the child an old cell phone or an old point-and-shoot digital camera (those with a preview screen are best). My daughter uses an iPod touch. And a bonus of an old—or new—iPod is that you can put read-along books on there! My daughter doesn’t even use the books half the time; she just listens to the stories. Another plus: cell phones and iPods are rechargeable. There are also kid-friendly (read: drop protected) cameras available for purchase. Just be sure to check whether they need batteries and be sure to include some in the gift if they’re necessary.
Happy shopping! Oh—and welcome to the newest addition!