Creating a bonding relationship between your child(ren) and your new baby does not have to be difficult. There are many ways to foster the relationship organically, and some ways that take a lot more work. The activities I share here are a little combination of the two. They take some effort on your part but it’s just extra effort in the things you’re already doing!
When my husband and I brought our newest member home, our toddler didn’t really know what to do. She did love trying to give him his pacifier (even while he was sleeping peacefully) and loved holding him for 2.5 seconds. However, that was basically it. Our daughter was only 17.5 months when we welcomed her brother, so she wasn’t too interested in interacting with this little inactive human.
Very shortly after bringing our son home, my husband and I started doing different activities to encourage the two of them to bond. The things that our daughter enjoyed, we stuck to. They just happened to be things that already integrated easily into her everyday routine. This was a massive help because we were able to keep her routine as normal as possible while also fostering a bonding relationship and welcoming a new baby.
This Friday, it will have been six months since we welcomed our newest member in the family. Charlotte and Michael are already best friends! They love to play together and interact. They love to make each other laugh. Surprisingly, they even love to care for one another. Maybe that’s not actually too surprising considering toddlers are natural helpers, but it’s definitely amazing to watch!
If you’re welcoming a new member to your family soon, or already have and need help establishing a bonding relationship between children, I think this can help you! Take a look at these 5 bonding activities that can help your children become the best of friends.
1.Bonding Through Teaching
This one was all my husband’s doing but was one of my toddler’s favourite thing to do with her brother. Tim would place Michael on our floor mat and have Charlotte teach him how to wave and how to clap. Tim would demonstrate first and would always accompany the action with a phrase. As he made Michael’s little arms gentle clap, he would say “YAY! Michael’s clapping”. That way, when Charlotte went to repeat the action, she would also repeat the phrase and bring her attention to her brother moreso. The waving phrase was, “Hi Michael”.
Related: Preparing Toddler for a New Baby
Another thing that Charlotte enjoyed “teaching” Michael was how to sing the ABCs. Charlotte memorized the alphabet just a couple days before Michael’s arrival, so singing them to her new brother was a perfect self-concert opportunity. This has branched out to Charlotte singing for her brother just in general. She has a lot of nursery songs memorized and will even tell me when I need to sing one for Michael as well!
Currently, Charlotte is trying to teach her brother how to crawl. She gets on her belly and shows him how to get onto his hands and knees. And then off she goes! He can’t quite get on his knees yet, but he absolutely loves watching her go. I already know that the moment he starts moving, nothing will be able to wipe the smile off either of their faces. They love playing together!
2. Bonding Through a “Pretend” Voice
I once received the advice: Make up a voice for your newborn and use it when your toddler interacts with the baby. I have only ever heard good things about this advice and the wonders it works!
Unfortunately my toddler was not fooled. Probably because my voice acting skills are just pathetic! However, it is definitely worth trying if your toddler is apprehensive on interacting with their new sibling.
Something that did work for my toddler though was giving her a voice for the baby. She picked this up naturally but it made her want to be around her brother even more. Every time Michael was tired, hungry, happy, or playing, my husband or myself would narrate what was going on. For example, “Michael needs a bottle. Michael is going to bed. Michael is doing tummy time!”. Eventually, my daughter started joining in and even doing the narrations on her own sometimes.
3. Bonding Through Dancing/Story Telling/Interactive Play
Like most toddlers, my daughter loves dancing. Something my husband and I did regularly when we first brought home our son was throw little dance parties. We would turn on some of Charlotte’s favourite music (Shotgun by George Ezra, mainly) and dance. I would have one kid and he would have the other. We would just dance together to get my daughter to laugh and have a good time. Dancing always leads to bonding.
Another thing we did was a lot of interactive play. When Michael was born, my daughter was obsessed with pointing out body parts. So, we would have the entire family sitting on the floor together while asking Charlotte to point to someone’s body part. “Where is Daddy’s nose? Where are Mommy’s eyes? Can you show us where Michael’s arm is?”. Charlotte knew she had to be delicate when pointing to Michael, but she loved to show him where his arm/leg/hair/etc. were.
4. Bonding Through the Little Moments
Often times, we tend to forget that the little moments for us are pretty monumental for children. My daughter went 17 months in a solo nursery which basically over-night (but really, a day of work) turned into a double nursery. She didn’t show much concern over the fact that a brand new crib was added to her room, but we still made it a big deal discuss the new crib with her before her brother arrived. Each night, we called it “Baby Michael’s bed” and showed her “Baby Michael’s clothes” once we got those set up as well.
After Michael’s arrival, we’ve established bonding through making the little moments into big moments. When Charlotte gives her brother a little kiss on the head, we celebrate her tenderness. When Michael laughs for Charlotte, we celebrate their friendship. Whenever an unplanned interaction happened between the two of them, we celebrated with Charlotte as a way to teach her the value of the relationship.
It’s been nearly six months since we first started this and their relationship already is amazing and so fun to watch!
5. Bond by Giving Them Time Apart
This one definitely sounds silly, but I’m telling you – it’s so important! Adjusting to a new sibling, especially when you were an only child or the youngest child, is a challenge for kids. Keep your toddler feeling special by giving them quality time away from their new sibling.
A perfect way to do this is by having weekly or bi-weekly play dates set up for your child. These can be with either parent, with a grandparent, or even with an auntie or uncle or older cousin. The important thing to remember is that it is your child’s time to get time away from their sibling.
One way we have done this is by giving our daughter an extra half-hour with both her father and I at bedtime. We spend this time either reading books, singing songs, snuggling, telling stories, playing with her stuffed animals, etc. I also make sure she gets quality time with me during the day whenever her brother is sleeping. This way, her love tank stays filled and she doesn’t start to think her new sibling is “taking away” Mom and Dad.