If you are the parent of a new baby and have an elementary age child at home, take advantage of your older child’s ability to help. Elementary age children are less likely to feel displaced by an infant, especially if they feel valued as older siblings. Allow your older child to assist with tasks that make him or her feel important. Through positive reinforcement you can help your child gain confidence and a sense of responsibility.
Here are five ways an elementary age child can help with an infant:
- Bathing - Create a baby spa environment. Ask your older child to work at the spa as an assistant. He or she can set up the room with towels, wash cloths, sponges, soap, lotion, bath toys, and any other necessary supplies. Your child can pick out soft music to play, sing relaxing songs to your baby, or adjust the bathroom lighting. He or she should stay present during the bath to hand you things you need and entertain the baby.
- Reading - Ask your elementary age child to read a book to your baby. It is never too early to expose your children to literature. The more an infant hears the sounds of language, the faster he or she may learn to speak. Your older child will get to practice reading skills while strengthening the sibling bond.
- Organizing - Seek your older child's advice on how to organize the baby's room. Ask the child to suggest ideas for storing baby items such as clothes, toys, and feeding supplies. Allow him or her to make and decorate labels for the nursery.
- Playing - When your baby begins to show interest in toys, ask your elementary age child to spend a little time playing with the baby each day. Tummy time (baby positioned on belly) helps infants strengthen their back and neck muscles. An older child can supervise a baby during tummy time in a safe environment if trained properly.
- Comforting - Babies need a lot of comforting and who better to help soothe your infant than his or her older sibling? Empower your elementary age child to find new ways of calming the baby. Allow him or her to rock your baby in a cradle or bassinet, pat him or her on the back, or speak gently to the baby. With the right support, your older child can also feed your baby a bottle.
Remember to express gratitude when your elementary age child assists you in caring for his or her baby brother or sister. Let your child know how proud you are or how much he or she has helped you. Recognize the tasks your older child is particularly good at. You may even choose to establish an allowance system.