Changes: Advice from Parents on Preparing for a New Sibling

Over the past year, we have created a blog series on potential changes that may occur in a young child’s life in the hopes that we can help provide some resources for families, caregivers, and educators. For this blog, which focuses on helping young children adjust to a new sibling joining their family, we polled SEEC educators on what they did to prepare. Below you will find their experiences and advice and since we are all always learning from each other, please be sure to comment and share what worked (or didn’t work) for you.


Take a New Sibling Class

Signing up for a sibling class or a sibling tour of the hospital can help prepare young children for the birth of the new baby. Many hospitals offer classes like these and they can help young children to feel comfortable in the hospital, which eases some of the tension that comes with meeting the new baby for the first time.

New sibling classes can also teach young children how to do tasks that will help when the new baby comes. These tasks may include diapering, singing songs to the baby, or bringing mom a snack. Practicing these tasks ahead of time means that your child will be able to start immediately helping when the baby arrives. Your child might even start seeing themselves as a “helper”. As one of our parents explains, “I made sure that I gave my oldest specific tasks to help with the baby so she would feel included. She was able to help me diaper the baby and I wonder if that wasn’t something that helped her not regress when the baby was born.”

Preparing the Room

Several parents cited the importance of having the new baby’s room or crib prepared before the baby arrives. Some parents explained that having the crib set up helped children to think of and verbalize their questions as it served as a concrete reminder that the baby was coming. Other parents said that having the crib set up ahead of time made it so that their older children did not experience too many changes at once. The older child was able to get used to sleeping in a bed or even sharing bedrooms with older siblings before the baby came.



Another great way to help families prepare is to read books together. Books can give adults language for how to discuss the changes that are coming up and they can help give children an idea of what life will be like with the new baby. Some of our favorite books about getting a new baby are You’re Getting a Baby Brother! by Sheila Sweeny Higginson, Hannah Is a Big Sister by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, The New Baby at Your House by Joanna Cole, and Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats.


Picking out Presents

A fun way to prepare for the new baby is to have the older siblings pick out presents to give to the baby. Take them to the store and have them pick out a special present. Children can help with the wrapping process too. When the baby is born, bring the presents to the hospital and have the children give it to the new baby. The baby can also have presents to give the older siblings. Make sure that the gift to the older siblings is hospital friendly and they can play with it when they meet the new baby.

Setting Aside Time for Older Sibling

Setting time aside to ensure that the older siblings still get individual attention is crucial. It can be as simple as going for trip to the playground without the baby or signing up for a weekend class. We recommend checking out our Weekend Family Workshops. Many parents find it valuable to set time aside for the whole year. One parent recommended joining a CO-OP preschool so the older child could have their own opportunity to learn and the parents could volunteer once a month. Another option is our Smithsonian Early Explorers program, which is a caregiver child program that meets twice a week on the National Mall.

Other Life Changes

If you want to learn about how SEEC educators teach about getting a new sibling, check out “How to Take Care of a Baby Shark (and Baby Human)”. Much of this advice can be applied to other changes that might occur in a young child’s life. For example, we believe in discussing the changes with young children in frank, simple terms. This includes talking about difficult topics including death, which you can read more about in our blog “Changes: Talking with Young Children about Death”. All children go through changes as they grow up. In fact, the act of growing up might be one of the most universal changes but it is also a change that some people do not think to discuss with young children. Our blog “Changes: Facing the Strange at the Smithsonian American Art Museum”, provides tips on how to talk about the strangeness of growing up.

Teacher Feature: Infant Classroom Explores Mail

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Jill Manasco. Her infant class was learning about communication and decided to spend time learning about mail. Below you will find a reflection from Jill and images from her lesson.


What were your topics of exploration?:

Our topic of exploration was mail/communication/writing letters. We looked at the different types of mail like magazines, letters, bills etc. We also talked about where our mail comes from and how it gets from place to place.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?):

I wanted them to see where our mail comes from and how it gets to other people. Also, I wanted them to see what kinds of things are sent and received through the mail.

What was most successful about your lesson?:

Our trips to the post office and NH mail room were the most successful things about our lesson. They enjoyed mailing a letter to our friend Emerson and also picking mail up for the school.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?:

The entrances to the post office were tricky for us since we are in buggies. The doors were not automatic and they were really hard to open but with an older group that would not be a problem.

Here are a few images from their unit on mail:

DSCN2721The group got all bundled up and headed straight to the post office for their lesson!

DSCN2725Earlier in the week the group worked together to write a letter to a friend who had moved. Jill showed the class the mailbox where they were going to drop off the letter but explained that they needed stamps to make sure it got all the way to their friend in a different state!
DSCN2731In the post office, they stopped to check out some of the boxes where people get mail.

DSCN2737Jill showed and re-read the note to the group.


DSCN2748She invited each child to help participate in the mailing process. Above a child is adding the letter to the envelope and below he is helping to seal it up!

DSCN2755Then it was time for Jill to weigh the letter and purchase the postage. Jill narrated the whole process to the friends.

DSCN2761Last step was the postage! This little boy loved how sticky it was!

DSCN2767Then it was time to mail the letter! When the letter arrived at its location the group was able to Skype with the recipient and see how their letter had traveled all the way to her.

This class had a wonderful time learning about communication! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!

Teacher Feature: Infant Class Explores Music

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Katy Martins, Nessa Moghadam, and Noel Ulmer. Their infant class was all about sound so they decided to do a unit learning about music. Below you will find a reflection from the team and images from their lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

We were exploring music and dance.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

We wanted to expose the class to new sounds and spaces and encourage them to try out new ways to move their body (for example: clap their hands, bounce, etc.).

What was most successful about your lesson?

We found that this topic was a great way to get the whole class involved. Each child was given the opportunity to explore different instruments and experiment with their new environment no matter their level of mobility.

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

We suggest to other educators to have a plan for helping each child enjoy the museum visit. Bring along boppies and blankets to help those children who can’t sit up or aren’t quite as mobile.

Here are a few images from their unit on music:

DSCN1808The class started their unit on music at the National Museum of American History to see guitars from the 1960s. The educators brought along instruments for the children to use and a print of Juan Gris’ Guitar, Newspaper, Glass to use as an additional comparison. 

DSCN2160The teachers also invited a parent to come in to play a guitar for the class. Throughout this lesson the children were shown prints of guitars, a collection of different types of guitars, and given opportunity to hear and play the guitar. By providing multiple touch points it illustrated to the children that the same object can sound and look different but still have the same name. 
DSCN2194The class then moved on to the piano. A SEEC educator from the toddler classroom came to play some music with the children. 
DSCN2209They had a wonderful time exploring the keyboard and hearing the different sounds it could make.

DSCN2486Katy, Nessa, and Noel then introduced the children to a genre of music, Bollywood. The class went up to the Beyond Bollywood Exhibit: Indian Americans Shape the Nation (  at the National Museum of Natural History to listen to music, play some instruments, and try out some dance moves.


DSCN2476The educators brought along a blanket for the children to help make the space feel cozy and welcoming. The children had a wonderful time using the instruments and seeing themselves in the mirror. 

DSCN2512The group then hopped into the strollers to listen to some of the Bollywood music found in the gallery.

DSCN2531Their last stop was outside of the exhibit to see large mirrors with images of different dancers. The educators helped demonstrate some of the poses and a few of the infants even tried them out.

This class had a wonderful time learning about music! Be sure to check back for our Teacher Feature next week!