Preparing for a new baby takes so many forms. Changing your diet, adjusting your exercise routine as necessary (prenatal yoga can help even out physical and emotional variances at this time), selecting a pediatrician, borrowing or shopping for maternity clothes, exploring childbirth classes, designing a baby shower, setting up your maternity leave, choosing birth announcements, maybe planning a little couples getaway before the arrival, and decorating the nursery are just a few pieces of the puzzle.
If the arrival of little Tommy or Melissa has been preceded by a sibling, you probably have all of this down to a science. But by the same token, with all the fuss and attention to details around a brand new addition to the family, sometimes an older child can get lost in the excitement and shuffle, needing reassurance that s/he is just as important to the family as the new life they are bringing home.
Experts say the best way to acclimate children to the idea of a baby brother or sister is by involvement, that is, making your older child an integral part of the preparation process. And decorating the nursery is a great place to start–one where he or she can actually see their choices and ideas manifest right before their eyes in paint colors, furnishings, fabrics, lighting, pictures, prints, murals, toys, and more.
For starters, as newborns can only see black, white, and grey, and though pediatricians say the first color they actually recognize is red, red is known to create confusion for them in predominance. The same may be said for a lot of bold colors. Overall, softer, muted colors are usually selected for a baby’s room. If you are partial to a different variations of these softer hues (perhaps you can’t make up your mind!), involving your child in the final selection–either choosing from swatches or paint keys, or better yet taking him/her to the paint store with you–is a big step on the road to their inclusion and boosted self-confidence. The same can be said for area rug choices, window treatments, wallpaper–anything that involves color, texture or patterns.
In considering furniture, a trip to the furniture store (new; used; thrift shop) is a fun outing for an older sibling, especially if s/he knows that a key part of the decision-making process will fall to him or her. Again, narrow down the choices that appeal to you in terms of safety (cribs and strollers), budget, and aesthetics, letting your child help make the final selections.
Next, does your older child have a favorite stuffed animal (probably more than one)! You might want to ask him or her to choose which one means the most and then purchase another, if available, for the nursery. That way, much in the way the new baby will be a sister or brother, the duplicated stuffed animal also looks like the “sister” or “brother” of your older child’s favorite. Before the baby arrives, and using the two toys, the older child can practice being a good big brother or sister.
Is your older child a budding artist? Murals or a large graphic for the baby’s room are a wonderful way to illustrate and entertain with fairytales, flowers, Disney characters, baby animals, characters from TV shows like SpongeBob, Bob the Builder, etc. If you are artistically-inclined this is an undertaking you may have planned for the next rainy weekend, or perhaps you’d planned to hire an artist to execute the design. But there is something your petite Picasso can do to add his or her mark to the process, even if it’s in a less-visible corner of the room.
If the theme is Disney and your child loves Belle or Ariel, allowing her to reproduce these Disney damsels on a wall seemingly for posterity may be somewhat daunting (for you, not for her!). Today, however, you can purchase clear paint that turns any paintable surface into a dry-erase board, creating a perpetual canvas for your child that provides for an ever-changing visual smorgasbord of opportunity.
Where storage is concerned, while drawers, shelves, and baskets will certainly need to be filled with baby’s things, a designated basket somewhere in the corner for big brother or sister also helps the older sibling feel a part of the baby’s life, especially as so much of mommy and daddy’s time will be spent in the nursery.
Finally, and depending on space, adding a daybed or small, comfortable chair to the baby’ room specifically for an older brother or sister–again one the child has chosen him or herself–sends a message that s/he is always welcome in the new baby’s life, and that nothing has changed in terms of the child’s place in your life as well.