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Gift Ideas for an Older Sibling to Give to a Baby Sibling for Christmas or Other Winter Holidays
The Joy of Giving for a Big Brother or Sister
This topic is particularly on my mind because we have a son who is just over three years old, and another son about three months old. A lot of our friends recommended having the baby "give" the older boy a present when he was born. I think this is a great idea, and I know it worked really well for our friends, but we actually didn't do it. We gave our son lots of presents for becoming a big brother, but he thought the whole concept of a newborn baby giving him a present didn't make sense (and really, it doesn't, but most kids don't care because they are getting a present!). I've now asked our older son if he would like to pretend that his baby brother will get him something for Christmas, and he thinks it's a fun idea. So we will definitely do that.
But I want to make sure that in our efforts to make our older son still feel special, and feel positively towards his younger sibling, we don't forget to give him the opportunity to experience the joy of giving, as well as the joy of receiving. I've been thinking a lot about what types of presents he might enjoy giving his little baby brother, though the decision is up to him (within financial reason!). I have also been wondering what other people do in this situation. So far, my older son has said he wants to get the baby a green rattle (not sure why it has to be green, but that's cool), so that's probably what we're doing, unless he changes his mind before we go buy it. But I thought it would be nice to share some of the other ideas I came across and came up with as I was thinking about this general topic.
Thinking About the Meaning Behind the Present
I've been thinking about the various functions that an older sibling giving a present to a baby sibling could serve. Here's what I've come up with, though I'm sure there are many more:
- Feeling important in their role as an older sibling.The baby can't actually pick a gift for them yet, but they can pick a gift for the baby. It can make them feel good about all the things they can do now that they are older. It's also a special thing they can do with their mom or dad that the baby can't do.
- Genuinely making the baby brother or sister happy! As a parent you may want/need to step in a little more to help set them up for success in this department (see tips in the next section).
- Seeing themselves as a benevolent older brother or sister. Having a baby sibling can be very difficult, and I don't know of any families where the older sibling doesn't sometimes act, um, less than kindly towards the younger. Helping the older child see themselves as kind and giving, even if they also sometimes have difficult emotions about the younger sibling, can help a lot.
- Learning to take on other people's viewpoints. This is a critical stage of development, and begins happening as early as three (I believe it can happen even earlier). It can help them feel empathy for the baby and think about what babies like, and recognize that may be different from what big kids like.
- Feeling the joy of giving. This is what the holidays are all about! If we only focus on what gifts our children get at Christmas, I think we are robbing them of the joy of giving. Obviously, one of the developmental characteristics of young children is being self-centered, and this is an important part of development, but they also certainly have the capacity to enjoy giving. This is something we as parents should help foster. We can also model this for them by showing our joy at thinking of others and picking out or making presents we think they will truly enjoy.
Will you help or encourage your older child to pick out a gift for his or her baby brother or sister?
Tips for helping an older sibling pick out a gift for a baby brother or sister
- Factor in the older child's age: Depending on the age of the older child, as a parent I would probably want to give them more or less latitude. For example, with my three year old, we will go to the toy store, I will show him the baby section, and I will tell him that we can get whatever he picks out as long as it's under $10 (obviously he will need to check with me to determine the price). With a younger child, you may want to pick out a few appropriate gifts yourself, bring them home, and then have the child pick out which one he wants to be for the baby from him. What you want to avoid is a situation where you tell your older child they can pick something out and then you end up vetoing every choice. Set her up for success by planning ahead!
- Factor in knowledge about what babies like: Obviously, you know what your baby likes, and there are also some toy companies that seem to pay particular attention to what is known about infant development to make their toys real winners (Lamaze and Manhattan come to mind). For example, if your older child is making something for the younger, you can encourage them to use black and white or other high contrast - that keeps babies' attention, and will make the older child feel successful in their gift choice.
- Allow the older child to "help" the baby open it and even play with the toy as much as they want: This is empowering to the older child, and keep in mind that they are still fairly young (assuming they are 4 or younger) and may have a hard time fully understanding that they are giving it to the baby. This is not the time to enforce lessons about other people's things being their own - the baby probably doesn't care at all! Obviously you don't want to let the older child take it out of the baby's hand, but other than that, let the older child have free reign with the gift. Think of this as warm-up or practice for real gift-giving in future years.
Gift Idea #1: Make an Art Project for the Baby
I really like the idea of the older sibling making the baby's stocking. I think this could be really sweet, and make them feel very special because they will see the stocking hanging up by the fireplace all through the holidays. It is also something that they are unlikely to want to play with themselves, or want to take back from the baby. Here's a link to a website with easy instructions on how to help a toddler make a stocking.
Mobiles are so easy and fun to make, and involves a lot of skills that preschoolers seem to be really into (or at least mine is!) - namely, cutting and gluing. Here's a great website with instructions and print outs for making a high contrast mobile.
Special Drawing (framed):
Any art project that your older child makes for the younger one will be special. It could be fun to get the older child some new art supplies a few weeks before Christmas and use them to make pictures for the baby - as well as other family members! Then you can frame the picture and put it up in the baby's room. I think seeing art work displayed makes children feel special and proud.
Gift Idea #2: Help Older Sibling Pick Out a Baby Toy You Know the Baby Will Love
I don't know what it is that they do, but these two toy companies seem to have the best toys for infants. I have seen many babies have great times with these toys.
- Jacques the Peacock and Stretch the Giraffe are our favorites. Both our sons absolutely loved them as babies. I would be ready for the older sibling to want to play with this again. They are brightly colored, have a variety of textures, and have nice smiley faces.
- Musical inchworm is also great. My older son loved it and now I realize I have to find where it is to show to the baby and see if he loves it just as much! This one might be particularly nice because the older sibling can do something to help the baby enjoy it by pressing the inchworm's head to make the music play.
- Baby Whoozit - we didn't have one of these but one of my best friends did and it seemed to be a big hit. It has lots of parts for the baby to grab on to, and a friendly face.
- Winkel - to look at it, one might wonder what the big deal is, but babies seem to love them. They have nice parts to grab onto and chew. They also don't make music, if you are one of the parents who hates toys with music.
- Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes - a friend gave this to us and my older son still loves it, probably because we play a game where I dance around silly when he plays the music (don't tell!). I'm thinking it would be fun to have him get another one to share with the baby, though I do realize he will probably just want to play with both of them! But this is another nice one that he can engage with and play the music for the baby.
Gift Idea #3: Matching Clothing for Older and Younger Sibling
Shirts with sayings:
I am thinking about having the baby get his big brother a shirt that says "big brother" on it, or something along those lines. Someone got the baby a shirt that says little brother, and ever since then my older son has wanted a big brother shirt. But of course this is about what the older should get the younger, so the older could obviously get the baby a shirt that says little brother or sister, or something similar. This would be a nice one that you could facilitate so they have matching shirts if you think the older would be into it.
Again, my son is into the idea of having matching pajamas for him, the baby, and their dad. I think this is a fun idea, and this way the baby could "give" pajamas to the big brother, big brother could give the pajamas to the baby and the two kids together could give pajamas to dad. I like it because everyone is giving and receiving, and it will make a very cute and funny picture!
I've been thinking about making (or, let's face it, buying) my son a cape because he's taken to putting his old bib (which we got out with all the baby stuff) on backwards and pretending it's a cape. I'm thinking a cape with iron on "big brother" letters on the back could be really cool. It also can make him feel special and powerful in his role as big brother. Then I could do a matching little one, but I think I would just sew it straight onto a onesie, or use velcro because I wouldn't want a string around the baby's neck. It could actually work fine to turn a cloth bib into a little mini cape, and I could have my older son help stick on the letters on the back for the cape to say "little brother." Again, this is fun for them to both give to each other, and I like how matching gifts unite them as brothers.
Making Giving a Family Tradition
I'm so excited to be thinking about this, as I just love Christmas, and it's fun to have my older son get old enough (three) to start thinking about giving as well as receiving. My parents shared with me the excitement of picking out presents for people, and it is definitely now my favorite part of Christmas. As my sons get older, I'm excited to see this develop in them more and more.
What are your thoughts about having an older sibling give a present to a younger sibling?
What are some other gift ideas that I've left out?