The last months before your new baby arrives should be thrilling, but they're not easy. As you lose sight of your feet and your hormones rage, finding the energy to care for your increasingly-needy toddler might seem impossible. These months are crucial for her, though, especially if she's anxious about losing your attention to a new baby. Planning special activities and getting her excited about the baby reassures her that your bond is unbreakable.
Make a Book
Visual aids help your toddler understand what your words can't, and most toddlers love to stare at themselves. Make a book all about your toddler and what life will be like when the new sibling arrives. You might use a professional photo-book printing service, or go a little more slapdash and tape family photos onto scrap-booking paper. Include pictures of your family and stock photos of babies, along with captions that explain how life will change when the new sibling comes. Under photos of your toddler, write captions expressing how important her role as big sibling will be and how lucky the new child is to have her. Wrap the book up and present it as a very important and special gift.
Let Her Help Prepare
You have plenty of work to do in order to get your new child's room ready, so why not let your toddler in on the fun? Take a shopping trip and let her pick out the bedding for your baby's crib, plus a few new toys that she can "gift" to the new little one when he arrives. Let her pick out a few items for herself too; not only will she like having new toys, but this provides a chance for you to distinguish between things that are hers and things that are the baby's. At home, ask your toddler to help arrange toys in the baby's crib, put clothes and diapers away on shelves and create artwork to hang in the baby's room. All the while, praise her for helping make the baby's room a place the child will love.
You don't have to cart her around a theme park for the day just to enjoy time with your toddler. Set up a picnic blanket in the yard or curl up together in the living room for an epic game of baby-centric make-believe. Ask your toddler to guess what the baby is thinking and doing in your belly, and take turns imagining what the baby will be like when he's the toddler's age. Get out some baby dolls and play house, with your toddler acting as the mommy and you acting as the toddler. As she cares for the baby, you can offer tips on how to be safe around a baby and point out things that are only safe for adults to do.
Find the Real Thing
While it's probably not wise to sneak into the maternity ward of the local hospital, finding a real live baby to play with gives your toddler an idea of how life will be when the real thing arrives. Invite a friend who has a baby over for lunch or snacks so your toddler can study the little guy. If your friend approves, you might even let your toddler practice holding the baby and helping you change his diaper. Ask her to sing songs and tell him stories and play peek-a-boo with him. Spend some time holding him while she plays nearby so she gets used to sharing you.