New baby on the way? Here are our favourite new baby books to help prepare your toddler for becoming a big brother or big sister!
With a little over one month to go until we welcome baby #2 into our family, I’ve been doing everything I can to prepare our 3-year-old for the impending arrival of her new baby brother. Funnily enough she’s been asking for a younger sibling for over a year, although I have a feeling when it actually happens she might not love the everyday implications quite as much as the abstract idea of a living doll who’s around to play with every now and then.
Either way, the baby is coming, so we’ve been doing everything we can to help Maggie mentally prepare for the arrival of a new baby. Of course there’s lots of advice out there (paging Janet Lansbury!), and Maggie’s current idol, Daniel Tiger, helpfully dedicated about half of his second season to the arrival of a new baby sibling (I CANNOT recommend Daniel Tiger enough, mamas!). But as reading together is one of our favorite pastimes, I also stocked up on new baby books that Maggie could turn to again and again for reassurance. It’s been interesting to see which ones have resonated with her (not necessarily the ones I would have guessed). Here are our top picks for books that we’ve both loved!
This popular British book (to be honest I never saw it mentioned on any American list, but I know mamas here love it) is presented in a simple rhyme that’s a big hit with little ones. It’s told from the perspective of a little boy, who marvels at his mother’s growing belly as it makes more and more space for his little-brother-to-be.
Maggie LOVES the Berenstain Bears, so when I saw that this book was part of the series I immediately rushed out to pick up a copy from Kinokuniya. On the bright side, it does a good job emphasizing that Brother Bear is growing, and will have to share his old baby bed to make way for his new baby sister.
However the book focuses a lot more on the finer points of furniture-making than it does on dealing with the arrival of a new baby (seriously: Brother Bear and Papa go out into the forest to chop down a tree, then split it into boards, then shape it into a bed, then carry it back), and when they arrive, Mama Bear is just there waiting with the new baby. What?! So if your kid is indifferent to the Berenstain Bears, you can probably give this one a miss.
Fun fact: Arthur’s baby sister, Kate, was named after me (I grew up next door to author Marc Brown and he wrote this when I was 5). But that’s not why I put this on the list! Maggie actually pulled it off the shelf herself (I’d totally forgotten it was there), and she LOVES it.
As an adult I can appreciate the realistic approach it takes to navigating a pregnancy: at one point Arthur’s parents pull out his baby pictures to show him how much he’s changed and grown since he was a baby; as his mother’s due date approaches she has Arthur help her pack her suitcase for the hospital; after the baby is born Arthur’s dad and grandma take him and his little sister, DW, to the hospital to meet the new baby for the first time; and when the baby comes home Arthur kind of resents all the attention (and presents) she receives. Which makes it all the sweeter when he proves to have a special touch with looking after her, in spite of all his apprehension.
We love Helen Oxenbury books in our house, so I had a hunch her playful illustrations here would be a hit with Maggie, and sure enough, they are. The ongoing dialogue – between a little boy and his mother who informs him “There’s going to be a baby” one night at bedtime – is kind of random and hard to read out loud. There’s not so much a plot as a conversation and questions, interspersed with comic strip-like imaginings of the crazy things the baby might do (work in a bank, make a mess while cooking pancakes, capsize a boat — like I said, very random).
All that said, it very honestly and accurately captures the little boy’s misgivings about having a younger sibling — at one point midway through his mother’s pregnancy, as they’re walking and holding hands, he turns to her and says, “Mommy, can’t you tell the baby to go away? We don’t really need the baby, do we?” This part always makes me cry a little as I, too, fret about how the new baby might alter our close relationship. At the end, though, when he goes to visit his mother in the hospital with his grandfather, the little boy has decided that he is going to LOVE the new baby no matter what, and your heart won’t help but melt.
This book is basic, short and sweet, but it’s got some great mantras for big brothers or big sisters-to-be: told in the first person, it talks a bit about what babies need (milk, and help changing their diapers, and to be safe and warm) and also emphasizes how older siblings can help, whether it’s by cuddling the baby, helping mom or dad change it, or playing with it. It also points out the benefits of NOT being a baby (“The baby can’t eat pizza, or apples, or ice cream, or play on the playground”), and I love its conclusion: “I am special and the only one like me in the world”, as I think it’s important to remind kids of this in case they feel threatened by a new presence in the family.
Find it on Amazon: I’m a Big Brother and I’m a Big Sister
Much like Joanna Cole’s I’m a Big Brother/Sister, this book is fairly brief and basic, but I like that it realistically shows a toddler what sorts of things to expect during a mother’s pregnancy, from sorting through baby clothes, to getting the new baby’s room ready, to letting Mommy nap on the couch while Daddy makes dinner! It’s a very sweet book, and the fact that the family is mixed-race may give it special appeal in diverse Singapore.
Karen Katz’s colourful illustrations and exuberant, toddler-friendly text make her a big winner in our house. This book mostly emphasizes why it’s so great to be an older sibling (such as “My baby brother eats with his hands…but I eat with a fork and spoon!” or “My baby brother has to ride in a stroller, but I can ride my tricycle!”). These points really seem to resonate with Maggie (“I will help push my baby brother in his stroller!”) and get her excited for being a big sister. She also loves the lift-the-flap feature on each page the reveals what’s special about being a big sister.
Find it on Amazon: Best-Ever Big Sister and Best-Ever Big Brother
Make sure you have tissues handy, mama, this book is a major tearjerker (but I LOVE it)! Rather than focus on pregnancy, it’s simply two parents recalling to a little boy all their fond memories of him from birth, from singing his favorite song (over and over and over again), to taking him outside in the carrier, to his first steps or first trip to the beach. It takes you up to when the little boy is around 2 or 3, then casually mentions that there might someday be a new baby brother or sister, but no matter what happens, YOU will always be the first, and that’s very special.
Beautifully illustrated and almost poetic in its sparse language, You Were the First has also been a hit with Maggie, who clearly identifies with so many of the scenes and likes hearing me tell her about the first time SHE crawled or the first time SHE went to the beach (it doesn’t hurt that the little boy also has a dog like her). Like Waiting for Baby, this book also features a mixed-race family with an Asian mother, which many kids in Singapore might identify closely with.
I loved the Little Critter series when I was young, but to be honest didn’t get this one for Maggie (it took us a while to convince her that a little brother would be as desirable as a baby sister, so I shied away from most books focusing on the latter).
Anyway, this one rates quite highly on Amazon, where numerous parents mention their toddlers actually memorize and mimic all the things you can do with a new baby sibling, such as help change diapers, push the stroller, or read your books to the baby. Sounds like a winner to me!
So obviously this isn’t a book to read with your toddler, but I’ve found it fascinating and invaluable all the same so wanted to give it a shoutout! As an only child, I personally have limited knowledge of sibling dynamics, and obviously had no model growing up about how to parent multiple kids (my husband, on the other hand, is one of six and laughed his face off when he saw this book).
I guess I’d best describe it as “Parenting Behaviors to Avoid and Strive For“, whether it’s playing favorites, comparing your kids’ behavior or achievements, promoting cooperation over competition, or helping your kids resolve their conflicts in a respectful manner. It’s mostly geared toward parents with older kids who fight a lot, so I guess I’ll probably be returning to it in a few years’ time!