When big brother or big sis start back to school, little ones at home can feel left out and sad. Their full-time summer playmate has disappeared behind big doors, and though getting one-on-one mommy or daddy time is special, little siblings want to know what the bigs are up to all day.
Short of setting up an entire mock preschool in your living room for the little to play in, there are some activities you can do together with your younger children to help them figure out what that school fuss is all about.
Bulk up your art supply bin
A big part of the tangible school experience at home is seeing those gluey art projects mounted on the fridge or wall. Little sis sees how proud big brother is to have his artwork on display and wonders where he learned to make hand turkeys and paper plate crabs.
Make a special trip to help the younger sibling choose their own age-appropriate crayons, paper, glue sticks, and glitter (if you feel like decorating your whole house with it). Carve out time for coloring or simple gluing-shapes-onto-paper activities while you talk about how your older child is up to the same things at school.
Make lunchtime an event
Getting out of the house is key to everyone’s sanity when dealing with the craze of back-to-school. Pack a simple picnic lunch for you and your baby and take it to a nearby park to soak up some sunshine and make lunchtime as big a deal as it is at school.
Your younger children have probably seen you packing lunches already, and letting them join in the fun with their own lunch bag full of their favorites helps them picture what it’s like for big sister during her own lunchtime. If you know some other moms with younger siblings, you can make the meal a shared experience and start building those school friendship bonds early for the smaller set.
Let your child lead you
Get out toys and activities your older child might have at school and spread them around the room, then let your younger child roam from toy to toy until he settles on something to play with. Groups of blocks, books, dolls, balls, and anything else you already own will work perfectly.
The idea is to let your kid find something he’s interested in while talking to him about what big brother or big sister do with their teachers and friends all day. You can ask leading questions like, “Do you think Sister reads books at school?” and make playtime into a game where Little can ask questions and voice concerns about missing Big without having to sit down for a big talk.
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Emily Brown is a preschool teacher, freelance writer, and mom to two energetic, funny little girls with a flair for drama and a shared love of cheese and pickles. She’s also written a book on the history and food of restaurants in Birmingham, AL called Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu.