If the new baby you’ll be bringing home has an older brother or sister, then an important part of baby safety involves making sure older kids know how to safely treat an infant. Siblings are so commonly either an actor or spectator in the dangerous situations that arise. This is why our organization has pioneered a special emphasis on sibling safety training. Older siblings can create the dangerous situations that lead to accidents, and they can also act in life-saving ways to avert catastrophe by stepping in when a parent is distracted and a younger sibling has found something dangerous. The difference between disaster-enabler and heroic savior often rests on how well parents educate their children in child safety matters.
Thus, a big part of ensuring a safe environment for your infant is training big brother or big sister about baby safety basics. This will help ensure they don’t try to share their candy with baby, or provide them with choking hazards to gnaw on, or give inappropriate toys to play with, or throw a blanket into their crib, or do any of the myriad of other things they might do in good spirit but without realizing the danger. Baby safety education will also teach them to take away that piece of plastic wrapping that baby is about to put in their mouth while you’re in the bathroom, or to alert you when baby might have found something dangerous. Even kids as young as three can help serve as extra eyes and ears for baby safety. (Just don’t rely on kids to do your supervision for you; they should be a backup measure only.)
Teaching older siblings baby safety
Teaching siblings the basics of safe caregiving involves making them knowledgeable about the same baby safety habits we provide for parents. Here are some tips for imparting that knowledge to them, as well as some other good safety rules for older siblings:
- Before the baby is born, prepare them ahead of time by talking about all the things mommies and daddies do to keep babies safe. As you walk throughout the house or as they shadow you during household chores, talk about all the things that could be dangerous to the baby. After you’ve made them familiar with some of the dangers, make it fun by turning it into a game of I spy to see who can spot (and the other person guess) items that would be dangerous to baby. At dinner, talk about how babies eat different foods and what is safe for them to eat. Engage in similar conversations as you’re watching TV. Do your best to incorporate this learning into everyday life.
- Tell them stories about all the mischievous things they used to get into when they were a baby. Kids love hearing stories abut themselves, and it’s a good way to teach safety. It also helps them feel more secure as they prepare themselves for this new intruder into the family.
- Talk about how important it is to act good for mom and dad once baby arrives, since they’ll be busier than normal for a little while in taking care of baby. Emphasize that the better they behave for parents, the more time and patience mom and dad will have to give them.
Baby safety rules for siblings
- Teach children that they should always ask you before giving baby something to eat or play with. Explain that the wrong types of food/toys can be dangerous.
- Talk to older siblings about the dangers of trying to reach to see baby. Make sure they know not to climb on the high chair or crib, because doing so may knock the baby over or tip the crib. If they want to say hello or give baby a kiss, they should ask an adult to help them.
- Explain how important it is to never try and pick baby up or carry them on their own. Let them know that a baby’s head is very sensitive and their skull isn’t fully formed, so it’s very bad for them to bump their head. No matter how big and strong they may be, picking up baby is something best left to adults unless it is an emergency.
Resources for Siblings:
What Bigger Kids Can Do
A printable children’s book that teaches older siblings about things that pose danger to babies and little kids. Recommended for kids ages 5 to 11.
- Safe Things for Baby cut & paste worksheet
- Distracted Mother coloring page
- Grape Safety coloring page
- Balloon Safety coloring sheets (2 pages)
- Keep Little Kids Safe vocabulary worksheet for pre-K
- Keeping Little Kids Safe vocabulary worksheet for grades 1-2
- Keeping Little Kids Safe vocabulary worksheet for grades 3-4
- Keeping Little Kids Safe vocabulary worksheet for grades 5-6