Raising a Big Sibling: Empowering Independence

In my worldview, one of the big tenants of being a “big kid” was growing independence.  This tenant was mostly self-serving as I needed time to rest while pregnant and newly delivered as well as time with a newborn.  I’d like to think it was also good for my oldest to be able to self-entertain.  That being said, I still felt like she needed stuff to assist her self-entertainment.  Here enters the “big sister cabinet” (BSC for short).

The idea for the BSC was born out of an awkward cabinet in the home we were renting:  it was right by the playroom, but it was technically still in the kitchen.  My toddler was always opening it and disturbing its contents (plastic water bottles and containers), and, being pregnant, I was not appreciating having to bend over and pick up this detritus on a daily basis.  We were also starting to think about what we were going to do with our daughter if I needed to have a repeat C-section with repeat complications and couldn’t do much lifting, bending, or interacting.  After not initially installing child locks on any drawers or doors in our home, we went ahead and put a child lock on this awkward cabinet and explained to our daughter that this cabinet was only for big sisters, and when she was a big sister, this cabinet would be for her.  She LOVED this idea!


For the next several months, I went about filling this cabinet with toys and games that I felt she could handle with minimal adult interaction and that were not for babies:

When we got home from the hospital, my husband put a big bow on the cabinet.  During our new baby’s first nap at home, we had our oldest open the cabinet and explore with its new contents.  It was a magical moment for all of us, and our daughter still asks to open it during her brother’s naps, and we have worked to keep it stocked.

Something new for us at the moment is that she’s starting to come up with new names for the “BSC” now that her brother will get to play with the cabinet when our next baby is born (the current forerunner is “big kid cabinet”).







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