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Montessori at home: How to help your firstborn prepare for a new baby

My son will be 27 months old when his baby sister is due. I'm under no delusions that I can ever fully prepare him for the changes that will bring. As a Montessori teacher of young children, I've seen many times how new siblings can completely rock a child's world. New additions often bring big feelings and inconvenient regressions in things like toileting and sleep.

While I know nothing can truly prepare my son for all of this change, it certainly seems worthwhile to try.

Here are some Montessori-inspired ways I've been preparing my firstborn throughout my pregnancy.

1. Explain what will happen

In Montessori classrooms, we always inform children of changes to come. We tell them if we will be out of the classroom and they will have a different teacher or if there will be a special celebration that will disrupt their routine. This shows respect for the child and also addresses young children's strong need for predictable routines.

We started talking to my son about his new baby sister as soon as the first trimester was over. I showed him the ultrasound pictures and talked about how the baby was growing inside of me right now, but he would get to meet her in a few months.

I've also talked to him about what will happen when the baby is actually born, like showing him the hospital where he will come meet his baby sister and he has even met the doctor who will deliver her. We explain who will take care of him while baby sister is being born. Telling your toddler early on, and including as much detail as possible, will help them emotionally prepare and feel included.

2. Follow their lead

"Follow the child" is a common phrase in Montessori, and one that describes the approach I've taken to talking to my son about his new sister. Since breaking the news, I've brought up the new baby often. Sometimes my son is interested and wants to talk about it, and sometimes he does not.

I make sure to follow his lead with these conversations. My goal is to present plenty of opportunities for him to ask questions, without forcing him to talk about it if he's not ready to, or making him feel like the new baby is all we talk about.

As time has passed, he brings up "baby sister" more and more on his own. I always make sure to stop what I'm doing, make eye contact and be present for these conversations when he initiates them. Making yourself available to talk, without forcing the subject, lets your toddler know that he's being heard and that is questions are welcomed.

3. Get them involved

In Montessori, children are involved in every part of daily life. This includes taking care of the classroom, preparing food for themselves and their classmates, and fixing things when they break. Involving my son in preparing for the new baby has been my favorite, and I think most effective, way of preparing him.

My toddler helped me put together a shelf for his sister's closet. This was months ago and he still talks about it and likes to look at the shelf.

He helped to think of potential names for his new sibling— though his favorite was "Spee," which I admit did not make the shortlist.

He helps me fold and put away her tiny laundry, choose what pictures to hang in her room, and has created art for her room by making a small painting we can frame on her toy shelf.

I also talk to him about the ways he can help after she is born, such as bringing me diapers, helping choose baby's clothes, reading books and singing songs.

Helping in a real way make toddlers feel included and proud, and gives them a sense of purpose.

4. Set expectations

Part of helping young children be successful is setting clear expectations for appropriate behavior. We have talked a lot about the importance of being gentle with babies. We've practiced this by reminding my toddler that baby sister is in my belly and he needs to be gentle with me. We also practice doing other things, like closing doors and touching plants and animals, very gently.

It's easy to forget that small children don't always know the basic rules of society and sometimes all they need is for someone to patiently inform them and to practice together.

5. Use "time in"

The term "time in" refers to devoting extra time to just being with our children, reassuring them with our presence and attention that they are seen and loved.

I've tried to spend a little extra quality one-on-one time with my son these last few months. I want him to feel as confident and secure in our relationship as possible when the baby is born.

6. Encourage independent play time

On the flip side, I've also been working harder to encourage independent play time. Children in Montessori classrooms are highly independent, completing complex work on their own. This can be harder when you're home with your child though, as it's so easy to give them individual attention all day.

I've made a point recently of doing household tasks or simply reading a book while my son is playing. I make sure to do this after I've spent some time giving him my undivided attention.
I tell him, "You can help me or you can go play, but I can't play right now." This way, I'm not telling him to go away, but I am letting him know that I'm not always available to do what he wants right away.

Sometimes he helps me or sits with me, sometimes he plays on his own, and sometimes he whines and continually asks me to come play. It is a gradual process.

7. Look at pictures of babies

We've made my son's baby book available to him and have spent countless hours looking through it. We talk about how tiny he was when he was born and how little he knew how to do and how he grew and can now do so many things.

We discuss how it will be the same with his baby sister, how she won't be able to play with him at first, but she will grow and grow until she can do all of the things he likes to do like play Legos and run outside.

Spending time around friends' or family members' babies is also a wonderful way to help set realistic expectations for what a baby is actually like.

8. Use a Topponcino

A topponcino is a tiny mattress/pillow for babies that is commonly used in Montessori homes. It acts as a security object for infants, as it absorbs the parents' smell and helps the baby feel safe when he is held by others.

It is also wonderful for allowing siblings to hold babies, with supervision of course, as it acts as a sturdy barrier between the two children. We have the topponcino out in the new baby's room and practice holding it carefully, sometimes with a favorite stuffed animal on top.

As the final weeks go by and we near the arrival of our newest family member, I'm growing less anxious and more excited about how my toddler will react to being a big brother.

Yes, I know it will be hard and he will want my attention and I will feel guilty when I can't give it to him. But I also trust him that he will process the changes and learn to treasure his little sister and I trust myself that I've done everything I can to prepare him.

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Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.


This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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