No, say both parenting experts and experienced parents. “It isn’t fair to have your preschooler always be the one to play second fiddle,” warns Dr. Cohen. And with the time and energy that’s required to get a baby ready for an outing, plus the very real possibility that quieter sound effects and less darkness in the theater may still send your little one screaming for the exit, it can be easy to forget that going to the movies was intended as quality time for you and your preschooler.
“Planning a special event with your preschooler once or twice a week gives your big kid the love and attention he or she needs,” advises Joan Barbuto, coordinator for the Connecticut Coalition for Parenting Education and author of the ABCs of Parenting. Jeanette Hill, mom of three from Manalapan, New Jersey, learned this wisdom firsthand. “When the baby was about two-months old, my husband watched him for a few hours and I took my preschool-age daughter to see Happy Feet. Just as the lights dimmed, I gave Maya a little hug so she wouldn’t be scared. She turned to me and whispered, ‘I miss you, Mommy,’” Jeanette recalls. “With so much of my attention spent taking care of my newborn, I needed that jolt to remind me that my older daughter still wanted—and needed—to be my little girl.”
Encourage Sibling Together-Time
Finally, what’s the most important “do” for your baby and preschooler? Provide siblings with ample opportunities to play together. Take your pick from an endless supply of fun, simple activities that older and younger children can safely enjoy. Blow soap bubbles in the backyard, dig in the sandbox, make music with toy instruments, build a tower of blocks and let each kid take a turn knocking it over, or find a playground where the baby swings and big kid swings are right next to each other.
While engaging with same-age kids is developmentally important for children—and individual attention from mommy or daddy is sacred—regular sibling playtime helps brothers and sisters build strong bonds of friendship with one another, no matter how old they are.