Your Baby Has a Translator
If your little one needs a fresh diaper, your toddler will often be the first to let you know. "Older siblings are very attuned to the baby's needs, so they'll tell you, 'The baby is tired! The baby wants his blankie,'?" says psychologist Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of What About Me?: Get Your Parents' Attention (Without Hitting Your Sister). That's partly because your eldest genuinely loves and wants to help her little brother, but it's also self-interest: She wants him to stop crying! As long as your older child doesn't keep your little one from speaking up for himself later on, having another little expert around the house can help your baby get what he needs faster.
Your Baby Has More Chances to Learn Even simple games like peekaboo and toss-the-ball can boost brainpower, and with a willing older sibling around, your baby gets more time to practice. Also, babies pay attention to what interests them, and since older siblings tend to be louder, more active, and more unpredictable than parents, they're always fascinating to watch, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore.
Your Baby Becomes More Imaginative All babies learn by imitating other people, but they may particularly love to copycat older kids. A recent study showed that 1-year-olds with older siblings mimic 50 percent of their behaviors. That's especially true with pretend play. According to coauthor Rachel Barr, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University, little siblings can become sophisticated at make-believe because their older siblings give them plenty of practice.
Your Baby Has Fun! Sure, babies like to play with their parents, but older siblings offer their own special brand of entertainment. "My 8-month-old, Keagan, loves his three older sisters," says Angela Killinger, of Chantilly, Virginia. "They put on shows for him, sing him songs, and feed him his little snacks." All that playtime will keep your baby occupied and give you a breather when you need it.
Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.