When older sibling goes back to school

Written by Fiona

We love September when we can enjoy the last bit of the summer sunshine and welcome the fall breeze. It is also the time when our family needs to adjust from a relaxing summer schedule to a busy fall schedule. Our older son, Julian, goes back to school and starts both after school and weekend activities. In some ways, it’s a relief! Don’t get me wrong, I love having both my boys around and had a fantastic summer when my older one had a break from school. But with Julian back in school, I now have more bonding time with my younger son, Alan. However, it also means that there is an adjustment to Alan’s daily schedule. Moreover, with Julian back to school and Alan left at home, it has led to some deeper upset in the house. Siblings took up a large portion of each other’s time/place during summer time, so this was a big change and needed an adjustment period. Here are some ways to make this change easier:

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Read a few books about school with both kids before school starts

The series, Miss Bindergarten by Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolff, is a good option for kids getting ready for school. For example: Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten has bright illustrations, fun rhymes, and introduces young children to kindergarten. They are also nice books to read to younger ones with nice animal characters. Reading time is a good moment to prepare the siblings for the changes that arise with the first day of school.


Plan more one-on-one activities with the younger sibling

With an older sibling around, Alan does not get all my attention. Now finally, here is the time I can spend with Alan before picking Julian up from school in the afternoon. After waving bye-bye to his brother, Alan and I enjoy going to the park or to a kid class together. There are many good options for us to have precious bonding time in the morning. This also gives Alan the opportunity to get used to having time with other kids his age. Here are several options:

Little Wonders certainly fulfills my goal to learn and develop with my child. More importantly, I get to commit that two hours each week with Alan.

MyGym is a place Alan enjoys every week. We like how they change the activities and settings each week, but there are still regular routines such as warm-up/separation time which kids are used to.

Peninsula Music Together has different locations and schedules. Alan loves the class because he gets to listen to music and move with it.

My First Art Class is usually offered in recreation centers. It creates art experiences for kids. I myself even learn a few projects that I can use at home with my boys.  

San Mateo County Libraries always offer great experiences. They include not only storytime, but a variety of different projects or activities for younger kids like crafts, Lego Club, and board games.

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Try to plan activities for both kids to enjoy

Now that the school year has started, there are a lot of after school activities for the older siblings. When the regular sports season starts, soccer is a good activity to bring both kids to the field. Usually when the big brother plays, the younger one can observe. It is also a good time to practice a toddler's gross motor skills.

Make pickup time fun

One of Alan’s favorite things is to pick up his brother from preschool. Everyday he is very excited to go to Julian’s school (it is probably the easiest time to buckle his seatbelt). Alan loves watching other kids play while waiting for his brother. It is a great moment to have them share with each other about their day, especially the school-aged child can show what they did in the school. When they are both in the car, I usually put on a CD from Alan’s music class. The older sibling won’t feel they missed out on the class and Alan loves to show his brother what songs he listened to during the day.

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Talk about their feelings

It is important for toddlers to recognize their feelings at this age. Talk to them about what is going on and what upsets them. It is important to show them that we understand and accept their feelings, and we are here to support them and also shift their focus to more pleasant things.

Have some independent time for each of them

Although we still have our younger one watch his brother during soccer practice during weekends, we try to give them some independent time as well. We take one for some errands while the other one stays at home. This reinforces the idea: it is ok without your brother around and your brother will be back soon!

What tips and tricks have you used to prepare your younger child when the older one is going back to school?


Fiona has two energetic and sweet boys: Julian, nearly four years; and Alan, almost eighteen months. In her spare time--usually after the kids are asleep--she enjoys reading and watching movies of the mystery genre. She also loves yoga and Barre exercise.