Inspired by Gillian Crawshaw's blog: http://www.ababyonboard.com/activities-to-do-before-the-baby-arrives-the-toddler-edition/
The age gap between my children is seven years, and with the imminent arrival of a baby last year, I wanted to spend some special time with my son before his new sibling came along.
Here is what we got up to:
1) Weekend away in a hotel.
Babies aren't great in hotels. The rooms are too small to do much in, you just know they'll end up sharing your bed half the night and there's no chance of a lie-in in the morning. But 7 year olds find hotels exciting, like a mini adventure. Also they sleep through the night (well ours does) so you can still have a relaxing time. And if the hotel comes with a pool, then you're definitely on to a winner.
So I booked a weekend in Cardiff for myself, my husband and my son for when I was 6 months pregnant. The idea was that I would not be too big to walk around or enjoy the mini-break. It worked really well - Connor loved the pool, the X-box (which we don't have at home) and even the fun of having breakfast in a 'posh' restaurant.
I would love to do it again - when said baby is at least 3, that is.
2) Child-friendly activity
Not one that you can easily do with a baby in tow, like soft play or going to the park. There will be plenty of time for that when the baby arrives.
We went to the Dr Who experience in Cardiff. It was great fun, and I was very aware that it would have been much harder work with a crying/ pooing/ tired baby along. At six months gone I wasn't too huge to traipse around, although I did need to sit down a few times. The site is just the right size to not be too tiring for pregnant people or young kids.
It does help to choose something that everyone in the family would enjoy though - if I had suggested a weekend's shopping in London it would not have gone down so well with the boys.
3) A child-centred day
Aren't all days child-centred? Well, yes, but how often do you find yourself distracted by housework or emails or your mobile phone while you are spending quality time with your kids? Focussing on a child for the whole day, or even a few hours, is surprisingly tough. The idea is that you ask them what they want to do, and then do it. So it might be playing on the Wii or feeding the ducks or making a robot out of loo rolls - as long as it's something your child/ren really enjoy doing. The important thing is not to allow yourself to get distracted by stuff that you need/ want to do.
When all of your lives are about to be changed forever by the arrival of a baby, this is an ideal time to let your child know by actions and not just words, that you love them and are there for them. Or at any other times of change or upheaval.
It doesn't have to be expensive and s/he will relish the positive attention from you. For older children, try suggesting going for a coffee/ milkshake together or a trip to the cinema and lunch out- just you and him/ her.
If you have several kids, obviously this would be harder. You might need to spread it over a few days.
I know some of you hate the messiness of craft. But often kids love it - again half of it is probably about the quality time that they get to spend with you. You can make something together to remind yourselves of when you were just a family of (insert number here.). Maybe make a handprint canvas or paint stones to represent each family member. Have a look at art and craft websites for more ideas.
Something that I love is scrapbooking. When I get the stash out, my son inevitably asks if he can make a page too. It's not the tidiest page ever made, but he enjoys doing it and it's a great keepsake. Definitely not just for girls - make sure you get blue/ red/ yellow/ green papers and ribbons and stickers such as football or surfing or whatever they're into. There don't need to be any flowers. Of course not all girls like pink and flowers, just choose what your child likes.
And let them choose a photograph for the page that means something to them - you can always print another one if it accidently gets chopped in half.
I was always talking to my son about what life would be like when the baby arrived, so it wasn't a shock to him when he saw how tired I was or if I needed to stay in hospital for a few days (which I did.) Otherwise he would probably have expected something from a nappy advert - a cooing baby who sleeps through the night and a perfectly made-up mum who is always smiling.
Also talk to your child about where the baby comes from (age appropriate). I found books from the library helpful - read them together and ask if s/he has any questions. Telling your child that a stork brings the baby is not that helpful.
You could discuss how the baby is growing week-by-week and that you love them both the same, even if you do need to spend a lot of time looking after the new baby when it arrives. Expect some sibling jealousy, but this can be minimised by talking and listening to your child before and after the arrival.
What else did you find helpful before your second/ third/ eleventh baby arrived?