Having a baby in the NICU is tough for parents, of course, but it's also a challenge for older siblings who may be feeling sad, scared, anxious, and even lonely as so much of their parents’ and grandparents’ attention is focused on the new baby. These 14 gifts for siblings on NICU Sibling Support Day will show big brother or sister that you’re thinking of them as they navigate this major life event.
NICU sibling support day falls toward the end of September, which is NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) awareness month. More specifically, sibling support day is on Sept. 29, and it comes sandwiched between NICU Remembrance Day (Sept. 26), NICU Giving Day (Sept. 27), NICU Staff Recognition Day (Sept. 28), and Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Day (Sept. 30).
NICU babies are often born prematurely, so parents may not have had time to buy the special gift they were planning on for their older children. If you need a present in a pinch, I've rounded up all types of gifts — from slime and Duplos, to books about the NICU or journals to help manage big feelings — that can make an older sibling feel a little extra loved as they manage the excitement of welcoming a new family member coupled with the anxiety and confusion that comes with having a little sibling in the hospital.
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1. A Duplo Superhero Set
Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America meet Duplo in this Marvel-themed superhero set that's sure to be a hit. Suitable for ages 2 and up, it comes with 30 large pieces including a crane, spinning turntable, wrench and control panel that little builders will love.
2. A Doctor Set
Even if they've been totally fine with their own pediatricians in the past, seeing their little brother or sister hooked up to a machine is a totally new experience, and older siblings may be feeling a little scared of doctors and nurses. This kit will let kids imagine that they're the doctor, which may lend a little control and stability to a situation that feels tough to handle.
3. A Book That Celebrates Preemies
Friends and classmates are sure to be wondering about the big kid's new baby, and this book helps siblings feel proud and excited about their family's newest addition. It celebrates the achievements of inspirational people who were born prematurely (like Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and Olympian, Wilma Rudolph who wore a leg brace as a child before going on to win three track and field Olympic medals). This is a great one to keep on the shelf to read to your preemie, too, once they're old enough.
4. Slime In Tons Of Colors
Who doesn't love slime? This set includes 12 different slimes in fun colors, plus three jars of "add-ins" so kids can make their own creation using sequins, foam beads, or plastic crunchy beads. The possibilities are endless, and this can be a sensory activity that helps relieve stress.
5. A Build-Your-Own Car
This is one of those toys kids will play with again and again. The parts can be put together in different ways to create up to ten unique designs, plus it lights up and makes sound. Just remember to buy the necessary AA batteries, which aren't included.
6. A Magna-Tiles City
World builders and problem solvers will love these 110 ten Magna-Tiles that make up a bustling metropolis. This set can be mixed in with existing tiles, and if this is their first time playing with these unique blocks, they'll love how easily they snap together (thanks to the magnets).
7. Their Very Own Journal
Older brothers and sisters of babies in the NICU are bound to experience many emotions ranging from sadness that they can't meet their new sibling sooner, fear and confusion about what's going on, and maybe resentment or anger that their parents are not more available. There's a place for kids to write in three emotions they felt that day. If the child can't write yet, there's a place to draw a picture and a "mood log" which asks them to circle the face that best corresponds with their emotions in the morning, afternoon, and night. The journal also asks for the three best things that happened per day, a good way to help little ones look for the silver lining.
8. A Baby Doll
A baby doll is a classic gift for a big sibling, and this Bitty Baby from the American Girl brand makes a wonderful gift. The new baby is going to be getting a lot of attention once it's home from the NICU, and it may be helpful for a child to have their own newborn to care for, especially with such sweet accessories available (like cloth diapers and their very own front carrier).
9. A 3D Puzzle
Not only is this 3D unicorn fun to build, it's awesome to showcase in all its colorful glory. Made of cardboard and printed with vegetable inks, this puzzle includes pop-out pieces and step-by-by step assembly instruction. Unlike more traditional puzzles, this one is sturdy enough to be (carefully) played with once assembled.
10. A Puzzle They Can Do On Their Own
A 24-piece puzzle keeps kids working independently and has bigger pieces that make it easier for small hands. It's also a good one-on-one project when the parents are taking shifts at the hospital and the bigger kid needs a little undivided attention, plus there are plenty of images (including a doctor puzzle) to choose from.
11. A Book About The NICU
The neonatal intensive care unit can be a scary (and surprisingly loud) place with all the whirring machines, alarms that go off when a baby's vital change, and sometimes many infants crying at once. This book will help big kids begin to imagine what this part of the hospital may look like (and what it will mean to see their sibling hooked-up to a machine or tube), but it presents information in a non-scary way that focuses on bonding with the new baby.
12. An Awesome Lego Set
Vehicle lovers will flip for this LEGO gas station that includes a car and surf van, gas pumps, mini figures, and even a little chihuahua. Big kids will know how special this set is (it has 354 pieces), especially when you explain that when the baby gets a little older, they'll have to keep small pieces like this put away.
13. A Bag For Back-And-Forth
At some point during their stay, a sibling will likely visit the new baby in the NICU. It may lend the big sister or brother a sense of control and independence if they get to pack a bag to bring with them; in this case, a personalized tote they can fill with things they want to "show" the baby, or a special book or gift.
14. A Plush Doll For Snuggling
This soft, handmade doll is a one-of-a-kind gift they'll treasure forever. At 12 inches tall, it's the perfect size for cuddling when older siblings are feeling scared or sad. It comes packaged in a gorgeous gift box with an accompanying tag which makes this present really stand out.