Pretend Babies

I sometimes see people ask things like “How can I increase connection with my child?” so I wanted to share one simple game/example that has meant a lot to me and my kids: I pretend they’re a baby.

[Image description: A person with light skin and short, fluffy silver hair holding a dark-skinned child in her arms, cradled like a baby although the child is tall. The child is holding a blue-and-white rocketship in his hands and has a heart-shaped privacy sticker over his face. Both of them are wearing comfortable clothes and standing in a living room. Both of them are caught mid-laughing. End description.]

Preemptively, I mean, not when they do baby talk or pretend to be a baby (although I play along with that too). But I mean with me initiating the game, picking them up (and then usually sitting down on the couch, ‘cause they’re big at this point!) and rocking them and making a huge over-exaggerated playful and joyful deal out of how they’re my little bitty teeny tiny 7 pound 11 ounce baby [Name] and look at their teeny precious fingers and nose and eyes and toes.

Sometimes it turns into a body part naming game, sometimes it turns into singing their favorite toddler songs (they request songs while I rock them), sometimes they just make pretend crying noises and I tell them I’ll pat them on the back and rock them while they cry, sometimes they tolerate my silliness for a couple of minutes and then get bored and move on, sometimes they love it and my normally fairly touch-averse child sits curled up in my lap for thirty minutes while I tell him about his perfect little hair curls and his lovely dimple and his soft baby skin. Sometimes it turns into looking at their actual baby pictures on my phone and talking about the stories of their births and early days.

We haven’t ever used “baby” as an insult or “big kid” as a bribe/motivator, so they don’t have any self-consciousness around it. But I think even kids who have heard “you ought to want to be a big kid” messaging from the world around them might still enjoy being preemptively babied. Mine were 3.5 and 2 when I first wrote this (and when this picture was taken), and now they’re 5 and 4 and they still enjoy it. If you want to try a simple thing to see if it makes a connected moment, maybe try holding your baby again for a bit.