Baby segregation.

One of the most important practices that we (my husband and I) have applied to our children is a no-baby-segregation policy.
If you are scratching your head at this point, you have very good reason. I did not make up this act that most parents buy into, but I did make up the term to describe it.
Baby segregation, as I consider it, is a very common happening among parents - especially those with more than one child. It is when a baby is entirely separately contained from the other child(ren) for the sake of the baby.
One example of baby segregation is when a parent, while holding their newborn, pushes the three-year-old away and tells them the baby is sleeping. This is very common, as parents forget that babies are not so fragile that they will shatter to pieces when the toddler pokes the cheek or pulls on their hands.
Another is having all the children playing in another room and not allowing the baby to be a part of it.
When children and babies get to interact, it only does positive things. Babies learn faster when they watch older children and the older children benefit by learning how to properly act around a baby.
I know, it's a CRAZY concept.
Well, what if my child hurts my baby?
I didn't say "throw your six-month-old into a room with your five-year-old and lock the door."
But since we have never practiced baby segregation, my four-year -old and my two-year-old can be left alone in a room with my 8-month-old and I know they are not going to hurt him at all. I have also instructed them about what is safe for a baby and what is not. They know that if the baby is going to come into the toy room, all the toys small enough to fit in his mouth must go into the toy box. All strings and any pieces of paper must be thrown in the garbage.
I know plenty of parents that absolutely CANNOT allow their older toddler alone with the baby. The most potentially dangerous part of allowing a child alone with a baby is curiosity. A child who has not been supervised and allowed to "explore" the baby will have no idea that you can't give the baby a bite of your pretzel. But this can be avoided by spending a lot of time helping your older child interact with the baby. When they ask, "can't I share my sandwich with him?" take it as an opportunity to say "no, he only gets breastfed/a bottle. He can't eat big food like you and me." Or "no, that's too grown-up for him cause he has no teeth. But you can feed him ONE cheerio at a time if you ask me first."
I can trust my daughter who JUST turned 4 to feed my baby. She knows that she can only feed him things she has seen me feed him, and she only gives him the proper amounts/sizes of pieces.
We don't treat the three children as two kids and one fragile little baby. The baby has been trampled in excitement, hit with flying toys, and lifted when he should not have been. But nothing has ever hurt him. I've often told them "be careful around the baby" and they try to.
Even my two-year-old is amazing with the baby. He doesn't try to feed him and he doesn't jump on him or anything. He gets treated like just another Huskey.
I think that the knowledge of babies that my children have taken from it is invaluable. My daughter instinctively pulls things out of the baby's mouth if it's something that shouldn't be there. She doesn't come running to me saying "the baby put something in his mouth!!" She just scoops it out like I would, and throws it in the garbage.
This may seem crazy because perhaps you have a newborn. "What am I supposed to do genius? Let my newborn sit in the toy room with the other kids?"
My answer to that is yes.
Just kidding.
Obviously not.
But what you can do is avoid being that parent that keeps the baby wrapped up and attached to you at all times. Allow your older kids to not just see the baby, but encourage them to touch him 'gently'. And this doesn't mean to scream at them if they poke him in the face. I can guarantee, in fact, that they will poke the baby in the face. And he probably won't cry. You don't even need to say "don't poke the baby." All it takes is a simple "careful. You don't want to hurt him."
In fact, if they do poke him hard enough for him to cry, that's a great opportunity for teaching. It shows them action and consequence. It will probably freak them out because they know it is something bad they did that caused the loud, scary crying. And it is a perfect time to teach them how to comfort a sad baby while you explain that babies can get scared easily and we have to hug them and whisper that it's okay. My daughter does not like it when the baby cries and she knows that if he is crying, she can find him an appropriate toy to play with and she "shushes" him gently. In fact, it completely melted my heart the first time my daughter got excited over a milestone. "Mommy, did you see that? He is smiling!!" She was so excited that he was doing something new, and it made me ecstatic that she was recognizing his development for what it was, having the understanding that these are interesting new developments to be celebrated.
Now my son is not as maternal, obviously, but he still understands all the basics that my daughter does. He moves stuff out of the way of the baby, tells me if something is wrong, and plays very well with the littlest guy.
Most large families (think Duggars) do not practice baby segregation. You know how some of the biggest complaints they get are about "the older kids raising the younger kids"? Well, that's just something an idiot says. They don't recognize that not being segregated has given them valuable life skills. It is not that the mother hands them the baby and says "here, you take care of this." They just are naturally inclined to fix a problem when they see it. If the baby is sad, they pick him up. Who likes a crying baby?? Rather than running from the situation and expecting that only the mother can remedy it, they are equipped to handle it and they - even more importantly - have the confidence in themselves to care for a baby.
So.... bottom line here, don't treat your kids as "the kids and the baby."
I mean, no matter what, it will feel like that when you have a baby, but don't treat them that way. They are all the kids and you want them to feel that bond from day one. Don't freak out if your older children try to lay down by the baby, roughly kiss the baby, or hold the baby. They will be so naturally curious that just about anything you tell them about a baby is going to sink right in. And you will be glad that your kids know how to respond to a baby.