Cut the Chaos and Color-Code Your Twins


No doubt about it—newborn twins, triplets, and quads are adorable. (Especially when they sleep, right?) But they also demand an enormous amount of your attention and if you don’t have a plan in place you’ll quickly sink beneath the mounting piles of dirty burp clothes, half-drunk baby bottles, and laundry. So while you’re designing your nursery or buying your twin layette, you should also be thinking about organization. Adopting a simple plan for your family and household can help keep your head above water during those first few hectic months. But where should you begin? Think color coding.

Why Color Code Twins?

Red and green pacifiers

When you assign each of your multiples an arbitrary color and then match their personal items to that color—everything from pacifiers and blankies to sippy cups and teddy bears—it clears up the confusion of whose stuff belongs to whom. Furthermore, when you have two or more babies at once, color coding is not only practical but a necessity as each may have different dietary or medical needs.

“We needed to color code my fraternal twins when they were babies because Matthew was sensitive to all formula except one while his cotwin, Luke, could drink anything,” Susan Thomas explains. This Riverside, Calif. mom decided to color code baby bottles—blue for Luke and green for Matthew—to help eliminate mistakes. Although her twins are now four years old, the process still makes sense. “It’s helpful with shoes since my boys wear different sizes,” Thomas says. “Even though they hardly look like siblings, the color coding continues to help us.”

Jamie Dudzinski of Green Bay, Wis. relates. “I have never had an issue telling my children apart,” says the mom to 15-month-old identical twin boys. Unfortunately, others did, and shortly after putting her sons in daycare at 14-weeks old, a childcare provider gave a dose of antibiotic to the wrong cotwin. “Since then I color code everything,” Dudzinski says.

Linda Curry has color coding down pat, too. This Phoenix, Ariz. mom to ten-year-old, boy-girl twins, Sara and Jonathan, says there’s also a great sanitary aspect to color coding personal items such as water bottles and toothbrushes. When everyone sticks to his or her own items, there’s a minimal amount of cross contamination. “We’ve had very little illness in our family and I think it’s at least in part to our system,” she says. Furthermore, she believes the process of “that’s yours and this is mine” adds to a twin’s sense of individuality. “I do believe color coding helps to focus on the simple fact that they are two different children,” Curry adds. “Although twins, they should have certain things that are theirs, and theirs alone.”

“In the beginning color coding was necessary for us and others,” Stacey McDonald of Anniston, Ala. and mom to 17-month-old fraternal twin boys explains. “Now it is just routine and has stayed that way!”

If It’s Green It Must Be You!

Dressing twins in different color clothing is the most common way of implementing the system. And for parents of identical twins or fraternal twins that look remarkably alike at birth, color coding has as an added benefit. It helps parents, relatives, and especially teachers distinguish between the pair.

“We color coded religiously for the first year or so,” says Ashley Domingo of Vancouver, Wash. Although she and her husband Anthony can tell their very similar-looking fraternal twin daughters, Bliss and Felicity, apart, few others can. “Color coding their clothing makes it easier for other people to recognize them, especially around family that doesn’t see them very often.”

Heather Eckstein learned that lesson the hard way. “We didn’t color code our first set of twins and I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t tell them apart in some of our old photos,” says the Tacoma, Wash. blogger (itstwinsanity.com) and mother to six children including two sets of identical twins. “With our second set of twins, we assigned them different colors and it has been so much easier for others to tell them apart!” The bonus? Eckstein can now easily identify who is who in photographs.

But which color should you choose for your multiples? Surprisingly, it’s not as simple as you would think as every family has a unique method for deciding. The Napier family of Maple Grove, Minnesota, chose green for identical twin Liam since his name is Irish and blue for cotwin Alec since his name is Scottish. (The Scottish flag is blue and white.) The Perez’s of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on the other hand, simply stuck with purple and pink, the colors of the newborn hospital hats, for their fraternal twin daughters, Rebecca and Julie. Other families try rhyming names and colors. Drew’s in blue. Ted’s in red. Eileen’s in green. (You get the idea.)

Yet color coding clothing as a way of identifying similar twins may not be for everyone. Florence Athens of Atlanta, Georgia gave her sons, Easton and Kael, different colored braided bracelets instead. It was subtle but effective method to help others distinguish between her identical twins.

Color Code the School-Age Years

The color coding system is flexible and can evolve as your family grows and changes. After I gave birth to a singleton two and a half years after my twins, I simply added a new color to my arsenal. With my twins now in their sophomore year of high school and my singleton in middle school, I rely on color coding more than ever. When I see a backpack thrown onto the living floor, I know instantly who it belongs to. (And who to yell at!) I use each child’s chosen color on the family calendar, too. With just a glance I can tell who has a doctor’s appointment, tennis lesson, or class trip.

When it comes to laundry, color coding has been a true lifesaver. We use color-coded laundry baskets (perfect for dropping all that color-coded clothing) as well as the “dot system.” What’s that, you ask? With a permanent marker, I add one “dot” to the inside label of the largest boy’s clothing, two “dots” to the next largest boy, and then three “dots” to my smallest son. It’s especially helpful in sorting laundry since as they’ve gotten older they’ve added more colors to their clothing palate. Furthermore, I can easily hand down clothing to the next boy in line by simply adding a “dot” to the label.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Although color coding clothing is a wonderful tool for running a well-organized household, many twins become very attached to their respective colors. Some even a bit too possessive refusing to use an item in other colors, leading many parents to believe they’ve had undue influence on their children’s preferences. Just ask Lora Morrison of Columbus, Ohio. “From the beginning starting in the hospital, I dressed Savannah in pink and Olivia in purple,” she says of her four-year-old identical twin girls. “Now those are their favorite colors and I kind of feel bad since this was probably my influence!”

But there are plenty of twins who just grow sick and tired of their color. “One day when he was about five years old, Ben told me he was sick of wearing blue,” explains Leslie Lewis of Arlington, Tex. When this mom to identical twin boys including cotwin John asked him what he’d like to do, his answer was simple. “He asked, ‘Why can’t I just tell people who I am?’”

Why indeed Ben!

A copy of the book Double Duty.