When you’re the parent to young twins or triplets, you rarely if ever hear the words, “I’m bored. Can you play with me?” Having built-in play mates is a definite perk when you’re a busy parent of multiples. Young twins and triplets can entertain each other for hours giving you a moment to catch your breath, or at the very least, to make dinner in peace. It’s a given that if you have twins, they will delight and distract each other for blissful periods of time, but is there a downside to this birthing bonus bestowed to families of multiples?
I think so.
When your twins spend so much time together, they miss out on something else—you. Sure, you take them out for an afternoon of errands or to the library for story time—and that’s a wonderful way to spend the day with your kids—but it’s just not the same as the one-on-one interaction you get by simply sitting on the floor and entering their imaginary world of play.
All children, multiples included, benefit from floor time with Mom or Dad, an activity that singleton children experience way more often with their parents. Experts say that when parents participate in child-directed play where the child calls the shots (and not you), it not only aids in his or her emotional development but also builds social skills including language, especially important for multiples. Furthermore, one-on-one unstructured play nurtures that all-important parent-child bond—a relationship component that’s not always easy for a mom who gives birth to more than one baby at a time!
But don’t get me wrong—like many other moms, I was never a big fan of floor time. Building with LEGO Bricks? Again? Do we have to? Rolling trucks up and down the hallway? Really? There were many times when I just couldn’t bear constructing one more block tower and I would encourage my twins to play with each other instead of me. Once they were actively engaged, I’d then sneak off to do other household chores or work on my writing.
But there’s more.
When multiples play together day-in and day-out, never requesting play dates with other children, they become somewhat isolated from the outside world as their parents get more and more complacent. Since their twins are perfectly content to play with each other why bother going out? (Never mind the logistics of getting two twin toddlers out the door in a timely manner!) But moms of single-born children don’t have that luxury. Moms of single-born kids need to set up play dates with other same-age children out of necessity. Parents with multiples? Not so much. They simply don’t have the same urgency—their kids are happy to play with just each other.
But the long-term outcomes can be very different. While single-born children are building a roster of friends from various groups and activities, multiples on the other hand, tend to have fewer outside friendships. And when twins finally do get together with other kids, sometimes they inadvertently ignore them. Maybe you’ve seen it? Twins get in “the zone” with each other, intuitively understanding the nuances of their make-believe games. It then takes a special kind of kid to break the code and enter their “twin sanctum.” Some kids figure out the rules and join in the fun but others don’t and walk away in frustration.
So what’s the take-away from all this? Twins and triplets need lots of social interaction, not just with kids their own age but with their parents as well. Don’t wait for an invitation to join in their fun.