Twins Always Have a Play Mate: A Double-Edge Sword?

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.

two twin boys smiling for cameraBut 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.


10 thoughts on “Twins Always Have a Play Mate: A Double-Edge Sword?

  1. Momoftwingirls

    I have fraternal twin girls. They are 6 years old now. It seems I am the polar opposite of your experiences. My twins and I do have one on one Mommy time. Sometimes, I will play and watch TV with one, while the other one plays in her room or watches TV on her own. This goes for an hour. This also happens with will stay with me, and the other with Mommy. I began doing this when my twins were 1Y/O and could tell them that my twins needed me individually. I could see in one of my twins eyes and body language, she needed Mommy. They did not like me always playing with them together.

    Yes, my twins do have a bulit in playmate, but they are always asking Mommy for a playdate with their friends from school or church. Since I have not driven in two years, my twins friends come to my home and play.

    My twins have no problem expressing themselves either. Whatever they want, they let me know, whether I say, “Yes” or “No”.

  2. Bklyn_twin_mom

    I completely relate to this post: my 3-year old fraternal boys spend all day playing with each other, and I join in only sometimes (not enough), using the time to get housework done. And since our neighborhood is a little more isolated, it often seems so much easier to just let them play together, rather than make the effort to get out & about just for playdates. Sure, we go lots of places like children’s museums, zoos, park, etc…but it is always the 3 of us. Hardly any one-on-one time, and hardly any time with outside friends. And now that they’ve started preschool a few afternoons a week, I REALLY notice how their social skills and preferences are so different from the other kids. Even the other sets of twins at school are far more comfortable with their peers than my boys are…because those twins have nannies that have made daily playdates part of the routine for years. The road to socialization looks like it will be a little tougher for us…I need to carve out a few minutes each day to play with each boy on his own, rather than always together.

    1. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      Thanks for sharing your story. The school years are a great time of change for everyone, especially multiples. It’s great, too, that you’re self aware and can see the differences between your family and others. Keep it up and everyone will benefit.

  3. Erin | The Other Side of the Road

    I agree with Mom of Twin Girls. My sons are 26 months old, and my husband and I have been with them “on the floor” from their earliest on-the-back days. They are company for each other, but I still spend a lot of time with them. Since they turned two, however, we have noticed a pronounced difference in their need to be WITHOUT each other and with us alone. We live abroad, so it is not that easy to have one-on-one time with one twin, but if one wakes up early and is with me–helping to get dinner ready or just snuggling and reading a book, he seems happier and less stressed. He is not competing with his brother for my attention. I think for toddlers especially, this “competition” for a parent’s attention that is inherent in being a twin or a multiple is part of what makes them more tantrum-prone.

  4. mary colby

    I have 8 year old 2nd grade twin boys. They are closer than close. I watched them play on the playground this afternoon……playing some imaginary game that involved only the 2 of them. They have a ton of friends in their classes, but they eat lunch together every day and mostly play by themselves at recess. They are blissfully happy. And I completely understand the difficulty of other children trying to break into their twin games. Lately I have enlisted the help of “a snuggle” to have time alone with one boy. The “snuggle” is only for 1 boy at a time and me. I love it, and I learn SO much information during the snuggle time. :) Spending one-on-one time with them is hard….because they want to always be a “threesome”…..or the “posse” as they call the 3 of us. :)

    1. Momoftwingirls

      Mary, that is so funny you call it ‘snuggle’ time. My twins and Mommy also have ‘snuggle’ time. I say, “Twin B is a snuggle bug…” or “Twin A is a snuggle bug”. My girls love getting in real close to me when it is chilly and all they have on is a tank top..

    2. Christina Baglivi Tinglof

      It’s wonderful that your twins get along so well but continue as you have giving each boy alone time as it’s so important. It sounds, too, that they’re in separate classes, probably a good thing as it will help each to get out of his comfort zone and make other friends.

  5. Pingback: My Twins Spoiled? Who Has the Time | Blog About Twins

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