If you’re a twin parent, there’s a term you’ve heard so often, you can’t help rolling your eyes at it: “Double Trouble.” It goes without saying that twins seem to have a reputation out there in singleton land, and we resent strangers’ audacity to label our twins with a cliche assumption. But let’s be honest for a minute, twin parent to twin parent. It’s….kind of true.
Think about the sheer havoc those two can wreak on a perfectly clean room in about 10 seconds flat. And as if pulling every article of clothing out of every drawer in the dresser wasn’t enough, while you’re folding and putting everything back away, they’re onto the next twin mission: the bookshelf.
I’ve had singletons and I’ve had twins, and all four of my singletons put together could never tear apart a room like my twins can. Something about there being two of them at the same age, with secret telepathy abilities and tastes for mischief, leads to this unequaled partnership in crime. And so, though I cringe to admit that this annoyingly overused term rings true, I have to admit that twins really can be double trouble.
With this realization, the thought of staying home with twins can be daunting, for what is one supposed to do with them all day? Activities which involve things like play dough or stickers or paint can be fun, but they also only keep kids’ attention for about five minutes and then take 12 years to clean up. Obviously, having them watch TV all day is not ideal.
So having a plan in mind for passing the time productively at home with twins is a good idea. Here are a few things that can help lead to a more structured day with (hopefully) less boredom and mess-making, and more positive times together.
6 Tips to Keep Twins Busy At Home
1. Play with your kids first.
If your kids are anything like mine, they ask you to play with them about 28 times an hour, and if you’re anything like me, you love playing with your little ones but also still have to actually do things too. Dishes have to be washed, laundry folded, floors swept, and other responsibilities tended to.
Being a stay at home parent in no way means sitting around with your feet up. In fact, I’ve had days where I don’t sit down for hours, not even to eat. So while I’d love to say yes to my kids every time they ask me to play, sometimes I just can’t.
I’ve found that playing with them early in the day, for a set amount of time, helps curb their constant requests for me to come play. Making sure I very clearly communicate to them what they can expect also helps a lot.
So it goes something like this: I tell them I’d love to play with them, but I also have work I have to do. I tell them how long I can play, set the timer, and then give them my undivided attention for that time. We play dolls, trains, blocks, or whatever they want to play, but when the timer goes off, they know playtime with mommy is over and I have to go do some work.
Usually, just some undivided attention goes a long way with little ones and after you’ve given them yours for a while, they’re understanding of your need to go get some work done. Even if they are too young to understand this concept, playing with them for a set amount of time can help satisfy their need for attention for a little while, perhaps long enough for you to set them in a bouncy seat while you empty the dishwasher.
2. Go outside.
Another thing that helps keep little ones happy at home is taking them outside. Just about everything is better outside. Grab that box of cars and take it outside. They can make dirt tracks or little towns with grass and sticks. If it’s hot enough, let them have a “car wash.”
This can apply to lots of other toys as well – have an outside tea party or set up a sheet between two trees to make a little outside hideaway. I’ve found that taking my kids outside, even if we don’t actually go anywhere, helps break up the day and gives them some new things to explore.
Having some outside time earlier in the day and then again in the afternoon helps pass the time, expel energy, and is a great mood enhancer.
3. Let them help.
When possible, letting your twins help with your household tasks can be a great way to pass the time, interact with them, and teach them. Give them a wet rag and ask them to wipe down doors or furniture. If you’re cooking, let them stand on a sturdy stool in a safe place and watch or assist.
Of course, this can sometimes make work take double the time. My twins used to love to “help” unload the dishwasher, which meant they licked every utensil and cup before handing them to me. Finding simple tasks to let your twins do around the house, however, can teach them at an early age how they can help the family, and can help pass some time at home.
4. Rotate toys
Staying home can mean kids get bored easily. The problem isn’t usually a lack of toys in most homes, but a lack of appreciation for their toys. If you think about it, your kids probably play with one-fourth of their toys on a daily basis. Putting toys away in a container in the closet or attic and then rotating them when the kids seem particularly bored can be a great way to inspire a newfound appreciation for long-forgotten items.
Another tactic I unintentionally stumbled upon was just dumping the entire toy box out onto the floor and watching my little ones act like it was Christmas morning while they discovered all the lost toys that had fallen to the bottom of the box. If your kids seem bored with their toys, it may help to stash a few away, and re-introduce them after a few weeks.
5. Go on playdates.
One of the most important things you can do as a stay at home mom is to make a point to plan opportunities for playdates and other social activities. Staying home all day, every day can become overwhelmingly lonely.
And while getting out of the house with two little ones can often seem like such an immense struggle that you wonder if it’s even worth it, I assure you that it is. Even if it is just to spend an hour at the park, new sceneries and sounds and faces can be refreshing enough to help you make it until bedtime.
6. Play music
Playing music around the house can help pass the time and entertain your little ones while at home. It can lend itself to creative energy and a lighthearted air of playfulness, and also helps when the house feels a little lonely.
Staying home with twins can make for a long day, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity to spend time with your little ones and make memories. Try to remember, it is a short season that will not last long, and before you know it will be replaced with school days, sports teams, and extracurricular events.
Natalie Downey is a stay at home mom to six rambunctious but lovable kids. Her two-year-old boy/girl twins were the surprise of her life and keep her on her toes. She gets by with lots of help from coffee and yoga and enjoys literature, spontaneous dance parties with her kids, and playing guitar.