Solitary Play: How To Do Independent Play with Twins
As great as it is to be born with a built-in best friend, twins need to learn how to play independently. And starting from just a few months old you can work on encouraging independent playtime with your twins.
Having twins can make working independent play time into your schedule a bit more challenging, but it is completely doable. Here is why independent play is so important for twins specifically, and how to set up this playing into your routine.
Independent Play with Twins
So what is the big deal about playing independently? Twins playing alone brings about a lot of benefits for twins and their parents.
Independent Play Definition
The definition of independent play time can be a bit broad. Simply speaking it is when your baby or child plays by his or herself. Pretty basic there. That play time has big benefits for toddlers and kids, from a month old to over a year old.
But I am talking about the more specific Babywise definition of Independent Play. This is when there is a dedicated time every day for your children to play on their own. Not screen time, not with siblings, but just the child and some books or toys.
As the parent, you pick the play area and supply age-appropriate toys and leave your little one to have fun! This is different from directed play in that your child can do what they want. They just have to stay where you put them. (Learn more about the details of independent playtime—> Independent Playtime Overview)
Benefits of Independent Play for Twins
This type of play is good for kids of all ages, even older kids. But twins get some unique benefits when you encourage independent play for them.
Gives Twins Alone Time
This is a big benefit for baby and toddler twins. Young twins naturally spend a lot of time together. A LOT. Ali and Sammy are together basically all day.
This isn’t a weird twin thing, it’s a practicality thing. Babies and toddlers have the same schedule, the same needs, and realistically the same interests. Keeping them together and on the same routine helps life run smoothly.
This makes alone time all the more important for twins. They can play and just focus on themselves, no one bothering them. If you have a more introverted twin they might relish the break in external stimuli.
(Learn how to get your twins on a schedule and fit in that independent playtime—> How To Get Twins on a Schedule)
They Can Work on Individual Skills
Just because two babies were born at the same time doesn’t mean that they will reach each developmental milestone at the same time. Independent play gives twins a chance to work on the skills they want on their own.
No rushing, no pressure, no interference. They are free to work at their own pace.
It Forces Individual Problem Solving
Teamwork makes the dream work, right? But twins need to learn how to solve problems on their own too. Play really is the work of childhood, and twins need to learn how to solve problems alone by doing it.
While twins may spend a lot of time together, especially in childhood, they won’t forever. Independent play forces twins to work on their own. Is one twin better at stacking blocks? The twin who isn’t can’t just let the dominant twin take over. She has to do it on her own.
How To Set Up Independent Play with Twins
So we know independent play time is important for twins. But you do you actually set it up? Twins often share a room, but that means they aren’t exactly on their own. There are a few options to help you out with twin toddler independent play.
Play Time in the Crib
We started independent play time when Ali and Sammy were just a few months old. As such, we just had them play in their cribs.
It was the easiest space wise, and they really couldn’t interact with each other at all. So I felt it was still pretty independent.
Even now as toddlers we still do some independent play with the girls in their cribs. We have a small house so it makes sense for them to be in their room. I feel there is still a level of independent play, even though they are older.
While they can talk and interact, they can’t actually touch each other and play together. So physical problem solving is still on the individual. And quite honestly they often play without interacting. They are quite adept at ignoring each other, especially when they can’t get into each other’s faces.
(Learn how to set up your twin nursery so it is safe and practical—> Twin Nursery Arrangements)
Play Time in a Pack and Play
Pack and plays are so handy! Another option is to have one twin in a crib and the other in a pack and play in another room. We can put a pack in play in our bedroom or even Ben’s room when he is at school for true independent time.
(And by pack and play I mean a playpen for babies or kids play yard. Whatever you happen to have. This Twin Pack and Play is a good one that works when your twins are newborns and toddlers.)
Why the containment if they are in separate rooms? We have a small house, so we don’t have a lot of rooms for the girls to be in. Ali and Sammy would love to play with Ben’s toys, but he would hate that.
With a small house, the living room is out too because they would be interacting with me. It is important that they spend a chunk of time on their own, not just five minutes.
Having the smaller space means Ali and Sammy can play without getting into trouble. These little ladies also really enjoy running around. So being forced to be still and in one place is a challenge for them and something they need to work on.
Different Rooms and/or Different Times
As your twins get older and are ready for room time you can use the same idea as the pack and play and crib solution. Each twin can play in a different room.
You can also utilize different times for the play. This opens up time for one on one activities with you as a parent. You can switch up screen time with independent play if you still need a block of time where your twins are occupied without your direct interference.
Finally, you can use some combination of these ideas. That is what we most often do. I find it keeps things interesting and it is helpful to be flexible.
When Ben is at school we can use his room to have playtime in a pack and play while one twin is in her crib. When he is home the girls both use their cribs.
I also like to take turns pulling one girl out at a time for one on one time. This is valuable time, especially with twins. It doesn’t have to be long, but both my girls just shine when they spend time playing with mom.
(Want to encourage individuality in your twins? Here are some tips!—> How To Recognize Individuality in Your Twins)
Independent Play and Play Development in Twins
I want to take moment to share how independent playtime fits into play development in kids. Kids go through 6 stages of learning how to play.
- Unoccupied Play
- Solitary Play
- Onlooker Behavior
- Parallel Play
- Associate Play
- Cooperative Play
Children learn from all these stages of play, starting from unoccupied play at just a few months old and cooperative play when they are in the preschool years. When children play they learn about social skills and how to interact with their peers.
This sort of social learning is extremely important, but twins need to learn it a little differently. Twins can be faster to interact and play together earlier, as they have constant interaction with their twin. (Twin bond!)
So they need to learn to play alone and to interact with others on their own, not just with their twin. This often starts when they are in separate classes in school. But it begins at home when they get a chance to learn through independent play.
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