Should I always be entertaining my 15 week old twins, or is it alright to let them play alone?
I am a mother of 15 week old twins and it seems to me that they get bored quite easily. I spend most of the day trying to amuse them and hold and cuddle them. When I leave them to amuse themselves I feel a great sense of guilt and feel like I should be entertaining them. I need your advice, what do babies of this age need? Constant attention or can I leave them for a few hours a day on their backs or in a bouncing chair? When I say alone I mean I would always look after them but if I can be free to do some other tasks that would be helpful.
It is great that you are thinking about this now, as it can be very easy to give constant attention to your babies which may result in them not being able to amuse themselves for even short periods as they get older
Getting the right balance between interacting with them and leaving them for short spells on their own, whilst you are close by, is what you need to aim for.
Babies of this age are capable of amusing themselves with a toy, or on their mat, for about 15- 20 minutes at a time before getting bored and losing interest. This does mean you may not get a lot of tasks done all at once, but can certainly manage to do a few things of your own whilst staying within sight of them. Some babies may need to learn how to do this. Don’t expect it to happen straight away. You may need to build up the time they are left to play alone, but it is worth doing now before they become too used to constant attention.
After they have fed they may enjoy some time under their play gym. Settle them down and interact for a few minutes and then let them explore and discover the toys for themselves. The added bonus of twins is that they will soon discover each other, which will help them stay amused for perhaps slightly longer periods of time. Stay within sight of them, but certainly get on with some other tasks.
After about 15-20minutes you may find they are beginning to sound a little grizzly and bored. If they are not due a nap then change their scene. Take them with you into the kitchen maybe and let them watch you from their chairs. You don’t need to be physically holding or cuddling them to interact. They will love the sound of your voice. Tell them what you are doing as you busy yourself. Just watching you move around and hearing you chat will amuse them. Some mothers do feel a little silly when chatting to their baby who is not yet able to really reply. But this is how communication starts. They will begin to make noises and coos back to you in response to your voice. You can keep this “conversation” going even if busy cooking or cleaning.
What is important at this age is to realize they do have a limited attention span. Unless very placid in character most babies will want some kind of attention every 20 minutes or so. You can break up your day so you do have times of cuddling and holding. You can also begin to share books with them, naming the objects on the page and talking about what you see. Sing or play nursery rhymes and songs to them as well as just holding and cuddling.
Avoid them becoming over stimulated with too many toys and playthings out at one time. This will result in boredom as they will be unable to settle to any one thing if there is too much on display to distract them. Put them under their gym for one period of play and don’t put anything else out near to them. Once they have explored this either take them along with you, if you move to another part of the house, or change their position again and spend some time interacting with them. Then let them have another spell of being on their own with different toys to look at and play with. Perhaps they could be on the floor with a baby mirror and board book propped up where they can see it.
The toys you provide do need to be right for their level. A baby of this age will not be able to cope with an activity center which requires finger dexterity but they will enjoy grabbing at toys suspended above them on their gym. Always consider what they are capable of doing now rather then trying to push them onto the next stage. So many toys are labelled as “stimulating” or “educational” but a baby will learn at his own pace. Providing them with toys which are too advanced for them now will result in frustration and boredom as they are unable to get any value from them. By the time the toy is suitable for their abilities they will be bored with seeing it and may leave it to one side.
Of course you can spend time playing with your babies but try to hold back from always showing them how a toy works. Play is a baby’s work. Through play they learn about the world around them. For your babies, being given the time and space to do this at their own pace is as important as spending time with you. It is for you as a parent to make sure you get this balance right. A baby who is able to amuse himself now for short periods, who is not always looking for attention or wanting to be carried, will continue to be able to do so as he grows and discovers the world around him. Being twins this may be easier as they will always have each other to watch and amuse. A singleton can easily get to rely too much on his mother’s or carer’s attention and be unable to spend time on his own, if he has never been given that opportunity.
Once you see that they are able to play on their own for short periods you will feel less guilty about not being with them all the time. They need to learn how to play on their own as there is nothing worse than a small child who has been constantly attended to and is unable to play, or even think of playing, alone. It is not the child’s fault that they are like this; the opportunity was never given to them at a young age. If you start now, with short periods of time on their own interspersed with your interaction, either with your voice or a spell of you actually playing with them, they will grow up secure both playing alone and with you. When they are playing on their own, observe them at times and see how they are exploring and discovering all of the time. This standing back from a baby is a good habit to get into as you will be more aware of how they are developing and what their changing needs are.