You may remember that we concluded part I as the twins were approaching their 1st birthday.
Here they are recovering from their big birthday bash!
At the time of writing they are 16 months old and are growing into two distinct individuals. Like with any siblings there are similarities and differences both physically and in terms of personality. With Joshua and Finley though, because they are exactly the same age, those similarities and differences are constantly appearing and disappearing.
Just to recap: the purpose of the twin blog is not only to get to know these joyous little boys but also to raise awareness of particular things to think about with ‘multiples’… In the first part of the story we talked about multiple births in general and the different types of twins.
In part II we see how early skills are emerging and look for opportunities to support speech and language development.
Both boys are crawling and using this skill to full advantage to explore their world in much more detail. They have discovered stairs – great fun but fraught with difficulties! Finley is on his feet with a chair or table for support – which is bringing all sorts of exciting things within reach. Joshua currently has a great interest in doors – pushing them open and slamming them shut – usually leaving himself trapped in a room!
The boys are happy little souls – for the most part wreathed in smiles, with hearty appetites for a wide range of tastes and textures. They are developing concentration and, happily installed on the floor with a range of toys, both will purposefully occupy themselves for 20 –
30 minutes. Stacking beakers, pop up shapes, containers to empty and fill are all popular, as are vehicles to push and a box of shakers, rattle, bells and other noisemakers.
All these simple things prove time and again that toys don’t have to be expensive and ‘all singing all dancing’! It can be fun to just wait and see what the boys will do with bowls and wooden spoons for example.
These play sessions are a great opportunity for an adult to observe, watch and wait – choosing the right moment to provide the words which go alongside the activities and to repeatedly name things. Useful joining words can be added in such as ‘more’, ‘gone’, again’.
We are seeing the beginnings of imaginative play emerging. Finley is a whiz with the hairbrush and spoons for feeding. Joshua is getting to grips with the concept of ‘ready, steady, go!’ before he rolls the car or ball.
Caring for twins is hard work (especially when there are other children in the family). There are the very obvious things such as feeding, changing nappies and generally meeting physical needs and it’s easy to see how the opportunities for individual interaction may be much reduced or in danger of being squeezed out.
There has been much debate about whether twins are more predisposed to delayed speech and language development – and if they do, why. Yes, for some, but by no means all twins’ speech and language skills are delayed. The Twins Trust makes the very valid point that ‘speech and language difficulties occur more often in twins and triplets partly because they are more likely to experience the factors which predispose all children to speech and language difficulties, such as prematurity and pregnancy or birth complications’. This link also has a list of easy to implement things to do to help.
Information about how children learn to talk can be found in abundance but basically, all things being equal and development is proceeding as expected, it all boils down to adults interacting with the child – or, in the case of twins, with them both as individuals.
It is so easy to think of Joshua and Finley as a ‘collective’, the twins, and to address them jointly – and of course, sometimes this is entirely appropriate. However to maximise their opportunities to develop speech and language they need individual time and space. It’s really important that James and Laura (with help from the wider family) can in-build some time to focus on each child separately.
It need not be quite the tall order that it sounds! Little and often is the key.
- Look for opportunities as part of the daily routine: meal time, bath time and when nappies are changed. All these are times when one child can be the sole focus
- During play: time spent as the boys follow what captures their interest is ideal for joining in with one child and then shifting to the other and back again
- Use their names: this helps get attention at the outset but it also helps to reinforce individuality
We made a point from early on (we actually had the discussion before they were even born!) not to refer to them as ‘the twins’. When talking to family and friends we talk about ‘Joshua and Finley’ and this in turn means very few people we know say things like ‘how are the twins?’, they’ll ask specifically about each of them.
Taking the time to communicate and spend time with them separately, on a one-to-one basis, is hard. Bath time, mealtime etc are done together, plus we have their older brother to spend time with too, but we do try when we can. We often ‘divide and conquer’ with chores, visits, big brother’s sports clubs etc, each taking a baby – this gives us the opportunity to spend time with them separately, whilst making getting out to the shops a bit easier.
The boys attend Nursery several days a week which helps with the one on one time. The Nursery staff in the baby room are fantastic and very much treat them as individuals. This will continue into school we hope, as most schools we’ve spoken to seem to suggest twins are put in separate classes to develop their individuality…we’ve got a few years until we need to make this decision though!
Now for some more serious food for thought.
- Defining characteristics
Peter’s good at numbers. Jamie’s going to be a good footballer.
Sally’s going to be the more practical sort. Kayla’s a good reader
The friends and relations will make observations about the children in the family – who’s good at what (or not).
Consider whether we should actually ever overtly compare children with one another. Siblings can very soon become aware of the perceptions of adults around them and are usually not mature enough to see that an observation often made ‘in passing’ by an adult, is not a ‘given’ with which they are forever labelled!
If siblings of different ages are at risk of random comparisons made by grown-ups, then how much more at risk at twins? There they are, (literally) growing up together! Who will crawl/walk/talk first and be reminded of it at various points for as long as there are people that can remember?!
Yes, we all have to learn the harder lessons in life – we won’t all play Premiership football or write a best-seller: we can’t always come first or be the best. But there’s plenty of time to find that out as part of the process of growing up.
In the meantime ….
- Describe what you see in an open, positive way (Jay is interested in books, Archie enjoys swimming, Miriam likes painting).
- Make sure that there are choices for play and activity: it’s hard to become interested in something we’ve never had the chance to try!
- Try to incorporate some 1-1 special time with each child in the family. Our focus here is twins but this is just as important for older children too.
We’ve all been guilty of doing this at some point. But it’s important to be aware of the possible consequences of such comments (i.e. making sure that they don’t lead to unhealthy competition or a reduction in expectation).
- Making comparisons
Making comparisons and categorising attributes and traits are some of the ways that young children begin to make sense of the world. They learn opposites (tall/short) and then they learn comparative (taller/shorter) and then superlatives (tallest/shortest). The language of comparison is crucial in solving problems in maths.
Things can become tricky, however, when the way we define characteristics and make comparisons leads us to make polar statements. So, by inference, if Sally’s going to be the more practical sort (she is worse/not good at something academic perhaps) or Peter’s good at numbers (i.e. better than Paul perhaps).
Polar statements can lead to pigeon-holing or stereotyping i.e. to (usually unfairly) assign only limited and particular characteristics/skills to an individual.