The first day I was left to tend to my twins, alone, was absolutely terrifying. I remember counting down the days of my husband’s time at home with us and panicking. I am one person, how on earth am I supposed to keep these two tiny humans alive? I had gone from the world of NICU nurses always being at their bedside, to my amazing husband and parents stepping in to help, and then to the one-woman show. I just remember praying and begging for God to intercede, I wanted to create a home that my daughters’ would thrive in, and it all seemed so overwhelming.
My type-A personality eventually kicked in to gear and I immediately set some ground rules that honestly, were mostly for myself. One of them was to rule out calling on “Captain Technology” unless high fevers and bed rest were involved. I knew that I would want to leave the TV on for background noise, so instead I choose to listen to podcasts or audio books whenever I need some extra “noise.” It can also be so tempting to just throw on the TV or pull out the iPad in order to grab a few moments of uninterrupted time, but we all know that a few moments can quickly turn into hours,and then all of the sudden, technology has become your babysitter. So here we are now, past the major sleep deprivation and intense NICU-related medication and feeding schedule phase, and now I have two super busy toddlers.
With my screen-free ground rule in mind, I have learned to lean in to creativity and find ways, often by failing at things, that help to keep my twins stay engaged. Because, while I absolutely love spending time with my kids, I also have to somehow manage a household and put food on the table.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing I say is “one-size fits all,” that concept simply does not exist with motherhood. EVERY kid is different, and so our approaches should all be different. Some of what I am about to say will not work for you. I also am in no way shaming those of you who use technology in your parenting, I made rules for our home because I knew that I needed them more than anyone else.
So, when your TO-DO list calls…
- Be Strategic with your TIMING:
I try to fit any of my “have-to’s” in when I know that my girls are fed, well rested, and have just been engaged. We eat our meals together, read 1-2 short books, and then I shift them over to independent play time. They feel full on “Mommy-time” because I have just offered them my undivided attention. This is huge! Give your children QUALITY time before asking them to demonstrate independence, set those cell phones to silent as often as you can and turn the TV off! Making sure their needs are met first makes it much easier to grab some time to clean up our meal, do laundry, or whatever else is on my list. I try to avoid waiting to get stuff done until we get closer to nap or bedtime, that does not set any of us up for success.
- Teach Cooperative Play as early as possible:
As soon as my girls were able to sit up on their own, I started teaching them how to roll a ball back and forth. Once they mastered that, I looked for other things that they could do together that held their attention. Think outside the box on this one! For example, one of my girls’ favorite things to play with is one of my workout foam rollers. They use it to play Peek-a-Boo or they talk to each other through it. Even if their little games only last a few minutes, that is still precious time for me to get things done around the house and for them to learn and grow together. That’s the beauty of it, for me, leaving them to play together is guilt free, while leaving them to watch TV is not.
- Encourage the art of lingering:
My daughters are not old enough to tell me “I’m bored,” but I guarantee you that they feel that way from time to time. Why? Because I believe in learning the art of lingering, of slowing things down to let imagination and creativity flourish. We are so fast paced today, any quiet moment we have tends to be used up by technology or social media. I am striving to teach my children how to linger, which all starts with me. When I play with them, I am on the floor and grabbing one toy at a time. I challenge myself to find new ways to play with their toys and I show them how to make games out of them. I also rotate their toys, so that they only have access to a few of them at a time, which encourages them to interact with their toys for longer periods of time.
- Set up play stations around the house:
We have bins set up around our house that I rotate on a weekly basis. I use the ones from our play bin storage shelves that you can find here. This way I have quick access to their toys, and clean up is super easy! I do things like set up block towers and then quickly move a load of laundry over while they are busy recreating Godzilla.
It has been a sweet season of finally feeling like I can usually manage both my home and the fact that I am outnumbered, which was made all the sweeter by the season that proceeded this one, during which I barely had time to even manage my own hygiene or sleep more than 3 hours. So whether you decide to call on Captain Technology or not, fostering independence and cooperative play is always beneficial. The pattern throughout all of these tips is that it all starts with me and my behavior. If I am super distracted on my phone and then ask my girls to do something without me, it backfires because they want quality time. If I do not slow down, but instead I demonstrate my own lack of attention, they are easily bored and fussy. We cannot merely talk it and expect them to walk it. So here is to striving to use our children’s time in a way that sets their minds on things that are excellent, instead of mediocre, while understanding with grace, for ourselves and for others, that some days it is a high achievement just to get food in their tummies or keep everyone alive.
Side note: If you are thinking about cutting down screen time habits in your own home, I encourage you to check out this article: The Dangers of Distracted Parenting
You can also find more of my articles on parenting/twins by checking out my Grace Haven Page, or by clicking on my most recent posts here: Top 10 Items for the First Year with Twins and here:FEEDING 101: HOW TO STOP BAD HABITS FROM FORMING