One of the most exciting first-year milestones is when your babies learn to crawl. The sense of joy that they get from being able to decided where they want to go is contagious. As fun as this milestone is for the babies, for parents it can present new challenges in maintaining our sanity and the safety of our children.
If your kids are like mine, as soon as they could move they started to cause trouble. I have been wooed with stories from other parents who have perfectly well behaved children, children who never touch an outlet and never dare to open a kitchen cabinet. My kids are polar opposites to these [saintly] kids. Without exaggeration, the very first place baby B headed when he learned to crawl was to the only visible power outlet in the living room. I genuinely feel like he had been plotting his attack for months and liberated by his new- found crawling skills, he went right for it. My children’s curiosity did not stop at power outlets. Since learning to walk they have figured out how to open all the cupboard that have baby proof latches, they have ripped the stove safety latch right off (by pulling on the stove handle together), and they can turn door handles and unlock doors without any trouble. Their rambunctious tendencies have made me an expert on keeping our kids safe while maintaining our sanity and I want to share some insight with you!
Step 1: Create a safe play space for your twins to play.
For us, it was really important to have a safe play space that we could drop our boys into if we needed to be hands free for a short period of time. In addition, we needed a play area that kept our dogs separate from the babies (until we were sure that everyone could coexist happily). In our house, that meant we designated a large portion of our living room to be their play space. Around the time they started to crawl, we purchased two play yards and hooked them together to create the perimeter of “their space”. We filled the area with foam flooring and toys and used this setup until they started to shake the play yard walls and kept trying to open the play yard door (~ 13 or 14 months, around the time that they became proficient walkers). Designating an area in our main living space allowed me the freedom to step into the kitchen to prepare food and bottles as needed as well as the ability to play with them in the most open and spacious part of our house. In addition to their play space, we made sure that their bedroom was a secondary safe place that the boys could play freely (and alone for very short periods of time (e.g. while I used the restroom). Having two reliable spaces kept things interesting for the boys and gave me a little more freedom than just having a single safe area to play.
Step 2: Have a place your twins can play separately.
One of the most unique challenges that twin parents have to deal with is that we are not only trying to keep our children safe from themselves, but we are also trying to keep them safe from each other. My boys love each other and are great playmates, but they have gone through phases where they gnaw on, bat at, roll over and generally torture their sibling for either attention or general exploration. (Side note: I have found that period of teething have been especially difficult. During these times, sibling biting is usually at a high and it is important to have a place to separate the boys when one needs a break). In some cases, a separate play space may just be their cribs (sometimes it is fun to let them play in the others bed. This way they do not feel like it is nap time or you are trying to make them go to bed). Alternatively, if you have the space, keeping one (or two) pack n plays around is a great way to create two sanctuaries when your kids need to be separated. Moreover, keep toys that can used as weapons (mallets, hammers, bats, swords, pull toys with strings) out of communal play spaces until your kids understand how to play with these things. Some toys that are perfectly safe for singleton babies just don’t work will for twins who play together in small(ish) spaces.
Step 3: Childproof your whole house.
Affix cabinet locks, doorknob protectors, stove locks, gas stove knob protectors, socket protectors, protectors for the strings on your blinds, gates for stairs and doorways, toilet locks, change the temperature of your hot water heater, bolt furniture and TVs down so they cannot tip, and the list goes on and on. Assess the risk factors within your home and decided which strategies will work best for you. Sometimes it was just easier to bock off a whole room or a cupboard until the boys learned to listen than to have to childproof the entire room or cabinet if your kids are not going to have consistent access to a specific area. Your child proofing strategies will change as your kids get older, more mobile, and more mature so this is a constant work in progress.
Step 4: Have confidence in your judgment.
Some things are just not safe for your children to play with or play around. As twin parents, it is easy to feel like we spend a lot of time saying “no” for the safety of our children. Make your environment work for you. The more baby friendly areas your house has, the more autonomy you can give your kids and the more relaxed you can be within your own home.