A revolutionary new “movement” programme aimed at tackling the common physical and developmental issues associated with twins and triplets is being launched this week.
The ‘Movement for Multiples’ scheme guides parents of multiple children through a series of physical exercises to perform with each child individually.
It is aimed at helping to develop balance, body control and coordination in the child - as well as increasing one-on-one bonding with the parents.
The scheme has been devised by UK charity the Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba) and is believed to be the first of its kind developed specifically to address the “known physical, personal, social and emotional development issues associated with multiples.”
Professor Pat Preedy, Tamba education research consultant, said: “Multiple birth children are more likely [than singletons] to retain primitive reflexes, because of the increased risk of problems during the development of the foetus and/or at birth and because of the difficulties providing them with a variety of movement and play opportunities during early childhood.”
She said added that “early physical movement” is important not only for brain development but has a “significant impact on later learning.”
To mark Twins, Triplets and More Week (July 1-7) the charity is making instructional videos and leaflets on how to conduct the programme available for all parents on its website throughout July.
The scheme is targeted at children aged up to 6 months, from six to 12 months, 12 to 18 months, and from 18 months to three years.
Key to the system working is a way of allowing the parent to work one-on-one with each child while the others are occupied elsewhere.
Following a pilot study funded by the Wales Big Lottery Fund, researchers found that making up a so-called “treasure basket” of safe, natural, household objects to occupy the child not taking part in the movement exercises made a huge difference to the success rate of the programme.
Suggested items include baking tins, large spoons, bottle brushes, wooden pegs, cardboard boxes, pine cones, wire egg cups, large shells, loofahs and keyrings with keys.
A spokeswoman for Tamba explained: “It’s basically anything age appropriate that will spark the child or children’s curiosity – something sensory that they can rummage about with.
“It encourages them to be more independent and less reliant on the parent and frees the parent up from being tied to all the children at once to work and bond with each on a one-to-one basis.”
The exercises, devised for each age group, include swinging and roly-poly movements for younger babies to using a Swiss ball, crawling on an imaginary adventure and shaking different body parts for older toddlers.
Prof Preedy added: “They are designed to develop body awareness, muscle tone, balance, body control, grip and hand-eye coordination.”
Dr Celia O’Donovan, who also devised the system, said: “Our research showed us that most parents of multiples said it was too difficult to provide individual movement and play opportunities so we knew we had to devise a programme that would enable them to do activities and bond with an individual child, whilst keeping the other(s) safely occupied and developing independence.
“While one child is engrossed in the movement activities with their parent, the other multiple(s) are given a treasure basket with a number of different objects placed inside. After around ten minutes, the children swap activities.”
Parents involved in the pilot programme reported better attachment with, and individuality for, each child, said that the method was “simple, easy and practical”, as well as enjoyable – and that they had noticed improvements in sensory and motor development.
One mother of twins who was part of the initial research said: “I have enjoyed the programme. It has been interesting to see how they [the twins] have grasped and mastered different movements and it really focuses you to spend a bit of one-on-one time with each child individually.”
Keith Reed, Chief Executive of Tamba, said: “We are really grateful to the Welsh Big Lottery Fund for enabling us to develop the Movement for Multiples programme. I am really pleased that we can now offer our parents videos and worksheets that will enable them to enhance the physical and language development of their children in a practical way that will also help with bonding, individual identity and independence.”
The videos and instructions will be available at Tamba for July and then to members of Tamba thereafter.