It’s one of the issues parents of twins don’t really give much thought to beforehand: how to tell twins apart. But it’s an issue nonetheless. Twin mix-ups happen all the time, at home and in school, and especially when you first bring them home as newborn twins.
Telling identical twins apart is trickiest in the early days when they still look remarkably similar. The twin you’ve been calling Emma may actually be Olivia, and vice versa.
The good news is that as your twins get older, it gets easier. You become more and more familiar with their features and behaviors. They eventually develop their individual personalities.
In the meantime, try these simple strategies:
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How to tell newborn twins apart
Keeping track of just one newborn’s feeding and sleeping routines is hard enough for a sleep-deprived parent. Now imagine you have to do this with two babies. If you have identical twins, you may not even be able to identify one precious baby from the other during the first few weeks.
And yet you still have to make sure that each baby gets enough milk, sleep, and nappy changes. That means you’ll have to devise a system to tell them apart. Here are some tricks to help you do that.
- Physical clues —Identical twins may look uncannily similar at the beginning, but even then there will at least be a few traits that are unique to each. For example, one twin may have chubbier arms, poutier lips, or darker hair than the other.
Look for the physical differences that set the babies apart. One may be longer. The other may have freckles on her nose or a birthmark on her knee.
Use these to figure out who is who. Write down your observations or take photos to help you remember.
- Temperament — Even when they’re just a few weeks old, you can already see that your twins have different personalities. One of the twins may be crankier at night than the other or one of them may be friendly while the other tends to cry when he sees unfamiliar faces. These differences will help you tell the twins apart.
- Nail polish — Here’s an easy one for you. Dab the tiniest bit of child-friendly nail polish on one of your twin’s toenails. It helps you figure out which baby is which if their personalities aren’t that pronounced yet or if they’re asleep and you don’t want to move them around to look for a specific mole or birthmark.
- Clothing — Colour code their outfits! One twin gets the blues and purples while the other wears only the pinks and yellows. When they’re this young, they can’t argue with you and by the time they’re old enough to choose their own colors, you would have already figured out how to tell them apart.
- Stickers — This is another easy one that will help you recognize your twins even if they’re asleep or fussy or when you’re too tired and sleep deprived to attempt to guess. Grab a pack of stickers and assign a color or style to each twin. For example, Sam gets the blue stickers on his onesie while Max gets the red ones on his.
This is a convenient temporary solution that will help you identify your identical twins while they’re still too little to tell apart.
How to tell identical twins apart at home
Even when they’re adults, identical twins can be hard to tell apart, as evidenced by this article in the Daily Mail. But generally, as identical twins get older, telling which twin is which usually gets easier.
But you may still hear parents saying “I can’t tell my twins apart” even when their children are school aged. Why? Because as they get older, your twins will discover how much fun it is trying to trick you into mixing things up!
Follow these tips to avoid falling for their antics.
- Get to know their quirks — The older your twins get, the more you’ll notice the differences in their physical characteristics, facial expressions, personalities, mannerisms, movements, and preferences. One may like Disney songs while the other prefers show tunes. One may enjoy rough and tumble play while the other opts to curl up on the couch and watch cartoons.
One twin may be sociable while the other is reserved. One may tug at her ear when she’s nervous or be unable to keep a straight face when she tells a lie. As their different personalities start to emerge, pay attention and you’ll be harder to fool.
- Color assignment — This boils down to personal preference, but some families find it easier to tell their twins apart by simply color coding their clothes and other belongings. You’ll have to get your twins to cooperate with you on this. It’ll help if you let them choose the colors they want.
How to tell twins apart at school
When your twins start going to school, you have to do what you can to help others figure out which twin is which. Mistakes can be stressful for the teacher and embarrassing for your children.
- Different shoes — Aside from color coding your twins’ clothes, assigning different shoe styles makes it easier for their teachers to tell them apart. This also works because it’s not embarrassingly obvious and your twins will still be able to choose the clothes they want. Just make sure to clue the teachers in on which one is wearing sneakers and which one is wearing ballet flats.
- Name tags — Unfortunately, this will only work when your kids are really young and don’t have a say in the matter. A pin with their name on it, a bracelet, or an ID card on a lanyard will help their teachers and class aides figure out who is who.
- Label their clothes — Instead of assigning specific colors or styles of clothing, you can also try having your twins’ names or initials embroidered on their clothes.
- Anticipate mistakes — This is more of a coping mechanism than a technique for telling twins apart. No matter what you do, there will inevitably be times when those at school mistake one twin for the other. Reassure your children that it’s normal for people to make mistakes and teach them how to politely correct others when they switch things up.
Do you have other tips on how to tell twins apart? Share them with us in the forums or in our Facebook group.