Do you find yourself constantly cleaning up after the kid’s toys, strewn around the home? Kids accumulate a ton of stuff and it seems to find its way into every room – mainly on the floor, right? Though your child may think nothing of it, it’s extremely frustrating for parents to continuously clean up after them, over and over and over… The Holiday season is a great time to get kids to pitch in and get them in the habit of keeping organized. Anticipation of gifts, Santa(if that’s your tradition), or any other celebratory item, can be used to “help” kids co-operate with new rules better than some other times of the year.
Throughout this post I will show you just a few ways to get kids started(I WILL write more in future posts; stay tuned, as this topic is HUGE and could fill a book 🙂 )
Getting your kids to get into the habit of keeping organized, will not only be an asset to you, but also to your children’s future. Organization spills over in many other areas in life. Here are just a few examples:
1. Helps you because they are pitching in. – You get to relax a bit more.
2. By doing it themselves, they learn to have empathy for YOU and the job you do for them, daily.
3. Prepares them for their future independence (“Start early”, I say!)
4. This will shave time off your own tasks by giving them a job – YAY! 🙂
On the flip-side – If you do not teach them, it can make your life H- – -. If you are always the one who picks up their toys, dusts their room, puts away their clothes, etc., etc., etc., you’re NOT helping them in the long run and certainly not making your life easier either. Even as small children, they are not suffering if they have to clean up a bit. It WILL be a constant battle in the beginning and of course, they are kids, so they will not necessarily clean up “your way”. Expect you will still have to do some of the work for them, but this is a great foundation for their future.
I used to spend so much time cleaning up toys after my daughter went to bed at night – what a waste of time :(. At around 2-3 years old, I decided to get her to help with the cleanup. Oh boy, it was not easy. Suddenly she was “toooo tired” to help clean up before bed. I would just say “ok you better go to bed right now if you are that tired – no story book tonight.” Suddenly, since she loves her bedtime story, she would have enough energy to help me. There’s ALWAYS something they want from you, so use it as leverage to get them to do things. Sometimes it’s a game of poker – don’t let them win, or before you know it, you will have lost all your chips to them ;).
With kids, you have to appeal to their senses. You have to give their toys “a home”. Kids believe in magic and you can appeal to their sensitivity by giving life and personality to all their items. Tell them everything needs a home. When you see dolly or transformer on the floor and they aren’t playing with it, say “Awwwww. Dolly is sad. When you aren’t playing with her, she wants to be in her home. Please put her back where she lives”. If they argue this, just calmly let them know that they probably won’t see that toy again. I tell her, if she doesn’t care about poor dolly, I may as well get rid of her. The other option is to say dolly may disappear to some other kid who cares and will give her a home(I must say, there were a couple times I had to put items in a garbage bag & put them at the back door until she realized I wasn’t kidding. She did not win that hand in our long game of poker).
Another way is to tell them they cannot move on to another task without putting away the other items. I find my daughter can be doing a puzzle, then move on to some crafts, then suddenly ask me to play Barbie with her. I always say “Yes, I can play Barbie, just as soon as you clean up the other stuff”. Sometimes it’s a standoff, but in the end it’s always mission accomplished ;). Withholding activities or snacks usually does the trick.
You will always come across some resistance in the beginning, but once you have established the rules for toys not being played with, you will find yourself much happier.
First you will have to put the stystems in place to allow them to be organized. And the way to do this, is to really let them do it themselves(well, mostly… but with guidance). I let my daughter take over the bottom two shelves of a linen closet since she has a very small room. This is what she did.
The highest shelf for her has two baskets with Barbie and related toys. The next shelf down is a setup of her Monster High Dolls in the form of a play area(it’s nice because we can just close the door and it all disappears. On the bottom she was able to use some drawers to put things away nicely. She is at the age where she is learning to read so a label in ‘printing’ is fitting. She decided to add a leaf for “Poison Ivy” – the super villain, on her “Costume Accessories” drawer. I wrote the labels instead of typing them because she needs to learn how to form letters – it’s more beneficial for her learning, rather than focusing on “the look” right now. If your child is younger, you could use pictures cut out from magazines, or that they colored themselves or even just a color coded sticker.
Next she, along with me, decided how she would put things on a tall shelf in her bedroom.
It’s not the most glamorous look, but she did it, and she knows exactly where everything goes. It’s easy and accessible for her to put her own stuff away. In her baskets, she knows that one of them has nail polish, one has head bands, etc.
I encouraged her throughout this process and gave her ideas. Either she agreed or didn’t, but as long as you include them in the process, they will be able to do it for themselves again and again. She may not put things away quite as neatly as I would like, but its a wonderful start and I am so happy that she is able to generally maintain this organization. YAY! 😀
MAKE SURE TO COMPLIMENT THEM! Praise will help keep them wanting to please you more. And never “fix” what they did(in front of them anyway ;)). It’s going to be an ongoing process, as you will almost always have to prompt them to put stuff away.
Here are two other items that will get your child organized:
I like to have a toy box that is not necessarily meant to be a toy box, so you can re-use it in future for things like linens, pillows, memorabilia, etc. When you buy a kiddie style toy box, you may not get as many years of use out of it, and is not as esthetically pleasing. This one is a simple $50 item from Costco. You can place it on the end of the bed or just about anywhere – even the living room and nobody will know all the kid’s toys are stuffed in there. Nice 🙂
The other item is a beautiful book holder. Installed at kid level allows them to put their books away themselves. You can find this gorgeous item at Pottery Barn. Love this one.
So now that you have shelves, drawers, baskets, whatever you have used to put away their stuff, you can easily see if you have TOO MUCH stuff. During the holiday season, you know there are more items to come. Therefore this is a great time to let them know, if they can make room in these areas, Santa(for example’s sake) will bring more.
In anticipation of the new toys, they may suddenly feel comfortable letting go of older items they don’t play with very often. And of course, you will probably tell them the toys will be donated to a younger child who really needs a toy to play with.
In the end, don’t expect perfection. Sometimes I’m not happy with “the look” of the cleanup my child does, but I’m ecstatic about “the effort”. So try and accept their level and refrain from “fixing” what they just did. Praise, praise, praise, consistency, consistency and you will gain back some time in YOUR life, and be well on your way to raising RESPONSIBLE young adults. 🙂
Thanks for tuning in 🙂
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