Reduce. Organize. Make it Fun. Flourish!
“I am your mother, not a maid!”
I recently proclaimed to my 5 year old. She somehow believes that it is my job to pick up her toys and put them away. This is partly due to my lack of consistency and her ability to see and push my buttons; I am not perfect by any means and I learn as I go along.
I for one need a neat and tidy environment to feel calm and centered. While this has been a struggle in general for me, I have recently realized just how important this is for my personal well being as well as that of my children.
Children as young as one year old can begin to understand and implement the clean-up ritual.
How can we teach our children to tidy their belongings when finished playing with them?
- Give them a hand. Make this a team effort and set an example for little ones. They learn by example. If Mama piles all the toys and dumps them into a toy box, little one learns this. If Mama takes each toy and carefully returns it to its home on the shelf, little one learn this.
- Give each toy a home. It is easy to let the quantity of toys and childhood accessories exceed what is necessary. Just as you give each dish in your kitchen its “home” in your cupboard, give each toy a “home” on a bookshelf or dresser. Then, your little one feels calm and secure knowing where items belong and where they can be found. She can return the toy to where it belongs!
- Sing a song. Singing a clean-up song makes turns practice into a fun family ritual. Songs are a wonderful way to signal to children a task that is about to occur without having to proclaim or dictate, “Clean up your toys!” Using the tune of “Mary Had a little lamb” sing these words:
“It is time to clean up toys, clean up toys, clean up toys, it is time to clean up toys before we go to bed.”
- Put one away before taking out another. Children’s interest changes quickly and it is easy to let them start another project or activity before finishing up and cleaning up a previous one. Keeping board games or toys with small pieces on a high shelf that only you can access will prevent little pieces from getting lost. When a game is returned, another can be given.
- Pass them on. Children quickly outgrow toys. Take a look around their room and determine what books or toys are no longer meeting their needs, and pass them on to younger children. Engage your children in the process of “giving” and soon they will be keeping their toys to a minimum. How many stuffed bears do they really need?
- Evaluate your toys. In their play, children love to imitate adults. Keep toys that reflect the real world, allowing them to “play” mommy or daddy and eliminate toys that are “made for children.” Simple toys are best because they spark their sense of imagination ~ wooden spoons, silks, baby dolls, and blocks are keepers! Toys that make too many noises, have too many buttons and gadgets involved interfere with their creativity. Say no to the television!
- Repetition! It’s easy to initially feel like a robot, but eventually they learn what is expected of them. Stay consistent and repeat until the pattern is understood.
Children can sometimes be persuasive and demanding, so setting some guidelines and rhythm to staying organized will benefit the family’s sense of well being and provide tools for children that lasts their entire lifetime. Eliminating unnecessary toys and giving each toy its home creates ease and space for creativity and imagination. Your child can and will clean-up for herself!
Do we know what we have in our home and where to find it?
What do we really need and what can we pass onto somebody else?
How can we create a comfortable calm environment that allows space for creativity and imagination to flourish?