We all know that children excel in making messes, but as I discussed in my last blog post, children are also capable of cleaning up after themselves. First, they need to be taught how. Second, they need a set-up that will make it easy for them to put things away.
Here are some ideas for how to set up your child’s room/playroom:
- Have a home for everything. Designate specific spots for where to keep the blocks, the dolls, the dress-up clothes, the matchbox cars, etc. Use low cabinets and book shelves so your child can easily and safely reach.
- If there is not enough space for all the toys, put some away. This accomplishes three things:
- Less toys makes clean up quicker.
- It ensures that all the toys’ designated homes are free and available at clean-up time.
- Rotating toys on a monthly basis keeps them “fresh” and renews your child’s interest in them after a brief absence.
- Use small containers for smaller items (legos, Barbie accessories, action figures, crayons, etc.) and larger containers for larger items (blocks, stuffed animals, large vehicles, sand toys, etc.)
- Label each container with a photo and written label of what is inside. This is especially important if the container is not transparent and if your child is not able to read. Having both a photo and a written label also facilitates literacy skills.
- Be wary of the giant toy box! If you have a toy box, be very specific about what belongs inside. It’s so tempting for a little one to just dump everything that needs to be “put away” into the toy box and then shut the lid. But then he or she will probably never be able to find a small Bakugan in the cavern of miscellaneous toys without emptying the whole thing. Toy boxes are best for storing items like dress-up clothes, sports equipment, and stuffed animals.
Having clearly assigned, labeled homes for toys does not just make your child’s play space look neater. It also facilitates a more productive and satisfying play experience for your child and a more successful clean up time when it is over.
This blog post is the second in a series of how to help your children succeed at cleaning up their own toys and being responsible for their own belongings. Next week: When and how to weed your child’s toys.