For all you frustrated parents out there who think that the playroom will never be clean unless you do it yourself, I have good news. It is possible to help your children succeed at cleaning up their own toys and take responsibility for their own belongings.
Children are capable and the secret is you. You can teach them how. The earlier you start, the bigger the favor you are doing for yourself and for them. Organizing skills are learned. We all know that children are not born knowing how to sort, containerize, and assign homes for groups of objects. They need to learn these skills and practice. That’s where you come in.
Organinzing with Your Kids: Your Role
Here are some tips for teaching your children to clean up their rooms and playroom/areas:
- Break the project into small tasks – Just saying, “Go clean your room!” doesn’t work. Help your children by giving them more specific directions, such as “Find all the doll clothes,” “Put the doll clothes in this drawer,” and then “Pick up all the matchbox cars in this bucket,” “Put the bucket on this shelf.”
- Make it Fun – Let them collect all the legos in a toy dump truck and then “dump” the legos into the bucket. Ask them how many blocks they can pick up at one time and carry over to the shelf. For more tedious tasks like picking up crayons off the floor, play some fun music and challenge them to put all the crayons back in their bin by the time the music ends.
- Show them by example – I’m not saying that you need to clean up for them, but to clean up with them. Show them how to pick out all the action figures from the ginormous pile on the floor. As you put the pretend food in the pretend refrigerator, tell them why you are doing it (so they always know where to find it, so we take good care of our belongings). If they want to help you in the kitchen, show them how to sort the silverware into different compartments. Their greatest teacher is you.
Giving Your Children a System to Succeed – A Successful Set-up
- 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:
- 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.
- Avoid 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 item 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.