I have to admit that I am not an expert, by any means, but I can share what works for our family. As a mom of a very busy four year old I am so tired of all the toys that seem to be always in my living room floor! Until one day I did something different. Here is what I did so you can do it too.
Spend some time reorganizing and then instructing and teaching your kids how to keep things the way you expect them to be.
Kids are in a perpetual state of learning. They don’t know what is expected unless you make things very clear. You can be firm and clear without being scary and mean. Sitting down with your kids and getting them involved helps them to gain ownership of their belongings. Teaching them to take care of their stuff is very important; so many children today don’t know how to take care of things, whether it is theirs or someone else’s belongings.
One thing that we do is sort toys. We have a cubby shelf with fabric cubbies in it. We use those fabric bins to hold Legos and small figures. You can print out free pictures and tie them onto the handles or secure them onto the cubby so your children can see what goes inside. Here is a trick: let them decide what cubby to use. Buy a few different colors so they have a choice.
My son told me the other day, “Mom, I want my cars to live in this bin.” My response was, “Sure! But what are you going to do with the stuff that is living in that bin right now?” He made the decision to put the toys in a drawer that was empty instead. Then he put all of his cars in the bin. That is huge for a four old!
We also use ziplock bags, the extra-large kind, to hold tiny pieces. These are great because they are clear, inexpensive and easy for little hands to open and close. You can tape a label or a picture on the outside of the bag to help your kids remember what goes inside. They will like helping to tape the labels on the bags, which will make them excited to put the items in the bags.
I seem to have a million of those reusable fabric shopping bags around my house. So I decided to get a couple out and let him help decide what to put in them. My son likes to take toys in the car. So we decided that all the dinosaurs will go in the green bag, and all the tools will go in the orange bag. (Two collections he likes to take places) This way when we are ready to go, he only has to decide orange or green. Then the toys can be played with and kept in the bag while in the car and can get back into the house safely and all together. We may rotate collections based on how this system works.
This is a less popular organizational tip, Purging toys helps keep clutter at bay. We did some re organization over the weekend. I noticed several toys that my son has not played with in about a year. Those toys discreetly disappeared after he went to sleep. I did not take a lot of toys, just a few, and ones he will hopefully not notice. Since he is four he doesn’t understand giving things away.
Once you get the room organized it is time to help our children learn how to keep things picked up. Below are a few tips to help you teach your children how to keep things neat and tidy. Remember: Kids are in a perpetual state of learning. They don’t know what is expected unless you make things very clear. You can be firm and clear without being scary and mean. Sitting down with your kids and getting them involved helps them to gain ownership of their belongings.
We work really hard on spending 10-15 minutes picking up toys before bedtime. Every. Single. Night. This is daunting. Some days it is hard, some days it is easy. Toys that are not picked up go in time out for several days at our house. Once I followed through with the timeout bin, he knew I meant business and now picks things up when asked. I still have to direct him. A blanket statement of “pick up your toys” does not work. I have to make sure that he has specific instructions. An example of those instructions would be: Pick up the Lego’s and put them in the Lego bin.Then pick up your army men and put them in the plastic baggy.
You cannot expect them to pick up every single toy at a young age, but if they help then you can eventually lead them to do more and more.
You can make a game of it and see who can pick up the most stuff. I always let him win. I always pick up two toys to his 4-5 toys. I move very slowly, enough that he sees me pick up, but he can pick up most of it. When he wins we give high fives and he gets a sense of accomplishment. I make sure to praise, praise, praise him on how well he did. Or you can set a timer and see which child picks up the most toys. Offering a reward like an extra sticker on the sticker chart is a great motivator.
One other trick I do is say: “I’m going to vacuum and anything that is on the floor will be lost”. He runs to pick things up when I get the vacuum out because he lost a few toys the first couple of times I said this. Did I vacuum them up? No. I took them and he did not get them back.
I hope these ideas will help save your feet in the middle of the night when you are walking in the family room!
My name is Erica and I am a wife to an Alaskan Fisherman (Aka “Big Daddy Crab”) and a mother to a “Little Crab”. We live in Juneau, Alaska. I share stories of our life in Alaska, inspiration for other mothers and tales of Life, Love and Adventure over at We Three Crabs.
We Three Crabs