Generally when we think about organizing we think about what WE can do, as mothers, to keep our homes "together´. We set strict guidelines for ourselves and we spend every waking moment following them so that our home is neat and organized. It´s no wonder we´re so exhausted! Organization should definitely begin with us, as our children will learn what they see, but a child as young as two years of age can learn to keep his toys in order if we teach him.
Teaching a child to pitch in around the house is important for so many reasons. First, it teaches him responsibility for his toys. Secondly, it shows him that families work together, and that since he is part of the family, he is also expected to help. Thirdly, if you don´t teach a child to pitch in when younger, you can´t expect him to do so when he is older. And finally, teaching your children to help will alleviate some of the workload for you, and therefore leave you more time to spend quality moments with your family.
It is important that you set the precedent early, though if you haven´t done so by now, it is not too late. Set clear guidelines. Make sure that you are asking a child to do what he can handle. For instance, a child of only two can´t understand the concept of "clean your room,´ but can understand, "put your blocks in the wagon,´ especially if you show him first. Make a big deal when your child does what he is supposed to do. Create an incentive chart or offer stickers. You can wean this later, but in the beginning, your child will enjoy working for a reward.
Here are some tips to help set up your home so that your child can actively participate in keeping his things organized.
1. Use baskets and plastic containers. These are great for a lot of things. Keep one for your children´s shoes and place in the closet within their reach. My daughter´s is kept next to her dresser since she can´t open the closet door yet. When I tell her to go get her shoes or put them away, she knows exactly where to go and what to do. This may not seem like a big deal now, but later, when she´s old enough to get dressed on her own, we won´t be running around trying to find her shoes in the last five minutes before we leave the house. Baskets can also be used for craft items, books, and games.
2. Sing the Clean Up Song. It doesn´t have to be "the´ clean up song; just make something up. When your child hears this song, he will immediately know it is time to clean up, and he´ll enjoy singing it while he works. We do this at the end of the night, before my daughter goes to bed. Sometimes she´ll start singing the song when she sees my husband or me cleaning up around the house.
3. Make it a game. At the end of the night, before bedtime, set the timer for five minutes and when it starts, have the children race around and clean up. We do a variation of this in our house. I tell my daughter to move quickly or slowly. It not only teaches the meaning of the words, but she thinks it is a game and the house gets cleaned in the process.
4. Spend one day per month organizing all toys. It is easy for the toys to take over the entire home, or to get placed in areas where they aren´t supposed to be placed. By spending half an hour to an hour each month going through toys, sorting out things that are no longer used, putting others into their appropriate spaces, or organizing into plastic tubs and crates, you´ll be better able to manage them.
5. For older kids, use a chore chart. List chores that need to be done on a daily basis, and give stickers as a reward for all chores completed. If the child earns a set number of stickers per week, give a reward, such as special time with mom or dad, a new book or toy, a trip to the park, or something else that the child might enjoy receiving.
6. For younger kids, consider rotating toys. Keep only a select number out each week. Place the rest in a toy box or in bins in the closet. This will make cleaning up easier and the children will be excited when they see their "new´ toys come out again.
7. Have a set place for snack time. Allowing kids to eat in any room creates additional mess for you to clean up. Spills stain the carpet and food gets placed in areas that it shouldn´t be. Make a rule that any eating takes place at the table. Not only does this help keep the home clean, but also it eliminates the "senseless snacking´ that some kids like to do between school and dinnertime.
By teaching your children to keep the home organized and clean, you are not only teaching a necessary life-skill but you are also making better use of your time as well. If you have additional tips, please end them in!