How can such a small child make a big mess? Toys everywhere—on the floor, under the bed, and crammed into the sofa crevices.
Unfortunately, a little mess is part of the territory: your child is exploring the world, and mess is a natural consequence. The good news is that you don’t have to live in a complete disaster zone. Teaching her to clean up after herself can also teach her important skills (sorting, counting, following simple instructions). Here’s how to do it.
Make cleanup a bonding activity
If you’re always picking up after your toddler, he won’t learn how to do it himself. So do it together. You’ll probably still do the bulk of the tidying up, but he learns the habit and may even see it as a game—at this age, he loves every minute with mommy! So if you’re cleaning up his room, give him a small area: ‘You put the trucks back into the box.’ Or, if you’re putting away the blocks, say: ‘You’re in charge of the red blocks!’ or ‘Can you be Mommy’s helper and get the blocks over there?’
Don’t rush to tidy up. If you swoop in with a dishrag if she spills paint on the table, you’re sending the message that cleanliness is more important than exploration. And, your child will be less inclined to help tidy up because he feels that you’re interrupting his fun. Let him enjoy, and then clean up when playtime is really done.
Contain the chaos
It’s impossible to have an impeccably neat, Martha-Stewart standard home. So drop the stress, lower your standards, and aim to contain the chaos instead. You can set ‘play zones’ with lots of kid-friendly furniture that don’t stain easily, or flooring that’s easy to wipe clean. Or if you don’t have much space, set up a play area. ‘if you want to paint, stay here in the kitchen table,’ you can say—right before you cover the floor with newspapers to catch any stray paint.
Of course, don’t make your job any harder by getting toys that are hard to clean up (lots of loose parts, leaky containers). Read this funny article on toddler toys that can go very, very wrong.
Make it into a game
Who can pick up the most stuffed animals? Can you put away the blocks before the end of the song? Little games like that make clean up fun and are way more effective than shouting, ‘Put away your toys NOW!’
Choose kid-friendly storage containers
Get small plastic boxes where your kids can sort and organize toys. For example, all the dinosaurs go into one box, and all the cars go in another. Print and paste a photo of the toy on the plastic box, so your child can return it easily (and find it without dumping all the other toys on the floor). Your storage containers should also be near the ground.
Read our article on how to conquer clutter to find out how to organize your home from the inside out.
Photo from flickr.com