So you have sung every tidy up song you know and even cranked Happy on your Spotify list, yet the playroom still looks like the aftermath of devastation. For once, even for just 10 minutes, it would be nice to see this room tidy and organised right? It's one thing to have a cupboard that you throw everything into and promise to sort later or close the door to the rooms you would rather your visitors didn't see as it absolutely does not reflect your daily life! But how do we manage the space that is consumed with toys and a constant mess? My kids get to the point where they begin to spread their playing across the house and before I know it, we are fighting to survive our own War of the Worlds, toy style!
I am done with singing. I am sick of doing it myself because it really teaches them nothing, and as much as I know this, sometimes it's just easier! I have been nice and thrown out positive praises they tell us to do in all the perfect parenting books. Oh well done Jack on putting away the books so nicely. Great work Eva picking up the Lego. Franklin what a star you are for putting away your trains even though you are actually playing with them. Please! There are only so many of those I have in me because really, my kids are doing crap all to tidy up. I don't remember saying hey guys, as you put away one thing every ten minutes, why don't you get out five more things to play with! Right, no more mister nice guy has arrived. It's been almost an hour and I can feel a twitch starting in my left eye. I'm about to explode because I am seriously done. I have tried breathing calmly and even hummed to the tune of Let It Go but it's time for monster mum and the pointy finger to get the job done! Put that train in that box. Put the doll in the pram. Pick up the books just there and put them back in the shelf..... There needs to be another way!
Well I can happily say there is and it is just as frustrating, and the room stills gets messy... but there is some ways to make this job quicker to do and easier for your kids!
1. Sort your toys - There is no point crying over a tidy playroom if you don't have it organised. Get yourself to a cheap shop and invest in different size containers to fit groups of toys. Ikea have a great storage cupboard you can make up with trays of different sizes or like us, have one of those square shelving sets that is filled with boxes that slide in and out. Sort one box for trains, one for cars, one for shopkins, one for random bits, one for dress ups etc etc etc. Now if you are a little OCD like me or as I call it, teacher brain, you can label these boxes with a picture of what goes in them so toys don't get mixed up. Give yourself a day or weekend to do this, follow my next few tips and you will be less monster and more positive praising mumma!
2. Train your kids to tidy - It's one of those things you just assume your kids know. I have so many conversations with friends who will talk about things their kids don't do that seems like common sense to them and I ask them, have you ever taught them? Just because we clean the house and tidy the bedrooms, it doesn't mean your kids are necessarily watching you learning how to do this. You are being a great role model to them but only if you are actually pointing out to them what you are doing. Last year I wrote a series of blogs about how to play with toys. The same rule applied with that too. You can't assume your child knows how to join two pieces of Lego together, you have to show them and explain what to do. It's like when you buy a new board game or download one on your phone. Do you know straight away how to play it? I know it seems pretty obvious that the trains go in the train box, especially if the box has a picture of a train on the front, but unless you teach your kids that at tidy up time, all the trains go in the train box and you show them, you will be right back at square one.
This will probably take a few months and my biggest tip is to teach them from when they are little so that's all they know. I used to get lots of compliments about how well my classroom always looked and parents would be amazed watching their children tidy up the classroom, knowing how to put things away properly. But it's because I invested in time every afternoon to teach them. My kids make mountains of messes and take great pleasure in creating obstacle courses of toys around the house, but when it's tidy up time, they know where it all goes away. They whinge the whole time but who cares if they are doing it right? I don't smile and cheer cleaning up either!
Be specific explaining where the toys go and show them first.
3. Make Some Rules - Now this will all depend on the type of parent you are and how you are with mess. I usually change depending on my mood and patience level or how busy we are. So during a school week, we have afternoon sports and homework so there isn't much time for toy playing. Our rule is that if homework and readers are done then you can get a couple of things out to play with so we don't have to spend a long time tidying it up. Over the weekend and school holidays I kind of say go for it but also warning them that what they get out, they put away. If Eva has filled their little table with crafts and drawings and she leaves it to go and play with something else, it's fine. She will most likely continue that later, so activities like this we tidy up at the end of the weekend or day. If the kids make a cubby house out of cushions and blankets in the school holidays, then that is something we will most likely leave up the whole time to save them remaking it everyday. Plus this kind of play is my favourite for kids using their imagination and creativity. Sometimes we use the rule, you put something back before getting another thing out. This is more for if we have already tidied or about to go out or near bedtime. I like my kids creating play using different toys like trains and barbies etc but more for when we have the time.
4. Cull your toys - I know sometimes it is hard to pack away toys but there really isn't much point having the box of stuffed teddies and rattles that your kids played with when they were 6 months old and are now five. Boxes like this just end up being tipped over and spread across the room for absolutely no reason but to pee you off! If you are not ready to send these to your friends with young bubbas or want to keep them incase of a potential surprise pregnancy, then keep some and store them away. I have kept about five baby toys in a small box for when my friends with little bubbas come over and need something to play with. You will also find as your kids grow up, so will their toy tastes. Jack went from Thomas the Tank to Toy Story to Super Heroes to Army Guys. As Franklin follows the same pattern I will once again, keep a few things and give away or sell the rest. I know it's not a nice thought getting rid of toys but I don't think your kids at sixteen are going to be playing with them and think of the free space you get back!
5. Where to store toys? Now that you know how to store your toys, it's now more of a decision of where to put them. For us, we have a playroom area that is full of the big toys or ones that when friends come over they can all play with. These toys are like the train set, books, Lego, puzzles, blocks, dress ups, dolls and accessories. As the kids have become older they have really loved having their own space to play by themselves quietly or if they have a friend over after school and don't want younger siblings in the way. They all have their favourite toys and more special ones stored in their bedrooms. I had actually come up with this idea for a completely different reason at first. When I used to run a mum's group at my house, I loved the idea that all the bubbas and toddlers could play in the playroom without us worrying they would swallow or choke on anything. So things like barbie shoes and shopkin's accessories were all sent upstairs to stay in bedrooms. They were also then free of being lost or broken (or stolen). You might be in this situation within your own family having bigger age gaps. The small objects stay in bedrooms and the all age toys were put in reach of everyone.
Tidying up isn't fun and no kid will fall for talk on how cleaning up is the best part of playing. We can't click our fingers like Mary Poppins and it's not fair on you or your kids to leave their play space looking like a tip. If you can organise the space, create some rules and give your kids some good incentives for tidying like a freddo frog or trip to the park or extra stay up time, then do whatever will work. Kids will enjoy their toys and creative amazing play opportunities if they are in an organised environment. They just need a little help to show them how to do that x
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If you love children’s books then I have written a lovely little book on clouds changing into different shapes that you can find on Amazon and iTunes. Look for the title Look At The Clouds, What Can You See?