As a mother of three toddler/pre-school/kindergarten age children, cleaning up toys is always an issue at our house. This year, I seem to have stumbled on a method that is working rather well, so I though I would share. It’s so simple, really, and allows the children to have some autonomy with their belongings.
First, I went to our local Wal-Mart and purchased 2 large, see-through, plastic tubs with lids ( about $5 each). I had an idea of how I was going to categorize the toys and had already collected containers from around the house that would work for my project. I then took pictures of each category of toys…Barbies, ponies, dress-up clothes, blocks, etc… and taped them to the outside of each container. Then, we made a game out of sorting the toys. It took a couple of hours to sort through each and every toy, but the end result was great. Now, when it’s clean-up time, the girls can clearly see where their toys are supposed to go.
Second, after sorting all the toys, I put half the toys in the guest room closet. This initially met with some resistance, but after a few minutes, my girls got the idea that those toys weren’t available for play time and occupied themselves with the toys that were. In 3-4 weeks, we’ll swap toys, putting the other half of the toys in temporary storage. They will be thrilled to see the “new” things, and the “old” ones will be neatly put away, ready for the next exchange. This little trick serves two purposes: 1) less toys to clean up 2) a better appreciation of the toys they actually have access to.
Lastly, we instituted a new “toy time-out” rule. Each night, the girls are responsible for putting all their toys away where they belong (within reason, according to their ages). If they don’t put them away or put them away with a poor disposition or don’t take the time to put things where they belong, the toys go into “toy time-out.” Depending on the situation, the toy remains in time-out for 1 day to 1 week. This teaches them to care for the things they have been given and understand that everyone in the family participates in the care of our home. This particular aspect requires steadfastness on our part as parents. It’s easy to feel tired and want to just put the toys away for them. Like many issues in parenting, sometimes the best thing for our kids is also the hardest thing.
Okay, hope that helps someone else out there in blog-world! It’s made our lives so much simpler and peaceful. Be blessed and a blessing today!