Let’s get organized!
As Jack gets bigger, so do his toys. They grow in quantity and number but my house seems to stay the same size. Sometimes it looks like a toy store exploded in my living room. I know many of you can relate. When it comes time to clean up, I am attempting to make Jack part of the process. He is still too young to help me put away his toys but I have been very diligent about talking to him when I am cleaning up. If there was a fly on the wall, it would definitely be laughing at me as it hears me telling my 11 month old that it is “clean up time” and “it is time for Jack’s toys to go back where they belong”. I am not naive to the fact that he doesn’t understand exactly what I am saying but what I know for sure is that he watches everything I do with watchful eyes.
Often, kids toys to fall into basic categories: balls, dolls/action figures, rattles, art supplies, blocks, etc. I figure, why not start organizing these as early as possible? When I am in a hurry and want to grab a good car toy for Jack, I find myself clawing through an unorganized toy bin. Then, I am stuck putting all of the toys back in that I just threw out! By the time I finally leave the house, I am exhausted and frustrated. At least someone has his favorite toy!
After the hundredth time this happened and with the start of school approaching, I started to think about how I organized my classroom when I was teaching. Everything had its own place. After only a short time, my students knew where everything belonged and the importance of why we kept our room neat. All it took was getting into a routine and some reinforcement. I encourage parents to do the same at home; there is no reason why after a long day of work, going to school or taking care of your children, you should spend your evening cleaning up your children’s toys.
Start simple and include your kids. Create bins out of shoe boxes or pick up some inexpensive bins/baskets (Ikea has great ones). Gather some of the art supplies and trucks and start organizing! Having many boxes vs. one large toy bin is not always ideal based on your space so condense two or three categories into one if need be. To combine one of my other suggestions (see Labeling entry), have your child label each bin with pictures or words. They can also help put the toys in the appropriate baskets. Eventually, they will see that you are always putting the blocks in the “block” basket and they will catch on.
Remember that they see this everyday with other things in the house; socks are together in a drawer, the coats are in a closet, the plates are all together in the kitchen. Children respond best when they see that what goes on in their little world also occurs in the world the rest of us live in! It simply needs to translate to their belongings so take your time and be patient. Happy organizing!