Newsflash: children are messy creatures. If you’re even the slightest bit finicky about neatness and order, you’re in for a rude awakening. I soon discovered their toys – or more frequently, just parts of their toys – strewn all over my home. I have a constellation imprinted on the soles of my feet from stepping on my son’s blocks on a regular basis.
Here are some strategies I use to maintain order, sanity, and some semblance of my formerly tidy living space:
Create an attractive, dedicated play area.
If your son or daughter has a fun, colorful, engaging playroom or area, they are more likely to leave their stuff there, where it belongs. It helps to create easily accessible storage solutions, like low, open shelving, where every toy has a home. A friend of mine had a great idea; she took photos of their toys, and affixed them to the shelves as visual cues as to where each item went.
Share your space.
If a dedicated playroom isn’t in your floor plan, carve out a “kid’s corner” in your living room, family room, or basement. Create visual borders with a brightly colored area rug, or physical borders with shelving or stacked storage bins. We tucked my daughter’s play kitchen, table and chairs in the six-foot space between the wall and the back of our couch. She loved having her own place to “cook” and “entertain.”
Make cleaning up a ritual.
After a decade of following my kids all day long, cleaning up their toys behind them, I finally saw the light. Why bother? As soon as I cleaned one mess, another one would appear. Instead I instituted an evening game: a “ten-minute tidy-up” in which every member of the family would pick up and put away while singing the “Clean Up” song.
When your children are old enough to understand that there are consequences to their negative actions, get tough. As early as two years old, my kids were told that any toy left on the floor at the end of the day would be thrown away. One day, I made a big production about throwing a dollar store item into the trash, and it had the desired impact.
Traci L. Suppa thinks time travel is the only explanation for her son turning 13 this year. Her six-year old daughter brings the glam to their crazy household. In addition to her own family travel blog, Go BIG or Go Home, Traci is a contributing blogger for FamilyVacationCritic.com and has written for WomansDay.com and NewParent.com.