Simplifying with Kids: How to Maintain Playroom Organization (Part 3)
If you’re a parent like me, you know that it’s difficult to keep a home tidy. This seems especially true where toys are involved, like a playroom or in my case, our living room. So you’ve done the hard work: Part 1 of Decluttering Toys and Part 2 of Organizing Toys, but how do you maintain the tidiness?
Well, in short, you teach your kiddos how to do it! Just like babies aren’t born with the ability to cook, read, or mow the yard, they also aren’t born with the ability to organize. However, categorization is a basic cognitive function, and with your intentional guidance and help, your children can learn how to maintain the organization. If you’ve been along for this entire series, you know a lot of my experience comes from over a decade of teaching elementary students, although I also spent 4 years working in a 2-5 year olds preschool. The kiddos I’ve worked with have proven to me that they can help! (And actually, a lot of them want to help!)
This isn’t to say my one-year old should start tidying his own toys each evening, or that he’s even developmentally able to do so. But it does mean I can model now what I hope to teach him in the future- that as I am picking up toys in his presence, I can explain what I’m doing. “Mommy is putting all the trucks in the truck basket. Now I’m stacking the blocks up on your shelf because that’s their home." I hope to continue this routine until it is developmentally appropriate for him to help, and eventually, hopefully he’ll be doing it on his own!
Before I get into the process of maintaining playroom organization, let me start with these important reminders:
Change won’t happen overnight. Set your expectations low, and know that it could take several weeks, maybe even months, for children to understand (and apply) the system completely.
Give yourself and your kiddos grace & patience. You’ll get better buy-in if it’s something fun or positive, instead of something that feels as though you’re nagging.
Consistency matters, and it’s one tool that will help speed up the process!
Developing a system that helps your children learn how to tidy their toys and prevent clutter is something that will have to be explicitly taught and modeled for them. This is my area of expertise, creating systems, but I typically customize systems for a family after getting to know their specific needs.
Since I can’t do that here, I’m going to recommend possible maintenance solutions, and you can decide which one(s) will suit your family best.
Expect to model whichever of the systems you decide on, as it could take 6+ weeks for your children to learn how to categorize and where each toys’ “home” is. It’ll take consistency and active modeling on your end for the kiddos to learn the skill. Just like we aren’t born toilet-trained or able to read, we also aren’t born able to organize. :)
Possible Systems for Maintaining a Tidy Playroom:
For clean up after play, designate a family member for each category and work together to “reset” the room back to how it was before play began. (For young children, consider taking a picture to show what “reset” should look like. Visuals are so, so good! It could be hung in the playroom as decor, too!)
For clean up after play, set a timer and “race” to get each toy back in it’s home.
For clean up after play when toys get left all over the house, establish a Toy Collector Basket. One kiddo can carry the basket around, collecting all the stray toys, and returning them to their “home.”
Utilize a sticky note system, where you write each category of toys on a different sticky note. Hang the stickies somewhere, and each family member can chose a sticky note task to complete until all stickies are gone. (This works for all chores, by the way!)
Use consistent language when talking about the categories, a toy’s “home”, or the toy room “reset” so children grasp the concept easier.
Adopting all of these systems at once would be very overwhelming for you and your kiddos, but maybe choose one that could work for your family and try it. Give it a few weeks, and then you can add another system or try a new one if the first one isn’t working. It will take some trial and error, and definitely intentionality and patience on your part.
But! You’ve come this far and already done some very hard work. So I’m confident you can finish strong!
If you need more help on creating a system that will work for your family, you know where to find me. (Right? Well if not-I’m on Instagram @thecaseforsimple or you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I hope this Decluttering & Organizing Your Child’s Toys series has been helpful and fruitful. What should I talk about next? The kitchen? Garage? Laundry room? There’s so many options! Leave your opinion in the comments if ya would. :)