Small children, if left to their own devices, have a tendency to be wildly untidy and natural packrats.
This unwelcome combination will have neat freak parents heading for regular meltdowns that could put any childhood tantrum to shame. So plan ahead and train them early to keep your sanity and your home intact.
As well as hoarding every fast food free gift and goody bag item ever acquired, most children get attached to the most dog-eared and broken-down toys, which are frankly long past their hug-by date.
If you are fed up with finding candy wrappers stuffed down the back of the sofa and despair over tripping over Lego parts in the hallway, take heed and take action. Though easy enough to keep a tidy house orderly at the pre-toddler stage, once your child finds his or her feet you need to adopt a few child-friendly guidelines for everyone’s sake.
Child psychologist, Dr. Angela Hawkins at George Town Hospital, says that parents, care providers and teachers need to ensure any instructions are age-appropriate.
She recommends training young children to be tidy once ‘they are old enough to understand the consequences are vitally important.’
Her sure-fire tips include:
?Reinforce tidiness in the home by practicing what you preach.
‘Try and make tidying up part of a daily routine and associate being tidy with getting praise,’ Ms Hawkins says.
?Organise your home into distinct areas, such as play zones and work zones.
‘Children need gentle guidance on appropriate behaviour,’ she says. ‘Set up attractive play boxes in their bedrooms or a corner of the living room where they can store their toys and homework.’
?Reward the child when he or she packs away their toys or puts their trash in the garbage bin.
‘Getting children to understand simple cause and effect in their everyday lives – how being tidy not only helps them but the family – is key,’ Ms Hawkins states. ‘You can always offer them a reward if they achieve a certain task, like giving them an extra bedtime story if they clean up their craft table before dinner time. This is how positive habits are formed and will give your child a strong sense of achievement and control in managing their home lives.’
Helping them participate in such ways assists children in becoming actively responsible and helps the overall well-being of the family.
Good habits can and should be carried through into the child’s school life as well. Speak to your child’s pre-school teacher and find out what practices they use and continue them in the home.
Montessori School of Cayman’s Directress Lucy Brewer says that life skills are included in the Montessori teaching method to develop well-rounded, self-sufficient students.
‘The Montessori method encourages its teachers to make activities out of chores. This philosophy can be used successfully used in the home,’ Ms Hawkins says.
‘Activities like folding up their clothes to pack away into a drawer can be fun if you ask them to sort clothes out into colours or patterns.’
Keeping clutter at bay
Three easy ways to help them keep clutter at bay:
- Place a portable toy tote at the foot of the stairs for them to carry toys back to their bedrooms.
- Encourage them to keep high-traffic zones like the living room and kitchen and entryways clear of their toys.
- Make cleaning up fun. Knowing your child helps; if they are competitive give them a prize based on the amount of clutter they pick up and pack away in five minutes. Be creative and reward them with something meaningful to them and not you.