Keeping things tidy
For Mary Poppins, it only took a spoonful of sugar to magically clean a child’s bedroom. Sadly, most of us aren’t blessed with Ms Poppins’s special powers – but worry not, there is still a lot you can do to encourage children to tidy up after themselves.
Small children don’t have the same distinction between chores and play that adults do. Get your child involved in tidying or washing up and it will become a family activity. Give them plenty of praise and be patient - the chores may take longer but your child will learn confidence and independence.
Tidy up yourself
This isn’t as self-defeating as it sounds. If you tidy a room properly and thoroughly de-clutter, you can see exactly how much space you have for proper storage. It also sets a good example, which your children can follow.
Create a proper place for clothes and toys
It’s no use complaining if your children’s clothes and toys are scattered throughout the house. What they need is a place for everything! That means a wardrobe for dresses, skirts, shirts, trousers and shoes. And a chest of drawers for socks, underwear and jumpers. If it helps, label drawers with brightly coloured stickers, or pictures for children who can’t yet read, so your kids know exactly where to put things! See storage tips below for more ideas.
Create a proper place for school items
If a child has a desk at home for all their paints, pens and paper, it’s good training for school. It also teaches them that life is sometimes about work…
Get rid of it!
There’s little point in hanging on to toys that have lost their appeal. Regularly assess what you and your child needs and sell or give things away. Just remember to ask your child before you throw away a favourite toy!
Motivate your kids
If your children really struggle to keep things tidy, you can try offering a sweetener. Positive praise is the best reward, or for outstanding efforts give them a treat or let them stay up half an hour later. A reward is usually more effective than a penalty and in the show, Supernanny often adds ‘keep my room tidy’ or ‘make my bed’ to the child’s general reward chart.
- Avoid open shelves – children are unlikely to keep them tidy and you’ll be constantly dusting or tidying them up.
- Get your children involved in decorating their storage boxes. A sheet of wrapping paper and stickers can transform a shoebox into a jewellery or stationary box.
- Once they have their own toy box, give each child the responsibility for maintaining it, so they don’t feel put upon. This goes for washing baskets, too.
- Store children’s games and toys at their height, so they can reach them and put them away, but low-level storage systems are a waste of space. Buy a tall shelf or cupboard, but allocate the bottom shelves for kids stuff, and the top ones for household items.
- Try to cultivate a culture of ‘one toy at a time’, so the clutter never seems insurmountable. Gold star for you if you manage it, of course…
- Use multi-use furniture for storage, for example beds with drawers, seats with lifting lids and coffee tables with drawers.
- Be careful with themes, particularly in children’s rooms. Will she still love bright pink fairies next year?
Unfortunately, young children and tidy houses are a difficult match. But by involving children and creating proper storage, you’ll get the same result as Mary Poppins – eventually!