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Tidy up now!

“No TV, no computer, no playing until you TIDY YOUR ROOM!”

… Ahh the dulcet tones of parenting.

When approached by parents who are at their wits end on how to get a child to tidy their room, there is often an expectation that kids should know how to do this, and yet sadly sometimes the case is that there could be some contributing factors sabotaging a child’s effort. There could be an undiagnosed learning difficulty, no role model to learn from or no ‘scaffolding’ to help guide them or make the process easy.

Regardless of age, organising is a skill, and because it is a skill it can be taught and therefore learned. The key is to ‘win’ cooperation and the best way to do that is to allow them to ‘own’ their space. Kids need to feel that they are part of the solution, therefore create a positive atmosphere; have a discussion; get their ideas and consider their suggestions. You may be surprised at what you learn and what they come up with. You may even learn what is difficult for them.

With younger children, make tidying up a game! “Who can find all the yellow blocks, before I count to 10?” “Lets refuel the toy cars before we garage them”. “Dolly can’t be ready for the next tea party if she doesn’t have her things put together for next time”. And so it goes. Older kids may need a checklist and a chore contract.

Here are a few other tips:

Kids need visual cues. Things can’t be put away if kids don’t know where to put them. Label storage boxes with pictures or word labels and get the kids to help make them. For safety make shelves and storage containers height accessible. Put heavy or large containers on lower shelves.

Don’t blur categories, i.e. don’t have one box that everything goes into haphazard. Pieces get lost, toys get broken and the skill of organisation fails. Use lunch boxes and clip lock bags for grouping small pieces. Keep small pieces away from toddlers in containers higher up the shelves.

Have a general quick tidy away box or basket, but ensure there is a routine time each day or week it is.emptied and toys are correctly distributed to their rightful places.

If possible zones within a room are useful, e.g. the reading corner, the dress-up corner, construction table, art and craft zone, homework area to name a few. Have a look at your child’s pre-school or school room set up for a way to imitate this idea at home with what you have available.

Rotate toys, and teach the golden rule to clean up one activity before starting another. And yes rewards charts have their place, just make them age appropriate. You may however want to look at another system …

Toy Jailis a system where toys that are repeatedly not put away or left lying around. Toys go to toy jail, and a ‘make-up’ chore needs to be done to release them from jail. You may need to create some ‘get out of jail’ chore cards to go with the toy jail.

Kids of all ages are used to working in structured environments and routines at school, so keep the consistency at home. Set real expectations and put the scaffolding in place and hopefully the battle zones shall soon become tidy fun zones!

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