Putting the toys away

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
When you have children, the battle to keep the house tidy is never-ending, writes Ian munro.

And, perhaps, not too important. But how can even one child make so much mess in so short a time? Easily.

I think I’ve written in the past about watching Grandson put away his books. He knew where on the shelf they had to go, but they didn’t seem to fit. He needed a solution. So off the shelf came most of the other books, leaving plenty of space to easily put away the three he had in his hand. His face glowed with the look of satisfaction of a job well done as he toddled off past the dozen or so others now scattered across the floor.It does come down to training, but even then, as Grandson showed,  children will, in all innocence, find ways to sabotage even that.If you want tidy, have an accessible place where their toys can be stored and develop a twice daily or a nightly routine of having them put away. If you have the space, develop a storage system of boxes, or plastic crates and containers and shelves with maybe a large bin for bigger items. Initially, label them with picture rather than word labels.

They’re not going to be all that good at tidying to start with and, at the time of day when it’s pack-up time, they’re probably tired and hungry, so their co-operative instincts will be stretched.

You’ll need to introduce the concept in steps, perhaps firstly by having them watch how it is done and getting them to copy what you’re doing. Keep your expectations reasonable and be quite specific in the early stages. ‘‘Please put your blocks in the box and your books on the shelf’’ rather than ‘‘Please put your toys away’’.

Be realistic and don’t get discouraged when they don’t find putting stuff away naturally rewarding. Sometimes it is possible to make it a game in itself. As they get a bit older, set the kitchen timer and see if the job can be jointly done by yourself and your youngster or just by the youngsters together before it rings. A simple reward of praise or a hug when the job is done can be very effective. When they’re older, the tidying is done before something else they want to do can happen.

Limiting the number of toys available at any one time helps with tidiness. We kept a box in the garage where old toys were put when new toys arrived and then they were periodically recycled. Old toys can become new toys again a couple of months later and you can also vary the combinations of toys in use.

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