Do you have a child that is perfectly able to clean up after themselves in school and is a total disaster at home?
You are not alone. This is often the case, as I am asked about this very topic all the time. My daughter's room is a mess, our playroom looks like a typhoon hit it, or I can't even deal with the disaster, maybe we need to move out.
Why can kids somehow pull it all together in preschool? Why are they able to keep things organized? If one child could do this to my house, why don't 12 kids cause 12 times the mess?
The answer is simple. Expectation and organization.
Classrooms unlike many rooms at home are set up in a very organized fashion with clues that set the expectation for the students.
Ask yourself, are you setting the right expectation for your child?
Am I setting my child up for failure or success?
For example, one mom said, "I am so frustrated with the mess! I can't understand why she won't listen when I ask her to clean her room or put her toys away."
Often what might seem like a simple task to an adult is just an overwhelming task to a child. A playroom full of toys is easy to mess up, but once the floor is filled with 500 blocks and 100 puzzle pieces, it can become totally unapproachable to a child.
When your child is in school, toys are usually kept in bins that are often color coded or labeled with pictures of what should be stored in each bin. This sets up the expectation of what goes where and creates an easy way to clean up without a lot of thinking to be done. In the classroom, there are rules and limits as to how many toys will be allowed out at one time.
Once a child is done playing with one bin of toys they must put them back in order to take out another one. When toys, blocks, crayons or cars all have a special place to be stored, it takes the thinking out of clean up. By limiting the amount of things allowed out at any one time, the overwhelming disaster never has the opportunity to occur.
These simple organizational tips and rules set your child up for success, whereas expecting a child to take on the toy storm of the century does not.
When a child has to figure out how to organize and clean up the mess with random bins, jugs, and boxes, they are not only set up for failure but perhaps for even a total meltdown for both mom and child.
Setting up your playroom like your child's classroom can help you both
1. Get clear bins and label each one for easy clean up and organization. "My child can't read," you say? No worries. Find a picture of the items you would like put back in each bin, print out the picture and affix it to the front of each bin. Your child will see the picture of Legos or crayons and will have an easy time cleaning up.
2. Talk to your child about how having too many toys out at once can make it really hard to clean up. Set a limit as to how many toys can be played with at any one time and teach your child how to use the visual clues on each bin to figure out where toys go.
3. Model the right behavior.
Work with your child to help them clean up if it seems overwhelming. If they are helping out that's a good start. As they become older and more proficient add more tasks. Let them see that you have confidence that they can do more and can be successful. The process of organizing and cleaning up is a great start to building self-sufficiency and confidence.
Children aren't that much different from us. If we have piles of paperwork on our desk with old coffee cups and stacks of bills, we too might find it difficult to know just where to start.
Kids need help as we do as adults. Simplify your surroundings making tasks clear, setting clear expectations and setting up success with some simple organizational tips.
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