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Friday, June 15, 2012

Get Kids Involved in Organizing and Cleaning, the earlier the better

Seems like the theme of the month is organizing. 

This subject keeps popping up. People must have put off spring cleaning and now, realizing it's already summer, are looking around their cluttered homes wondering how in the world they accumulated so much crap and what the heck to do with it all?!! I know I am! Maybe it's just me?

If you're a Santa Cruz local, pick up a copy of 'Growing Up In Santa Cruz' and read the article "That organizing energy...nurture it in your kids" by Suki Wessling, for three reasons. It has some great tips, features a blog (The Aums) by a friend of mine who shares some great advice about making it easy for kids to put their own clothes away.

And, BONUS, a little advice from yours truly (look for Leah Mastilock) on starting early with responsibilities! (I was pleasantly surprised to see my name in print this month! I remember posting my barely thought out comment on FB, but didn't dream my little quote would make it to print! Yay me!)

Now that I've had time to think about it, I thought I'd share my top tips for getting kids involved on a good track to a (somewhat) more organized life. If you've seen my house, you may think it laughable that I would be sharing tips at all and wondering, what the hell is she talking about organization for?

I am by no means a neat freak. You will find no label makers in my house! But regardless of the current state of my home, I know where things are and getting kids started young helps them create good habits that will help them stay organized in school and later on in life.

Okay, I'll get to the part that will actually help you already:

Top Tips For Organized Kids:

Be an Example: Don't hate me, but you know very well kids do as we do, not as we say. Pick up your own crap if you want your kids to ever do it.

Start Early: I see so many moms throwing toys into big toy bins... stop it! Get smaller bins & though it may take a little extra effort, sort like things together. For one, it's SO much nicer to play with a toy when you can find all the pieces, accessories, etc, all together. And I really think this sets a great example for staying organized when your child is suddenly in middle school and needs to keep each subject separate!

LET THEM DO IT! Do you really expect your tween to suddenly clean up after themselves when you've done it for them their whole childhood? Are you crazy? Toddlers LOVE to sort and put things away. Encourage this! If they don't do it right, so what? At least they're doing it. If you're anal, you can sort it out later after they've gone to bed. Make it routine to clear the table after dinner, pick up after playing and each night before bed.

My two year old loves to put away the dishes,  I quickly grab all the knives and heavy things, then she hands me the cups, bowls, etc. She happily throws the silverware in a pile in the drawer. I do sort that out later, but make her feel proud for the job she did! Make it easy for them with easy to reach bins, drawers, etc.

Sandy Toes Creations- Get Kids Involved in Organizing and Cleaning
she even sorted them out this time!

Let them clean the windows, wipe the counters, help fold the laundry & put it in the right drawers (even if it's all crumpled & tossed in, again, you can fix it later if it's that important to you. Really, there are more important things.) Even if their "help" is not really helping, let them feel like it is. My 5 year old likes to wipe down the tub when I'm cleaning the bathroom. I have to go over it again when he gets tired of it, but I praise him for all his help and what a great job he's doing while he's in there!

This works with a lot of other things as well, I let my kids "help" me with almost everything. If they can't really help, I give them something to do so they think they are. Like handing me things I ask for while I cook. Or wiping down the cabinets with a cloth. Unnecessary, but they don't know that yet! I'm not going to refuse an offer of help! I don't want them to stop asking!

Make it fun! Sing a clean up song or put on some music & dance while you clean! Do it together so it's bonding time, not solitary confinement. You don't want it to feel like a punishment.

Don't let it pile up: Clean up after each game or activity. But please, please, let them be messy while they're playing!! Don't crush their creativity and imagination because it will make a mess! Cleaning is for after play!! Again, help and encourage, but don't do it for them! Don't let it get overwhelming. If it seems that way, help them pick one thing to do at a time so it's manageable. Pick up all the blocks first, when that's done, pick up all the books, etc.

Reward, not threaten: this is more of a top parenting tip, but can apply to cleaning and organizing as well. Let your kid know that they can play, read a book, go to a friend's, whatever they were begging to do before you made them stop and clean up, after they're done with the task you want them to do.

I have found that just changing my wording can get a much better response! Instead of "No, you can't do____ until you clean up this mess!", try, "Yes, you can, as soon as this is picked up" or at the very least (if it's still going to be a no), "We can talk about it as soon as you're done". Sometimes just the word "No" will close down all communication and you're left with anger and a kid choosing to no longer listen to you.

My teen foster daughter lived in a pile of clothing and I don't know what all! You could never see the floor, she would step on things and ruin and break things. Until she lived with me and had another thing coming! Yes it took a while, but she finally got the idea that if she wanted to go anywhere, her room had better be clean. Eventually I didn't even have to ask.

It's not easy, but if it's a routine from early on, it makes a big difference! It also teaches respect of one's things (a reflection of self-respect) and respect of other people's things. I would never let her borrow from me at first because I knew my things would be lost or broken. Later, I knew she would take care of them.

Hope this was helpful to someone. Please share your tips with me! I'd love to know what works for you!


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