Today let’s tackle the seemingly impossible task of getting our young children to pack away when they are finished.
You’ve heard me say this before. So I am going to rant again. Less…is…more. If we have a lot of toys out, there will be a lot of toys strewn about the living room by the end of the day. If the toys are not organised into boxes, or baskets, or on trays, things get chaotic very quickly.
And if the easiest way to tidy everything away is to throw everything in a big toy box and close the lid, then the next day, the quickest way for your kids to find anything, will be to empty those contents back onto the floor.
So actually the first step to encouraging children to pack things away, will take some work from you.
1. Choose several favourite activities – I often say just six activities, but the complexity of these activities will increase with the child’s age. The rest can be stored in crates or a cupboard and regularly rotated.
2. Find a basket or tray to hold all the pieces – make sure your child is able to carry it!
3. Set the activities out so each activity has a special place where it lives. Low shelves are great, but a deep window sill or carpet can also work where your space is limited
When your child is finished playing, you can show them how the activity goes back to its special place. Young children have a strong sense of order so they will learn quickly where things belong.
Then you can pack away alongside your child, taking turns and making it part of the play cycle: choose activity – play – pack away.
This routine emphasises there is a beginning, a middle and an end to a task. We are encouraging the beginnings of the discipline of “completing the task”.
Then you can gradually encourage your child to do more by themselves. Adjust your expectations based on your child’s age and ability.
I suggest not make an issue out of packing away. All we need to do is continuously set the right example in the knowledge that it is absorbed by your child.
Good luck everyone.