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Tips & Tricks to Get Kids to Tidy Up

kidsChildren who have lots of toys can leave rooms looking like disaster areas. Now that the tide has changed on Covid, and more grandparents are spending time with their grandchildren, they may need to provide direction when it comes to cleaning up. Rather than trying to coax kids into picking up their toys, and sometimes having it fall on deaf ears, get creative with clean-up time.

Kids are like absorbent sponges when it comes to learning. Per an article published by Gottesman Libraries, Teachers College, Columbia University, kids can learn faster than adults because the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where working memory is stored, is more developed in adults than children. They state, “Due to the development of the prefrontal cortex, adults experience functional fixedness and that makes adults see everything exactly as it is.” Using the author’s example, adults will see a tennis racket as it is. Whereas a child can see a broomstick as a javelin stick. Thus, the child’s creativity abilities are higher, allowing them to be more flexible and inventive. They sum it up by stating that kids are designed to learn, and adults have minds designed to perform. Getting kids and grands more involved in routine tasks, such as cleaning up their toys, can be a lot more fun if you tap into their imagination.

In an adult’s mind, sorting toys by category is important. But, for kids, most are happy to dump everything into one toy box. They see it as a treasure trove. When playtime comes, they dig in and pick out what they want to play with. And they tap into their creative mindset to play. Truthfully, kids are more apt to clean up their toys when they can be put in one place, rather than sorted into separate and contained piles. Game and puzzle pieces are an exception, as it is necessary to keep parts together. However, for non-delicate toys, such as play trucks, toy drums, or dolls, it is often not worth the struggle to force kids to organize them into categories. Toys can often be cleaned up faster when neatly stored in one place, such as a big toy box. Designating one room as a playroom is also helpful when it comes to containing the mess.

A floor full of toys such as Legos, Curli girls, or Mega Bloks can look daunting to clean up after playtime. Sometimes, when kids are asked to clean up, they moan and groan. Adults usually explain that it is the responsibility of whoever played with the toys to clean them up. Reluctantly, the kids will pick up the toys and put them away. Sometimes the adults may cave and clean up the toys themselves. But, by tapping into the imaginative parts of a child’s brain, you can stimulate their minds and get them to clean up without a struggle. Simply turn clean up time into a fun game. Rather than repeatedly telling them it’s time to clean up, make up a story about a dinosaur who can gain magical powers whenever toys are picked up. As a catch, add that it must be done quickly. Then give them each a basket and have them compete to see who can pick up the most toys the fastest. Before you know it, the room is cleaned up and everyone is happy.

Professional organizers often suggest labeling individual toy containers with pictures or words. Then, they work with their clients to separate toys into specific categories before storing them neatly. In an adult’s mind, it sounds ideal. However, this method can be troublesome for kids. Many parents say that the toys inevitably end up in the wrong containers, or report that it’s too big of a struggle to get the kids to organize. To counteract the negative feedback, some professional organizers may offer general tips. Suggestions may include having adults oversee the cleanup, telling the kids where specific toys go, rewarding the children for cleaning up, or being firm about getting kids to follow directions. Truth be told, clean up time often comes at the end of the day when kids, parents, and grandparents are exhausted. While it’s a great concept to have toys perfectly organized, one must question the practicality of this method and decide if it’s worth the time and energy to categorize toys at the end of each day. Life is short, time is valuable, and the struggle to get kids to help and to keep the home neat and clean is real. When toys are ready to be picked up, it may be best to tap into kids’ creativity to get them to pitch in, using fun, workable, and fuss-free tactics to get the job done.

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