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Tips for a Happy Toy Room

Domestic CEO and Mighty Mommy join forces give you their best ideas for creating (and keeping) tidy toy rooms.

By
Amanda Thomas,
July 25, 2012
Episode #021

Tips for a Happy Toy Room

by Amanda Thomas and Cheryl Butler

The toy room is supposed to be a fun place for kids to use their imaginations—for princesses to rule their stuffed animal kingdoms and super heroes to save the world from destruction. If your child’s toy room looks like there was anarchy in the kingdom or the super hero took a nap while the meteor hit the city, then it's time to tweak your approach to how you organize that toy room.

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As the grown-up, you want the toy room to be pleasing to the eye, but you also want it to be functional for your kids. And, perhaps even more importantly, you don’t want to be the one constantly picking up toys scattered everywhere after your kids are done playing with them. That’s why we have a very special guest today. Fellow Quick and Dirty Tips podcast host Mighty Mommy Cheryl Butler is on hand to give us some of her expert advice on getting your kids to help out with household chores.

So if your prince or princess lair looks like the aftermath of a tornado, you’re in luck. Cheryl and I have some great ways to make your life easier and more organized:

Get Down to Their Level

When I say this, I mean literally get down on your knees, or even your belly, so you are nose to nose with your child. Now look around the space. At this level you can start to get a feel for how your child wants and needs her toys to be stored. If you want your child to be able to take out, and more importantly put away, her toys, you will want to make sure that she is physically able to do so. This means that the bins where you store Barbies should be a shelf no higher than her knees. That way, when she picks up the heavy bin, she can easily slide it onto the shelf without having to lift it any higher. Lifting a heavy bin above waist height can be difficult as well as dangerous for kids, so keep them safe and store the bins in a lower cubby.

Anything you store up high will require your child to ask for your help to get it down. This can be used to your advantage. Store games with small pieces on top of a tall shelf. When your child wants to play the game, teach him to ask politely, and then return the game in its box when he is finished. This is also a great trick for messy arts and crafts supplies. Keep items like glitter, paint, and scissors stored up high to prevent a glitter snow storm, a full-wall Picasso, or an accidental haircut.

Have Structured Chore Times

And speaking of clean-up, are you tired of being the mess police? Constantly cleaning up and putting away your kids’ toys? Instead of nagging or yelling at them about their messy habits, enlist the help of your kids and make them part of the solution. How do you do that? Mighty Mommy Cheryl Butler can help.

*** A MIGHTY MOMMY EXCLUSIVE! ***

Thanks Amanda! 

Just like you have routines for your children’s sleep and meal schedules, it is crucial, absolutely crucial, that you make chore time a consistent routine in their everyday lives. You’ll need to decide as a family what works best with your schedules. In our home, evenings are easiest. Firmly but lovingly set chore time expectations and make it a policy not to allow electronics, TV, hanging out with friends, games, etc. until the chores have been completed. This, by the way, includes a no-whining policy. 

For example: Twice a week on Wednesday and Sundays we have a “trash and tidy” in our home. The whole family pitches in to make sure that things that don’t belong in the main living areas are removed and put away. This takes about 15 minutes and helps tremendously to cut down on clutter and extra chore hours in the long run.

Whether you have pre-school aged children or teens, there are plenty of age-appropriate chores that kids can do. If you’re just introducing the concept of chores to your kids, sit down with them and in a positive and upbeat manner explain to them that they will now be contributing to the upkeep of their home.   Be very specific when explaining job duties. Don’t assume that your 4-year-old knows how to put away his toys in their proper places if he’s never had to do it before. Invest the time and some positive energy in teaching him about where things belong so he’ll not only learn to do it right and by himself, but he’ll ultimately learn about the benefits of organization for other aspects of his life as well.

***

Use Labels

So once you’ve instituted a chore time into your child’s routine, you need to make sure they know where all their toys go so you don’t wind up with yet another mess. The next time you’re at your child’s daycare or preschool, look around. It’s likely that all the bins of toys are labeled with the name and a picture of the items inside. This is done for two reasons:

  1. Your child will start to associate a home for each item (as in, the cars go in the Car bin, the blocks go in the Block bin).

  2. Your child will start to learn to recognize the written word compared to the picture, which will eventually help them start to read.

You can easily implement this method in your toy room. Using shipping labels available at any office supply store, you can download templates to then create labels with the word and a picture of the stored toy. As your child gets older, you can start to take the pictures off the labels, but continue to use labels throughout the toy room. You can purchase an inexpensive labeler at an office supply store. Labeling bins and drawers that hold small pieces is the most important. This, and a little coaching from an adult about what goes where, will help the child learn what it means when you tell him to, “Put away your toys.” Remember, cleaning up is a skill that needs to be taught gradually, so patiently work with your child to help them learn how to keep their toy room tidy.

Hey Mighty Mommy, do you have one last piece of advice?

*** A MIGHTY MOMMY EXLUSIVE! ***

I sure do Amanda: Make sure you assign doable chores to your child.

Expecting that someday your child will grow to love cleaning the bathroom is highly unlikely, but making sure he has the necessary skills in place to be successful at the jobs you assign is key to making him feel successful. If your child tells you a particular job is too hard for him, stop and listen. Perhaps the vacuum really is too heavy for your 6-year-old to push. Offer assistance to show that you are in this together. Reevaluate if a task seems too daunting and work at finding jobs that you really do need help with, like matching socks, and have her work at doing those independently instead.

***

What a great point! We definitely want to make sure the chores we assign our kids don’t seem overwhelming.

Thanks to my special guest Mighty Mommy Cheryl Butler. If you want to get more tips or see some examples of how to organize for kids, you can find us both on Facebook as DomesticCEO and Mighty Mommy.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Boys playing with blocks image courtesy of Shutterstock

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