Teaching children to be responsible for their belongings and helping them to maintain simple organisational systems from an early age, helps them to develop important lifelong skills – they learn to value their belongings and how to be part of a family with shared responsibility to make life living together enjoyable, they learn how to sort and categorise, plus the ways in which toys are organised clearly influences the ways in which children play with them. Neat, ordered, uncluttered systems provide children with space to plan and imagine and interact more fully with a chosen toy and with each other.
Having worked with many children in many classroom settings, as well as having lived in a one bedroom apartment for the first year of Immy’s life, a small house with one living area which we all needed to share for her second year, and now a larger home where she has a dedicated playroom, I have found that the number of bodies, number of objects and amount of space available all impacts upon how easy (or more likely, how difficult) it is to have children help with maintaining their belongings.
Here are 8 suggestions for making pack away time a whole lot more fun at your place;
1. Start young but have flexible expectations. I think it is good that children get into the habit of helping to pack away and clean up but we also need to consider variables like their age, the time of day (ie. are they overtired or hungry), what else is going on at the time. Be consistent but realistic.
2. Pack away with them. Young children are more likely to join in if you are doing it as well. Divide the chores between you, “Why don’t you put the blocks into the box and I will do the animals?”
3. When playing with them, observe times that they move from one activity to another and use these as teachable moments, “I will come and play with the blocks too but I am just going to pop the book back away in the basket first.”
4. Make pack away time fun by singing a song or playing music as you tidy up.
5. Build routine tidy up times into your day. For example, before lunch and dinner have a five minute tidy up together.
6. Use a timer. Setting the timer for 3 minutes and seeing how much get’s packed away makes it into a game for preschoolers.
7. Have familiar, clearly identifiable places for belongings to go – books, toys, dress ups, art materials.
8. Have a workable system for those projects which can’t yet be packed away, such as those suggested in my previous post, ‘The Case for NOT Packing Away.”
How do you make pack away time work for your family?