There have been countless newspaper articles, books and even academic journals written about this topic. It’s a regular feature on programmes such as Super Nanny and it even appeared in one of the most successful successful children’s films ever made, so much so that it’s getting a reboot with a whole host of catchy songs. We’re talking about Mary Poppins, of course, and the scene where she persuades, with a little bit of magic, her charges Jane and Michael to tidy up their rather messy nursery.
Sadly, we don’t have a carpet bag full of magic tricks, or a fantastic umbrella that lets us float all over the world but with a bit of patience, basic psychology and some creative ideas you can get even the messiest child to tidy their room without any drama. Unlike adults, not all kids understand that a messy room is hard to play in, do schoolwork or even sleep in.
Distract Them With A Story Or Game
One parent found success by reading aloud to her children while they tidied away their things, she would pick a favourite family book such as Harry Potter and would begin to read to her children while they organised stuff. If they slowed down, or stopped completely to listen to the story, she would then cease reading, pick up her things and get ready to leave the room which usually got them picking toys up again. Tidying up by yourself can be quite lonely but this is method is a lovely, inclusive calming way of ensuring everything gets put away, as you’re there to see what’s going where, but you aren’t standing over them yelling or getting frustrated.
Younger children might like to play a game instead. For example, you could time them to see how long it takes them to tidy a toy box or closet, have tag teams for sorting books and let them race their siblings to see how quickly, but neatly they can hang their clothes up. Points could be deducted for items shoved anywhere, crumpled clothes or being mean to a sibling for being slower. Other children, especially teenagers can listen to music while clearing things away, taking dishes downstairs and making their beds.
Show Them How It’s Done Just Once
Lots of us are visual learners and when it comes to tidying up it may be better to show them what needs to be done rather than telling them. Pick a weekend where you know you’ve got time then inform them in the week, that ‘on Saturday you and I are going to tidy up together properly.’ That way, they have time to hide anything like a diary, a drawing for your birthday or any sweets that they shouldn’t have had up there in the first place.
Start off slowly by explaining step by step what you’re going to do together and why you’re doing it such as to keep things clean and tidy, so they know where to find toys, as well as making a good impression on friends and family. If they’re a little more mature, you could also tell them that good organisation skills are something all of us need to know and grown ups value them. Have them help out as you go along by putting clothes away, organising their toys and even bringing you dirty laundry and socks. Periodically, ask them questions so that you know they’ve understood what you’ve been telling them then if they don’t repeat the step until they do. Make your child aware that this is a one-time deal; you won’t be doing the lion’s share of the work again, and it’s up to them to keep things tidy.
Have A Clutter Clearing Session
Even though, on average, American children have over a hundred toys each they certainly don’t play with them all. Some have a natural shelf life, such as more babyish items like building blocks, basic counting toys and shiny coloured balls and that’s fine. If your child has toys dating all the way back to the nursery, it might be time to have a clear out, donating them to charity or to a friend or family member with younger children. However, be aware that many children hold onto childhood toys such as stuffed bears, toy trains and even blankets long after they’ve outgrown them for emotional reasons.
Invariably, other toys will have gotten broken along the way so if you’re sure you can’t rescue them there’s no point in keeping them. Once everything’s been sorted out you then know roughly how many containers, baskets and boxes you need for things your children find important. Note that what you think has a purpose and what you daughter cares about are two very different things, you’ll find out what your kids love and hate during the clear out so don’t belittle something they enjoy, even if it is playing with tons of plastic food with faces on.
Buy Multiple Coloured Storage Boxes
Want a cheap, quick and easy way to keep kids toys organised. Visit your nearest dollar store together, letting your kids pick out brightly, coloured, patterned and see through storage boxes together. Choose a range of sizes and shapes, some will be perfect for sliding under bunk beds from Cuckooland and others will be more suitable for storing on shelves and at the bottom of closets. Grab some labels, a sharpie and sticky tape and write each child’s name and what’s going in that box for example Barbies, dolls clothes and Polly Pockets and then stick the label onto the front so they can clearly see what’s inside.
Kids love the idea of their name on anything and this way it helps to validate the objects they’ve chosen for that particular box. Now, when your kids room’s a mess, and you ask them to tidy up, all they’ll need to do is check their boxes because they will forget what goes where, then remember that toy cars, trains and planes live in a large blue box and away they go.
Separate A Messy Room From A Loving Child
Children are not their bedrooms and even though their room might be grubby, untidy and disorganised it doesn’t mean they are. Don’t use a messy room as a personal attack in an argument, or suggest that they don’t care about anything because their room’s so untidy. This will almost certainly be not true and will just make them, especially teenagers who care almost too much, more defensive and prone to rudeness. Eventually an untidy bedroom will start to bother them more than you, they won’t be able to find a single thing, will be in detention for missing homework or projects and won’t be able to go to their Taylor Swift concert because they’ve gone and misplaced the tickets.
Follow Through With Consequences
If you’ve tried all these things and your kid’s room still resembles a junkyard then it’s time to pull out the big guns. For every week that goes by with it messy they go to bed an hour earlier, lose out on favourite treats and snacks and have their TV time cut. If teenagers aren’t listening feel free to set a timer on the Wi-Fi connection, automatically logging them out once 9pm arrives. Take away their smartphones,ipads, laptops or iPod and ground them from going to a party. If they say their friends are asking why, tell them to bring them over to look at their room and ask if they would be ‘allowed to have their room that way’. The sheer embarrassment of seeing their friends judging how messy they are should be more than enough motivation to get them hoovering.