I was a nanny for many years, and I learned so much about embracing practicality AND whimsy.
I also learned that kids are totally capable of keeping their areas relatively organized and clean- but you have to start early.
It's incredible how a tiny human, who cannot even walk or talk, observes his or her surroundings so acutely. It is a great opportunity to emulate the skills you would like them to develop later.
1.) Make a big show of putting toys, books and clothes away.
2.) Make up a song or explain what you're doing as you're doing it.
3.) I always told the kids I took care of that I was tucking in their dolls/books/toys etc. We always wished them sweet dreams. It seemed to really resonate with them and it was freakin' adorable.
As they become toddlers make it an integral part of their daily routine.
1.) Don't move on to one activity without cleaning up the last one you did. This is tough because it can easily become connected to punishment. An uncomplicated cleanup system is key. How easy is it for your little one to access bins, shelves, etc? If it's something they need an adult's help with, then the dependence may frustrate them.
3.) Make it as fun as possible: see how fast you can gather up lego pieces. Take turns throwing stuffed animals into a toy bins- cheering each time they make it.
4.) Either sing or play a special song that is reserved for clean up time.
5.) Be satisfied with them trying. It really doesn't matter if they're putting the lego toys in the animal bin. You can put pictures of what belongs where, but, perfection is a myth! What matters is that your child is taking a positive action and building a respect for their surroundings.
Here are some great tools to help you and your little ones get started on the path to a calm, kid-friendly home.
Bins: You know I love them. I mention them in almost every post. However, they're especially perfect for kids. Durability is important but avoid hard materials or lids that snap or slam down. Here are a few options:
Wall storage: wall pockets or a canvas shoe organizer can lend itself nicely to kid-friendly organizing. consider installing a rod to hang pails from for art supplies.
Labels: Obviously, most toddler can't read. That's why a label with a picture on it will go a long way. There are some cool (free) printable options online. Or, make your own!
The Extras: A puzzle organizer! a book display that keeps books from looking messy, AND is helpful for little fingers! Keep wipes at hand so your kiddo can be empowered to clean up messes.