Clean Up! Clean Up! Everybody Everywhere
I walked into my 18 year old son’s room the other day, and after tripping over his football gear and laundry, I said, “How can you study and be organized for school when your stuff is all over the place?”
His response was what you would have expected, something to the effect of “this is my room and there is no reason I can’t keep what I want on the floor, and by the way, what does that have to do with my learning?” I mentioned to him that research from Princeton University Neuroscience Institute (The Journal of Neuroscience, Jan 2011) has shown that when the environment in which we live and play is cluttered and disorganized, it prevents us from processing information, focusing and being creative – all necessary tools for play.
When my children were younger, I would walk into friends’ homes and toys would be all over the place; in the living room, in the family room, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the floor, on tables, even on the chairs. I remember being in one friend’s house feeling completely overwhelmed. Sensory overload would be an understatement. I remember thinking: “if I feel this way, how do her kids feel?” Whenever my children would return from her house after a playdate, they would be WIRED. When I asked my children to tell me what they played, they couldn’t remember.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from Martha Stewart, but I did organize my kids’ toys. Not only did this help my daughter with Down syndrome categorize, organize and learn responsibility, but the family room was always ready for imaginative, creative and expansive play. Here is a list of tips to help you keep your toys ready for play (and protect your investment)
Use clear plastic tubs for categorizing toys
Use clear plastic tubs for categorizing toys, instruments, puzzles, arts and crafts, cars, balls, sports equipment, dolls, animals, etc. LABEL the tubs with both a written word and a picture. This helps children learn to organize and be responsible for their possessions, while also learning to read.
Purchase a roller caddy and label the drawers as well
The caddy can be easily moved to one room to the next.
Use Toy Tamer Bags
These are a great way to contain items with many pieces, categorize and color code your toys. The bags come in many different sizes and colors and have a pocket for easy labeling.
Turn organizing into a game
In the words of Mary Poppins, “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun”. Teach kids to be responsible for their toys by singing a cleanup song, or seeing how many balls they can throw into the ball tub. Play “toy scramble” and see who is the fastest at picking up one kind of toy.
There is nothing wrong with keeping some toys tucked away and promoting the use of others.
Donate unused toys
When you think your child has outgrown a toy, tuck the toy away for a few months. If he/she hasn’t asked for it, then donate to someone who will enjoy it.
Using these organizational strategies with my daughter was key to her learning and enjoying play. And unlike my son, she is the most organized child I have. (My son did clean his room – he must have looked up that research).
Kathryn Lavin, MSW, Executive Director – Kathryn received her masters degree in Management and Policy (Jane Addams School of Social Work) and has worked in the disability field over 20 years; worked at the Institute on Disability and Human Development; served on the board of the National Association for Down syndrome; founding member of the Belle Center of Chicago; currently serves on the Chicago Community Trust’s Persons with Disabilities Fund.
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This post originally appeared on our January/February 2017 Magazine