We’ve all been there. You’ve been busy for what seems like minutes, the children quietly playing on their own. You open the living room door to see what the little cherubs have been doing – and it’s carnage. A toy factory explosion. You’re fairly sure there’s carpet under there somewhere but right now it’s obscured by a thousand Lego bricks, a multi-storey’s worth of small cars, enough loom bands to go several times around the world, offcuts of paper and all the bedding from upstairs. Rather than despair and yet again spend the hour after bedtime clearing it all away, here’s how to get the children to do the tidying-up themselves.
Race against the clock
Set a timer for five minutes (we use the oven timer) and if your children are anything like as competitive as mine, they will be clearing up like demons.
If you’re old enough to remember those cuddly South London upcyclers then you will love this idea! You might want to read your children a Wombles story in advance, to familiarise them with the concept before introducing a couple of large paper shopping bags. I happened to have a pack of plain white bags left over from a school sale, and these were perfect. You could even choose Womble names (pick a town from a world map) and decorate the bags. When it’s time to tidy up, allocate the bags and watch your little Wombles go!
Hoovering is fun!
The hoover is a bit heavy and unwieldy for most children but with help it can be accomplished. The reward of a bit of hoovering can be a great incentive to get that carpet cleared. It also focuses the mind on the fact that every little piece needs to be cleared away or potentially be sucked into the dust bag.
Add some beats
It wouldn’t be a party without music, right? Apply the same principle to the toy mountain by putting on some favourite tunes. Perhaps choose a favourite song and make it your tidying up theme tune. Avoid anything too frantic but a busy-ish tone speed helps. Add a twist by unexpectedly turning off the music for a minute’s worth of ‘freeze’ time when you walk around and check for fluttering eyelids or giggly tummies.
You could let each child choose a colour to pick up and tidy. Or a shape.
A spoonful of sugar
As Mary Poppins says:
In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game
The key is fun. Yes it’s a chore but there’s no reason it should feel like playtime is over. When one idea goes stale try another. And then combine several ideas into one, so assign colours, turn on the music and do it all against the clock!
Do you have any other tried and tested fun ways to tidy up?