It’s pretty safe to say that most (98%) of the mess in our house is from our kids. Both of our kids are very active, love to play and go full force with everything they do. But we’ve developed a great system to keep our house kid & play friendly and also (mostly) clean. You can have both by helping your kids partner with you to follow these simple strategies.
A safe space for kids to play and make a mess. We used to keep toys in a bin in our living room and the rest upstairs in the kid’s bedroom. We thought the downstairs bin keep toys contained in one place on the lower level in our house. Wrong! The toys were everywhere and the only people who contained them were the adults. It was frustrating and we let our kids know. Our system wasn’t working.
Now, instead of giving each kid their own bedroom, we’ve made one room a bedroom and one room a toy room. Toys are allowed in the bedroom (upstairs) and the toy room (downstairs). If the kids are actively playing with a toy, they can take it wherever they are, but all toys stay in their two spaces at all other times. It makes it much easier for them to play with what they want, and if the room is messy (this picture is the ‘clean’ mess), then it’s fine–because it’s out of our way.
Use the easiest storage and use it abundantly. When you have enough places for kids to store all of their items, it makes everyone happier. Invest in bins, tubs and containers that are easy for kids to use and make sure you use enough. Most of our kid-friendly storage includes bins–because you can “basketball-toss” toys into bins easily, making clean-up fun and a great, helpful game. Look at the items you’re using for your kid-area storage. Are you using lids that are difficult for kids? Consider removing the lids on the containers. Do you have enough storage? Consider getting rid of toys or figuring out additional storage options.
Teach kids to help clean. We make cleaning easy for kids, so both of ours don’t whine too much when they have to help. We toss most toys into the bins to put them away, we also play “pick up # of toys” for each activity, and we encourage our kids to put away the toys at the end of the day as part of their bedtime routine. By making cleaning more kid-friendly, you make it easier to actually get things cleaned with everyone involved.
Set up routines. We have a bulletin board in our family message center that is just for our kids. It has emergency and sitter information, favorite cards and pictures of friends & family. We also have our kid-friendly chores list and our kids evening routine sheet on this board. Our kids (mostly) follow this list to earn their toy money and in the evening for their activities–we reviewed it a few times with the kids and then remind them of their options as needed each night. Have your kids help you with their ideas, this will make them more invested and have a better understanding of their choices.
Treasure Boxes & Special Items. Give kids special places to put their treasures. We received these boxes as a gift and our kids decorated them and now keep all their special items in their boxes. We’ve got marbles, adventure string, pictures and sticks saved–all treasures for our kids. And they like that they’ve got their own space to keep their things. Find something you can use for your kids and let them help you decorate it, or if they’re old enough, give them the supplies to make it their own.
Labeling is important. We labeled all of the kids clothes drawers with a picture and the words to help our kindergartener with his reading skills. The labels also save me from having to think about which drawer to use when I’m helping the kids put their laundry away. The labels don’t have to be fancy: Post-it notes and permanent markers or paper and crayon labels will do just fine. For non-readers, add pictures to make it easier for them.
Help them discover. “No TV time” regularly occurs at our house. How else will my kids spend all morning flying off of their bed in their Spiderman cape shirts or hours climbing up trees and sword-fighting with sticks. I want them to imagine cool things to do and create their own adventures. When you have too many toys for kids or let them spend their days watching TV or playing video games, it stifles their imagination. Give your kids the chance to discover new, exciting things and they’ll be better for it. We limit TV time to “when it’s dark outside” and we regularly go through toys to donate non-used ones.
You know what is best for your kids–and how much they really need. Help them keep it reasonable now, it will serve them as a valuable lesson for the rest of their life.