With spring in the air this week I have been feeling the urge to de-clutter and tidy up, and remembered this post that I compiled last year with 25 tips for tidying up from my fellow Hand in Hand Parenting instructors. I know that I feel much more comfortable involving my daughter with the tidying, rather than just handing her a screen while I get on with it. Tidying-up can be fun, and actually is a chance to connect with our kids.
Since writing that post, I’ve learnt a bit more about what works for us when it comes to tidying-up together. So if you’d like to begin spring cleaning, then here are some tips for how to begin.
Set a timer. If your child is familiar with using the timer from having regular special times, then this helps a lot. Choose a time, (I like to do one hour) and tell your child you’re going to have tidying up time. Let them know how long it will be.
There may be some moans and groans. This doesn’t mean your child hates tidying, or that it’s going to be impossible to get them motivated. Like any human being, sometimes feelings get in the way of getting motivated. Our children start off as a blank state. They aren’t born hating tidying and cleaning. In fact many babies love to imitate their parents, cleaning with a cloth, or putting things away in the right place.
What sometimes happen is that children’s feelings get in the way. Or the demands of school, and busy schedules mean that they don’t have so much time to play, so the thought of being told what to do brings reluctance. What’s key is understanding how to make tidying-up play. We can use the 25 playful ways to encourage children, or set limits, and listen to any feelings of reluctance that come up. Either way, once the feelings are out of the way your child is much more likely to enjoy the process.
At first nothing much may get done. I know when my daughter is feeling particularly disconnected if my attempts to tidy-up result in her ‘untidying.’ If this happens then it’s important to understand that this is all part of the process. Perhaps the first time you do ‘tidying-up time,’ you end up chasing your giggling child while they deliberately try to make a mess and you get nothing done. Don’t be disheartened! You are building the connection your child needs to be able to think clearly and co-operate. Next time it may be a completely different story. (Read more in How Letting Our Children Make A Mess Builds Co-Operation).
Be flexible and keep our expectations reasonable. We were tidying up this morning, and then my daughter got distracted by the thought of making tissue paper flowers. I didn’t set a limit and encourage her to keep tidying. She was happy and playing independently so I used this as a good opportunity to just get on with the work. We need to keep our expectations age appropriate, so children might flit in and out of tidying, as they get distracted by toys etc. We can be flexible and just go with the flow.
What’s more important than how much physical work our children do, is that we help them make happy, connected memories of the process. So many of us grew up with chores being ‘hard work’ that we often had to do alone. We can bring joy, play and connection into the process. This is a much better teaching tool for them than being harsh, or demanding they tidy-up everything immediately. When we offer our children flexibility, they’ll also be much more willing to offer to help us spontaneously so it may mean that we notice the benefits of their learning about tidying at a later date.
Have tidying-up time regularly. What I noticed with my daughter, is that as we did regular tidying-up times, it became routine, and she began to realise that it could be a fun time, to be together, laugh, and make our home environment a little less cluttered. So having a short tidying up time each day, or longer times a couple times a week, makes it become a normal part of life.
I hope you find these tips useful. Happy Cleaning! For more ideas check out Children And Chores: Four Ways To Get Them To Help, and my podcast interview with Casey O’Roarty, all about listening and how it helps our children co-operate.
What works for you when you try to tidy-up with your kids around? I’d love to hear from you!