I told a story of cleaning gone wrong on Friday but I'm back to share a few tips I've learned along the way to avoid total parenting disaster when it comes to collective clean up.
Hope they help the messies at your house.
1. Decide what kind of players (i.e. mess makers) you have. My kids tend to take one kind of toy out at a time and play with it on a grand level. If it's tinker toys, there are exactly one million pieces and projects everywhere BUT they are all the same thing.
When Madeleine and Carter come over, all toys are fair game. Everything is integrated into the play. There are ropes tied to tinker toys, dolls sitting on tinker toy built swings, forts, stuffed animals with tinker toys coming out of their ears...etc. This is a different cleaning animal all together.
My nephew Ethan is completely uninterested with the tinker toys but has very happily dumped the toys so he can turn the box that held them into a car. Or maybe a sled to use down the stairs? Pure physical genius I tell ya.
All of these players might require different clean up habits.
1. We can tell Josiah and Jack they have to clean up the first mess before they take the next toy out.
2. I try to suggest a clean up sooner (after I know they have exhausted the resources) with Madeleine and Carter so we aren't overwhelmed by a bigger mess tomorrow.
3. Ethan needs different resources all together. Plenty of "non-toys" available might curb the dumping or just go with it and pick up throughout the day. Dumping is a big developmental task requirement for some kids and calls us to parental surrender at times.
2. Play that Funky Music. I have recently come to the conclusion for myself that music is the only thing that makes having to clean tolerable in the first place. Loud music. Party music. Something that would other wise invite you to "shake what yo'mama gave ya."
After years of teaching preschool where everything has a song it's amazing that I could forget the same trick might work for my kids.
Let your kids choose the music of choice. It's Queen for Josiah and African music by Putamayo for Jack. Set the environment for at least a little fun sending the message that work doesn't always have to be filled with drudgery. Take short dance breaks if needed.
3. Don't underestimate the power of little kids. Even very young children can participate with the right amount of direction. This always means things take twice as long but it's worth it in the long run. Even toddlers can throw napkins in trash cans and carry plastic plates to the sink. Ethan (a la Montessori) could pour his drinks at the age of two and still clean up the mess he made after.
4.Get in the trenches. Working sided by side teaches kids what to do and how to clean.
I still resist helping my kids and sometimes I pull rank making them muddle through but it still goes much faster (and more cheerfully) when I help.
5. Life is messy. At the end of the day, messes are good. You won't be on your death bed wishing the counter had been free of clutter more often. It's good for parents and kids to have the freedom to discover what happens when we use all of one thing, paint the picture in our minds no matter how big, or enter the most creative parts of ourselves what ever that looks like or how messy it becomes.
Happy mess making and happy cleaning!