Lots of New Year’s resolutions center around organization and living a cleaner, healthier life. We all do it: a goal to lose weight with meal prep plans, or a promise to ourselves to clean out that cluttered, messy closet that we keep ignoring or a plan to stop accumulating so much unnecessary stuff.
Just like other self-improvement goals, helping kids learn how to be organized and cleaning their rooms is a worthy resolution. The more kids understand keeping their spaces, like playrooms, bedrooms and closets clean, the more apt they are to carry this habit throughout their lives. Because cleaning and organizing can be a daunting task, even for adults, here are some tips for helping little hands create a healthy cleaning routine:
- Break it down. Saying to your child ‘clean your room’ is overwhelming to a little mind. In their mind, this is a vast, open area with no beginning and end. Make the task seem less insurmountable by breaking it down into smaller tasks. For example, maybe ask them to pick all the socks up on their floor. When they’ve completed that task, praise them and move onto another item. You can even turn it into a game with siblings or even you and your child: ‘let’s see who can pick up the most toys and put them in this box (be specific about where they should go) in one minute….three, two, one…GO!’
- Moving on. Help them understand there’s a time to let go. Set up a donation/recycling bin for toys and clothes they no longer use or wear. Lead by example and show them items you no longer use go into to the bin to either give to others who may need it or send to the recycling center to make new things. Make it a field trip: collect items in the bin and take it to a local donation center. Let them get involved in the process!
- Be specific. Let your child know exactly what your expectations are. Don’t give vague tasks; make sure what your asking is manageable for their age. Making their bed is a great example: break down bed making into steps, such as ‘It’s time to pull the sheets up.’ ‘Now, please pull the blanket up.’ ‘Great job! Last step, put the pillows on top of the blanket.’ Once children have mastered the small steps, the bigger stuff comes easier!
As parents, we’ve all been there. Watching our kids at the park or at birthday parties: seeing them playing alone when there are so many new children around. We think ‘why is he/she alone?’ After all, there are new kids around. Do they not know how to make new friends?
The answer is they do, but they may not be ready yet. Children develop social skills in stages. By 2 – 4 years old, children are more aware of their surroundings, becoming more verbal and learning social cues from others. When surrounded by children they don’t know, children may not have developed the skills yet to initiate a new relationship. Don’t be too concerned if your child is spending time alone when in bigger groups of children. They’re just observing and understanding social sitatuons by watching others.
Role playing with your child is a great way to help them develop these skills. Here are a few tips:
- Start with activities they like. You know what makes your child most comfortable, whether it’s playing with Legos or time outside. Start with a time that they’re relaxed and comfortable and ask them to invite you to play. Play with them and invent different scenarios and ask them what they would do. Helping children work through different situations will make it a little easier for them to deal with when they actually come up.
- Taking turns. While playing with your child, show them what it means to take turns and share toys. Play the ‘other child’ role and refuse to give up a toy they’re asking to play with. Show them that it’s acceptable to get angry, but not to use hurtful words or hands to hit. Discuss with them how there are other toys to play with while thy are waiting their turn to play.
- Run through scenarios. By acting out different scenarios through play, you’re showing your child how the way they act, and react, will have different consequences.
While huge changes won’t happen overnight, eventually your child will feel comfortable enough to reach out to new children in a variety of situations and ask them to play. Don’t be tempted to intervene too much: little squabbles and differences with other kids are normal and a part of growing up. Instead, supervise play time and once the activity is over, talk to your child about what happened and try to talk with them about how they could have handled things differently. Teach them that there’s always a next time!