Children’s rooms can be the most difficult to tackle. Here are some suggestions I’d like to share with you based on years of experience with my business, family and friends.
What Is A Clean Room?
How would you describe a clean room? Is that how your child would describe it? Exactly what does “Go clean your room!” mean to him/her? A child will go into their room… and stare. Just what do we want them to clean they wonder. Everything looks perfectly in order.
What comes next? If left on their own, you may return a few minutes later to find a pile of dirty clothes has been moved from one side of the room to the other. You may find them playing with a long lost toy newly discovered under a pile of… well something. Or perhaps they’ve initiated the “Stall Strategy” and they’re counting on you, after repeated attempts, giving up on them getting the job done.
I’ve seen the same reaction from young children as well as teenagers. They become lost and confused. Without the right kind of strategy, children (as well as adults) can easily become overwhelmed. With a plan however, to help them organize and then take action, children will learn responsibility and gain a sense of self-worth, accomplishment and pride.
Keep in mind, if you have a small child, their view of their room is very different from yours. Start by sitting on the floor with your child and participating in play time with them. Watch how they maneuver around the room.
- How do they play?
- How many toys do they take out at once?
- Do they put any back?
- Are they taking good care of their toys?
- Are they not being careful with them?
- Is there too much stuff in their room?
- Are their toys easily obtainable?
- Are their clothes easily obtainable?
Next, take some time and lay out a plan to organize their room and maintain it. This should be an age appropriate plan with achievable goals. Then let your child help you set up their room. It’ll give them a better understanding of what belongs where and why. Make it a fun project with a happy outcome as opposed to making it seem like work.
Here Are Some Ideas
- If you want your child to hang his/her clothes in a closet, is the bar low enough for them to reach?
- Are dresser drawers easy to reach and easy to open?
- Put small toys and toys with numerous parts into their own small containers.
o If you’re on a budget and/or don’t want to purchase plastic containers for example, use various cardboard boxes. Your child can decorate them with paint or crayons and make them unique.
- Remove clothing and shoes that your child has outgrown or worn out on a regular basis.
o How often you do this will depend on the age of your child. For example, young children outgrow things very quickly and you may want to do this removal every month or two.
- Store clothes they’re waiting to grow into in a separate place and not in their room.
o Clothing that small children receive as gifts are often the wrong size. Instead of cluttering their drawers and closets with clothes you are waiting for them to grow into, store them in a separate place, and make revisiting that place something you do on a regular basis, perhaps monthly.
- Store separately clothes that are only worn certain times of year, like winter coats or swim suits.
- Store toys not in use in a separate place.
o Sometimes toys gifted to children are not age appropriate. Store them in a separate place to avoid clutter until your child is old enough for them.
How Much Is Too Much?
Determine how much space is available in your child’s room and let that dictate the amount of toys that should be in there at any given time. Then rotate them once in a while. Let small children collect toys they no longer have much of an interest in, perhaps in some type of container, a box or even a toy shopping cart. Then let your child take them to the separate place where the other toys are stored and exchange them.
Have a separate collection bin for toys your child is ready to part with, perhaps because they’ve outgrown them, that can be donated to other children.
If your child has multiple toys featuring the same movie or T.V. character, or numerous dolls or teddy bears for example, they don’t all need to be kept in the room at the same time. Store them separately out of their room. If the toys are exactly the same, consider the donation box.
Children may not want to part with their favorite toys, and even you as a parent may not want to part with collectibles and some of their “firsts”. Simply store them elsewhere and if there is no room… off to the donation box!
Be conscious of the fact that you are teaching your child by your example the value of material things. Be sure your child is shown a balance between this and for example, the value of quality time spent having fun together, and of course their value as individuals.
The Value of Donating
There are numerous charities that work with disadvantaged children or countries such as Haiti that are in need. By allowing your child to donate their unwanted and outgrown toys and clothing, you will give them the opportunity to learn the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate.
You may also want to encourage your child to hold a garage sale. They can either keep the money which would teach them responsibility and the value of money, or donate it to perhaps a children’s charity.
Setting Rules or Guidelines
Set rules, such as doing homework at a particular time of day, perhaps before going out to play. Make sure your child has a quiet, clean and adequately sized work space with good lighting to do their homework in.
Set aside a short period of time, even just 5 minutes, for them to straighten things up at the end of each day before going to bed. This should include putting any dirty clothes left out into a hamper. They can also use this time to set out anything that they may need the next morning, especially if they’re going to school.
Incorporate Reading Into Your Child’s Routine
I would suggest labeling things in their room such as ‘closet’, ‘drawer’, ‘window’, etc., as a way of helping and encouraging them to learn to read and spell. This is also a way to teach him/her another language.
I also feel it is important to have a library of books in their room, no matter how small it may be. Even starting out with just one book and reading at least part of it with them every day or at bedtime will teach them good reading habits.
“Studies show that children who share “Story Time” with parents have (a) better reading skills, (b) a larger and more advanced vocabulary and (c) improved reading comprehension.” — TheFairyTaleProject.com
Sharing Room Space
If there are two or more children sharing a room, establish boundaries. Be specific about which areas they are each responsible for. Establish common areas that are shared by them and be specific about who is responsible for what. Here are a few options.
- Have one child responsible one day (or one week), and another child the next or…
- Have one child responsible for something specific, and another child for something else. For example, one child picks up any clothing or trash left in the shared area and another child would vacuum. (Chores of course would need to be age appropriate.)
- Alternate the responsibilities on a regular basis.
For Your Consideration
You’ll get more participation and better results from your child by associating their time spent cleaning their room with pride and self-worth, then if it seems like punishment to them, perhaps by demands from you as a parent.
Remember children learn by example. They pay as much attention, if not more, to what we do as parents than to what we say, so they will pay attention to your cleaning habits.
Young children usually like to show off their things, whether it’s their toys or perhaps something they’ve made. Praise him/her for a neat and tidy room and join your child for a while each day in their space. This will make them feel proud of their room, increase their self-esteem and give them encouragement for the tasks they lay ahead. They’ll enjoy sharing their space and they’ll be happy that they’ve made you happy.
You may want to create some type of reward system. Some parents will give a gift or even money, or the old time favorite… ice cream. If you choose however, not to reward your child for something you feel s/he should be responsible for in the first place, keep in mind that something as simple as a gold star on their wall or a little ribbon would most likely be appreciated and encourage them. And most importantly, be sure to praise them and give plenty of hugs and kisses. (Age appropriate of course!)