Friday, February 16, 2007

A Couple of New Household Rules About Toys

In my ongoing attempt to make life easier and more pleasant for everyone in the house I am trying to have more structure in our lives. Additionally I am laying out some new rules and giving my children more chores.

So far the schedule has not worked out. I am temporarily giving up on having a written schedule for our day. I just give up!

One thing that is working out is instilling a couple of new rules per week.

The new rules this week are about the living room and children's toys.

1. There is a toy box and it is allowed to have toys in it and the lid must close.

2. The area behind the couch is the LEGO area. I don’t care what it looks like back there, they can be all over the floor for all I care, but the LEGOs must stay back there. This is an area perhaps 6x20 so they have room to move, believe me.

3. There are to be no other toys in the room at all. The rest of the toys must be in the playroom or in their bedroom (sorry). (However in reality they are also in the hallway, on bathroom counters, in the kitchen, dining room and library. For now I am letting that ride.)

In case you are wondering about the living room, there are a few board games on the coffee table and on the card table and puzzles are in a cabinet. Books are on the end tables, coffee table and the sofa table. And there is a television set behind the closed doors of a cabinet and a stereo system. We don't watch much TV in there as that is not where the TiVo unit is and we hate watching live television. Lastly there is a hockey table game and a foosball game. The main use of the room is for playing LEGOs, playing board games, playing the sports games and reading while sitting on the couches, and sitting by the fire when we have one going in the fireplace.

A few weeks ago I banned toys from my bedroom. I need one room that is not full of toys and LEGOs. Please. They can play with them in there but the toys must leave the room when they leave the room.

Earlier this week the living room looked like a bomb went off. I made the kids (aged 6.5 and 9.5) declutter it. They removed toys whose homes are in other rooms and put them where they belong. I suggested we consider giving some toys away. My older son, on his own, fetched two laundry baskets and put signs on them “keep” and “give away”. They picked out toys to give away and asked if we can donate them to a children’s hospital. I commended him on his thoughtfulness but explained that they don’t take used toys.

After we/they were done my 9.5 year old son remarked that it went quite quickly and was easy to do. I briefly said that if everything has a place where it belongs it is then easy to put the thing in the spot where it belongs. Both kids agreed.

These are baby steps toward the direction of teaching my children organization, to not be packrats (as I am and my relatives are). I also want my children to be more responsible for themselves and to see all the work that goes into maintaining a house. I also want them to learn that there is no need to own a huge amount of stuff if we/they can’t manage it. If there are too many toys to put away, there are too many toys owned, period. Lastly I want them to realize that toys all over the floor can actually cause injuries and they can be a safety hazard (they do realize this already).

I am happy with this little progress this week.

The next step is getting them to tidy up on a daily basis, of the things they play with that day. This then won’t force us to have long marathon decluttering days.

And now I have about a dozen toys to give away.

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1 comment:

JaneMarple said...

I have two girls, ages 11 and 7 (plus a baby). Over the years I have found that there isn't one routine of household responsibility that works for them. Which makes total sense to me, because that's not what works for me or my partner either; we very much have an anti-rhythm rhythm! At different times, different aspects of the girls' temperaments are in ascendancy, to borrow a useful concept from astrology!, and they might want to have a lot of power over their responsibilities, or have me organize it, or take care of two jumbo chores, or have fifteen itsy-bitsy chores...

So don't hassle yourself that the schedule didn't work out so well. Part of the joy of homeschooling is the ability to be so flexible. Like you, I now focus on our family's principles of household management - things like "choking hazards stay in the baby-shielded areas" and "put away what you take out in the kitchen" - and let the practical side of things be more fluid. And frankly, I get a lot of help from my kids now, with a lot less fuss, than I did when I micromanaged more!