Sorry friend, no easy button here. But whether your kids are home for summer, school holiday, or an unexpectedly lengthened spring break we’ve got some simple and practical ideas for staying organized while everyone is stuck at home together.
Think Like A Teacher
Think back to a traditional pre-kindergarten or kindergarten room. There were centers and stations for all the things. Housekeeping was in one section, blocks in another, and before you moved on you cleaned up what you got out.
Set zones for activities that work with your house flow. If that means Legos on the dining room table or on a towel on the living room floor, do what works for you. Why a towel? It defines the space and gives boundaries for littles. A hula hoop or painter’s tape box (or something similar to define the space) works just as well. For ongoing activities (i.e. a Lego set that is being built, or a painting that you want to come back to) try keeping it contained on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. It will take some explaining and perhaps a reminder – or seventeen – but it’s a fantastic way of containing messes.
In the same spirit, rotate toys and set timers. By all means, be flexible, but there is something to be said about limiting favorite toys to an hour or two or getting out lightly-used toys. Again, if all that is working to keep the peace is the Legos, then, by all means, don’t interfere! By setting timers, you’re setting limits and expectations. It would be lovely to watch the iPad for 4 hours, but if all we’ve got is 1 (or like my precious angel, behavior goes downhill with extended screen time) blaming the timer for time being up is a savior. “Sorry! The timer said it was time to be done!” works wonders in our home.
Keep the Mess to a Minimum
Clean up before moving on to the next activity. We’ve got an unusual benefit to this whole situation – lots of time. So there is no reason that an activity can’t be contained, cleaned or put away before moving on. It will help keep a mess from building and becoming overwhelming.
Try to be really specific with clean up instructions. Name the task and the items involved – “We’re going to get the blocks back in the bucket” or “Put the books back on the bookshelf, please.” Plan on being involved with cleaning up – for whatever magical reason, it seems to go faster and is more efficient when a supervising adult is participating.
Keep public work surfaces clutter-free. This could include the kitchen counter, living room floor, the couch (why do things get piled on the couch??) – any space that is in the line of sight. Keeping those surfaces cleared will help give an overall sense of organization and peace.
Above all else, adjust your expectation and if all else fails, sweep it into a laundry basket and call it a day. You can always try again tomorrow.