Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tips for Tidy Away Time

Often there are actions you want your child to take, but he or she is not noticing what is yet undone, or is not participating at all. Coming in from outside, I see a jacket left outside on a bench. I know who it belongs to, and rather than naming the child and telling her to go get it, I say, “There is one jacket left outside.” It brings to the child’s attention that something is left undone, and the action wanting to happen speaks for itself. And the child who may not have noticed checks for her jacket and discovers it is the one left out. Out of her own motivation, she goes and collects her jacket and hangs it on the hook inside. My words of observation were a stimulus for the child’s action.

Perhaps it is tidy-away time, and the child is standing empty-handed, not participating in putting things away, and you want him to help. Again, a spoken observation like, “I see a cloth over there” might help. Sometimes all it takes to bring the child into activity is for their attention to be brought to something that needs to be done, without telling them to do it. Their own inner will takes care of the rest. 

I might pick up a log, walk toward the child who is simply standing without helping, and hand him the log. He take hold of it, and I walk on, not having said anything. He is now holding a log, his will engages, and he puts it on the shelf, and then joins in the tidying away. Or several children have made a restaurant at playtime, and you want them to help put things away. They are still at it; taking orders and cooking food. I pick up a plate and spoon and say, “Here is the food Sally wanted at the dishes store.” And the child delivers the order to the shelf where the cooking toys are put away. Or, folding up various colored cloths, I say, “I need someone to deliver this cherry pie (the red cloth).”A child presents herself for delivery, and takes the ‘pie’ to the shelf where it belongs. Other children come to help put them away because I have made a blueberry pie, lime pie, strawberry, and so on. I have entered into the land of imagination where the children live, and for many young children, this can be an instant cure for the ‘not-helping-at-tidy-away-time syndrome.’

“Take these boards to the lumber store.” “These animals go to the zoo.” (The wooden toy animals) You get the idea. It is important also for the adult to be part of the task, rather than assigning it to the children. If the reality is ‘we are tidying up’ it is far more effective than saying to the child or children, “you tidy this up.”

It is far more effective to participate in tidying up with your child than to expect or demand that they do it all by themselves. Let’s tidy up.” and really do it together. Then when the child is a bit older, she will have the habit of putting things away and you can step back from the activity.