From the time our boys were old enough to grasp an object, we’ve had “put your toys away” as part of their evening routine. For the most part, they’ve been pretty good about this task – doing their fair share of whining, but restoring order nonetheless.
Sometimes I forget that a clean room isn’t the payoff for them that it is for me, so I have to be creative in my approach – a combination of Mary Poppins and drill sergeant – cajoling and commanding, until the work gets done. I’m especially proud of today’s technique, because it got them to do exactly what needed to be done, with no arguing over who made the original mess, and (most important) was 100% whine free!
Introducing the magic hat! Inside it are folded up pieces of paper – each one with a very specific task written on it (ex: put away books and magazines; pick up any clothing you see and put it in the laundry basket). For our younger son, who is easily distracted from the task at hand, this gave him one measurable goal at a time. When he completed one task, he knew to come back and grab another, avoiding his usual frustration of not knowing/remembering what to do next. For our older son, who likes routine and rules (so he isn’t fond of cleaning up messes he didn’t make), this redirected his usual “but that’s not my mess” response and fed his need to follow the rule at hand. Plus, he could work at his own speed (often much faster than his brother’s).
There were only six tasks in the hat today (three for each boy) and their disaster area of a bedroom was picked up in less than 10 minutes. Now that, my friends, is magic!