Today might be a bit of a catch-up day in our #30daystoMontessori series for you if you’ve already figured out how to get your kids to help put their toys away, but I think this is an important aspect of implementing the Montessori Method at home (or in your classroom).
There are many reasons why children might not put their toys away, so today we’re going to explore the different issues and present some solutions and tips to get your children to help tidy up!
Day 12: Teach Children To Put Their Toys Away
Empowering children to put their toys away is such a gift — to both them and yourself! This challenge goes hand in hand with two previous #30daystoMontessori challenges: creating an orderly environment for your children, and taking it to the mat.
Does your child’s environment easily lend itself to clean up? Alternatively, does your child’s environment easily lend itself to big messes?
I find the “shelf set-up” that is common in Montessori preschools makes it easy for children to find what they are looking for because they don’t have to empty out a bin to find their desired material – it is literally sitting right out in front of them, but in an orderly way. It is also easy to put materials away when they have a designated spot.
Using floor mats obviously helps with reducing the number of materials and toys that are out (and “in use”) at any given time, but even trying to point out natural cues in your child’s environment to help them start thinking of putting toys away as a problem solving opportunity:
“I see you’re having a hard time finding enough room to set-up your farm. Maybe we should stop and put some of these other toys away first?”
I started encouraging Ella to start “helping” at 4 months old, and with young children you can make a game out of picking toys up and putting them in a basket or on a shelf (or even just handing them to you). Some children will respond well to your hand guiding theirs, called “hand over hand,” to help pick up the toys.
The key is to keep the focus on the positive as much as possible. Even if your child only picks up 10% of their mess at first, that’s still a great effort on their part! You can even incorporate fun “cleaning songs” into the mix!
The more positive and normalized the experience of cleaning up is, the more children will be encouraged to continue to make efforts at it.
Ask yourself these questions about your child’s interactions with their environment:
- If some areas are constantly being messed up, is it due to the materials or toys on offer?
- Is there a lack of free play space?
- Is the space overwhelming in some capacity? Colours, music, or other sensory stimulation can be counter-productive if there is too much of it.
- Are the storage systems easy for children to use and understand?
- Are there too many toys?