“Don’t throw that ball towards the TV!” I say and cringe, as my whirling dervish of a toddler zips through the living room and disappears around the bend almost as quickly. And then it hit me – not the ball, but rather a moment of inspiration. Streamlining our space and creating a smarter play area would not only put me at peace, but my two year old son as well.
“Touching and exploring is how toddlers learn to live in the world,” says Dr. Suzanne Reiffel, a psychologist in Scarsdale, NY who specializes in child behaviors. “It’s best to save the “no!” for serious safety hazards and create an environment that makes it simple for a child to be good.”
So, if the ball is kept in a spot zoned for active play (the basement, or the garage storage bin), that’s one less “please don’t” conversation during our valuable time together.
Strategy 1: Add functional, toddler-friendly furniture and storage
Land of Nod Bin There Done That Floor Book Bin
Easier access makes for less stress, so:
• Our glass coffee table was temporarily swapped for a cheap, durable IKEA model with cubby holes (any similar model will do), which quadrupled our toy storage space and our safety quotient.
• The Land of Nod’s Bin There Done That Floor Book Bin ensures that my little guy can grab the book of his choice without a struggle.
• Large storage bins like Target’s Home Paper Rope Large Milk Crate corral oddly shaped playthings like guitars, oversized trucks and stuffed toys without being an eyesore. When big crates aren’t packed to the brim, there is a designated spot for everything – making cleanup quick and easy for kids. Rotating extra toys from the closet keeps them interesting.
Strategy 2: Set tantrum-avoiding put-away precedents
Boon’s Frog Pod Bath Toy Scoop Drain and Storage
Kids are creatures of habit and we’ve learned that how we do something the first time sets a precedent, so new toys come assigned with a storage space:
• Balls, Frisbees and bubbles live in the basement or in the garage to allow for play in permissible areas.
• Metal trains that could be dropped from the second floor balcony all “sleep” downstairs in the train table.
• Bath toys swim into the Boon’s Frog Pod Bath Toy Scoop Drain and Storage once there’s no more water.
• Washable markers and art supplies are always available upon request (so we don’t find again that – surprise! – our wooden floor is pink)
Out of sight is generally out of mind, so my son is inspired by all the “yes, you can” stuff that’s around, and I feel like less of a killjoy.
Strategy 3: Organize to create DIY experiences
Who doesn’t love a kid with “proud face”? A kid who gets to complete tasks themselves feels successful and is generally more compliant. Why not:
• Put a cute coat hook within their reach and a place for shoes upon entry.
• Stock the bottom shelves of the pantry with healthy, portioned snacks in a safe plastic bin (keep breakable glass jars and special indulgences above eye level) and let them have their pick.
• Have them throw their own clothes into a pint-size hamper before running to the bathtub
• Let them pick out their own three bedtime stories off the shelf nightly, and then choose what order to read them in.
Even one of two minor changes can up the happiness factor for moms and kids alike, leaving you both feeling a bit more in control. Plus, as a healthy bonus, you’ll be raising a confident kid who subconsciously learns to value their space!
Sharon Marcus is a working mom who blogs daily at mamadoitall.blogspot.com