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Organizing With Toddlers

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Toddlers are bundles of eyes-wide-open creative energy that almost inevitably leave a mess in their wake. Their books, toys and art projects are a big part of their world, so, as you know, they tend to surround themselves with them. It can be frustrating to figure out how to give your kids the freedom to explore and create without ending up with stuff absolutely everywhere. But they can learn organizing skills to help restore order, it just takes a solid plan and lots of patience.

Contrary to how it may sound, putting an organizational system in place is not limiting for toddlers. In fact, it’s just the opposite. These systems create healthy boundaries that help kids feel secure and know what to expect…leaving them open to the full realm of their imagination. As a bonus, your home can be more easily be “put back together” after play time!

Why the Toddler Years Bring So Much Chaos

  • They are relentless explorers.

  • They have a short attention span.

  • They have big emotions when they don't get what they want or get frustrated.

These factors may make the thought of organizing with a toddler seem daunting. But it doesn't have to be. When I think of organizing for and with toddlers, I often think of a well-stocked preschool classroom. The classroom may dissolve into chaos during free-play time, but once it's time to clean up, all the kids know what to do. Do they know what to do on day 1? No. Do they need reminders sometimes? Yes. And the same goes for adults, right? If we want our toddlers to learn to be organized at home, we have to set up an environment where they can thrive and succeed.

Adults Need To:

  1. Be their teachers.

  2. Take it slow.

  3. Be patient.

Here's the Strategy for Organizing With Toddlers

Create healthy boundaries. Your child may have tons of toys but guess what? A 2-year-old cannot clean up a ton of toys. So, it's your job to create a healthy boundary which may mean limiting the number of toys in your home or creating a system that limits how many your child has access to at a time…like a rotating toy library. Only give access to the number of toys you and your child can manage and maintain. The same goes for art supplies, gross motor toys, manipulatives, sensory toys, and yes, even books. Your toddler is going to be curious about if they can pull every single one of their picture books onto the floor. And if they have 200 picture books, there is just no way we can reasonably expect them to put all those back on the shelf. So, like a real library, limit what books they can reach for and hold the rest somewhere else to rotate regularly.

Teach inch by inch. Don't give your toddler a 15-step process to put things away and then expect them to follow you. Break it down into tiny bite-size tasks. And as we mentioned in the last post about The Benefits of Organizing With Kids, make it fun. Turn it into a game. Turn on music. Act like you are enjoying organizing, even if you are not.

Look for opportunities to practice. Kids aren’t always ready to work when you are. So, remember to practice patience and look for creative opportunities to practice organizing. It could be something small like getting a few books back on the shelf. Be sure to reinforce the benefits by pointing out how easy it was to find their favorite book the next time they want to read it. Remind them that it was their good work that made it possible. When they understand how it directly impacts them, they are much more likely to get excited about returning things to their place in the future.

Organizational skills may not be on your pediatrician’s list of critical milestones, but perhaps it should be. The confidence and control a child can gain by being able to maintain their most important spaces helps them to thrive in a way that nothing else can. Need more ideas or help setting up a system that is manageable for your toddler? Contact Us!

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