Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The independent five year old

I've been really focused on blogging about Zumba lately, what with going to certification class and all, so it's been some time since I did a "mommy post". I've been working around the house here and there trying to organize things a little better. It's been a very slow process. It seems like every time I find something that needs organizing and I get started, it opens a can of worms. I wind up having to do about three other things in addition, just to accomplish the first thing. We've only been living here slightly over two years. When we moved in, I was pregnant with our second son and extremely sick as a result. So I was next to useless when it came to unpacking and organizing the place. Some of Bry's relatives formed a cleaning crew and came over here to help. A huge blessing to our family, and I was extremely grateful. At the time, things I thought should go in certain places or systems I thought would be good ways of organizing, have since turned out to be a little less efficient than I originally thought. I blame "pregnancy brain" because I look back now and go, "Why is this here?" or "Why did I think that would work...?" But as I said, reorganizing is a slow process and I work on things during the days in between dealing with our younger son's needs.

Bins labeled "Toys"
Dollar Tree haul
One of the places I decided to start with was our boys' rooms. In our older son's room the mess consists of lots of toys and books and laundry. You know, the basic kindergarten boy's kind of mess. I bought some bins from Dollar Tree (above left) and sorted it all out. I wanted to make the organizational system something easy to maintain, but not just for me - for him. After all, it's his room. The idea here is for him to be able to be as independent as possible for his age. So, I started by designating two bins for toys that would fit inside the cupboards of his dresser (above right); one for the larger toys and one for the smaller toys. That's easy enough, plus it reinforces sorting by characteristics which is a kindergarten skill. I also bought bins for his closet (below; left and right) because things were jumbled and in piles.
Labels from right to left: PJ's, Pants, Exar
Bin labeled "Shoes"
Basically, he needed me to help him find anything in there. This way, it's obvious to him what's what so he can get what he needs for himself. I made sure to put the bins with the things he'd need most often (like PJ's) on the shelves he could reach. And in case you're wondering, "Exar" is the name he gave his Cabbage Patch doll, so that bin contains the clothes, accessories, etc. Most of the shoes in the shoe bin are pairs he's outgrown that I am saving for our younger son, but they were all in their little boxes and that was taking up way too much space in the closet. Plus, I had an idea for how to put those to good use...
Bins labeled "Donations"
His clothes are on the lowest bar
The round bins that you see to the left are for organizing the boys' clothes that I'm not planning to save. I also bought a couple of pop-up laundry hampers, one for the laundry (obviously...) and one for his stuffed animals. I bought them in two different colors so that it's easy to tell which is which. The black one is for laundry, and the white one is for toys.

Seven-day organizer
Even our son got into the spirit of organization. Usually, I have him set out his clothes for school the night before and a couple of weeks ago, he asked me if he could lay out his clothes for the entire week. Actually, he asked me -after- he'd laid out about four shirts in random places around his room... Sigh. So, after cleaning that up, I offered to get him a closet organizer. I know that there are seven-day clothes organizers for children's closets available for purchase out there, but I figured I'd just save some money and make one myself. Because we have a pool, we have bleach, which we buy in a convenient three-pack from Costco! Everything at Costco comes in a convenient three-pack... Anyways... The boxes they come in are skinny and I turned them lengthwise and built in some shelves. It was a duct tape project. Our son likes color, so I bought seven different colors in addition to white. I labeled each shelf with the name of each day and while our son is organizing his clothes (by himself) he's practicing colors and days of the week.

All those little shoe boxes that I pulled out of his closet? I wrapped them in duct tape. For these, I used red, blue, and superhero. Duck Brand duct tape has rolls with Spider-man and The Avengers, great for a little boy going through a superhero phase. The shoe boxes are the perfect size for sorting the toys in the toy box. Top; left to right: Action Figures, Miniature Playsets, Dinosaur Train. Bottom; left to right: Animals, miscellaneous, Wooden Block Tool Bench. The rule in our house is "one at a time", so if one box comes out of the toy box, another one goes back in. Now, he's able to keep track of his toys on his own. He and I used to have the following conversation nearly everyday:

Son: Mommy, where is my     X     ?
Me: I don't know Big Guy. Why don't you check your toy box, it's probably in there.
Son (rummaging around): Mommy I can't find it!
Me (sigh, rummaging around): Here it is...
Son: Thanks Mommy!

But not anymore! Hooray! the kitchen, I reorganized, rearranged, and purged some things to free up a lower cupboard. I turned it into a "kids' pantry". I collected all of the kid friendly snacks and plastic children's tableware and put them in here where they are within easy reach. I pre-portioned some of the snacks into sandwich baggies too so that our son can just pick up the right amount of crackers or dried fruit along with a bowl to put it in. Instead of recycling some of the empty boxes that just naturally seem to appear in the kitchen, I covered them in...? You guessed it, duct tape. Love that stuff! It's easy to work with and kid-durable. Anyways, in red box are the baggies with the pre-portioned snacks. The blue box has granola and cereal bars. The white box in the left corner has our older son's applesauce pouches. There's extra room on the slide-out for our younger son's pouches and some of his toddler finger foods. Up on the shelf are the cereal boxes, canisters of puffs, and boxes of crackers. The plain yellow box has teething biscuits in it and I used a shelf divider to make a place for the larger sized baby bowls.

Lastly, in my recent quest to give our older son more independence, I made him his own reusable sweeping pad. He loves to dust and sweep so when I was making a reusable sweeping pad, I made a second one.
I bought a bunch of microfiber cleaning cloths from Dollar Tree and then I cut and sewed until they fit the sweeper. I already had a sweeper, but I found a no-name brand sweeper at Dollar Tree along with a little microfiber duster. Now that he has his own duster that he keeps in his room, he doesn't have to ask me to get my duster out of the closet for him. He also doesn't need me to get him the sweeper, he can just grab his own out of the laundry room whenever he's in the mood to clean. Interestingly enough, his enthusiasm for sweeping and dusting is not quite so pronounced now. Heh. That's a kid for you. Nothing is quite as fun as being able to do something you can't always do.

Best advice: Age-appropriate independence is important for children, it goes hand in hand with responsibility. That's sounds like a "Duh, of course it is and of course it does." but the truth is, that before I was a parent, I was a teacher and I have encountered children, several who were older then mine, who seemed either incapable or unwilling to be independent and act responsibly for their age. If our son needs me, needs my help, I'm there for him all the way, but laziness is in no way tolerated in this house.

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