take baby steps
When it’s time to organize, de-clutter and clean, approach the child’s room like any other. Take baby steps and do one thing at a time. First, skim away trash. Then, hamper dirty laundry. Move on to big stuff and fill in with parts and pieces. You don’t have to be the cleaning fairy, magically whisking it all away. With your child in the room, walk through the baby steps out loud to demystify the process and invite junior to get involved.
lower the bar
Try a walk around the room on your knees (or better yet, enlist your 12-year old). From this perspective, you’ll soon find out what’s hard to reach. Make it easy for your kids to pick up after playtime or hang up a sweater by lowering hooks, bars and shelves. Stepstools can help, but for safety and ease, lower is better. Consider doubling up on clothing bars-one low and within your child’s reach, the other higher for special clothes requiring your help.
A well-organized space saves you time, money and stress. It can also provide the perfect opportunity to teach about giving and sharing. As you organize, invite your child to think about which toys are favorites—and which could be given away to become the favorites of a little boy or girl who has less.
keep it safe
Children (and sleep-deprived adults) are prone to bumping into things and grabbing onto anything nearby for balance or support. Stabilize structures that toddlers may topple. Remove their temptation to reach higher than they should by keeping off-limit items child-locked or out of sight. Choose ouch-free organizers with rounded edges.
eliminate monster hiding places
Do monsters lurk beneath the beds? You can scare them away permanently by packing their habitat with baskets or bins containing seldom-used toys, or off-season outfits. If your floors are hardwood or laminate, consider storage on casters for easy sliding. No more room for monsters-or clutter.
label and teach
Show your kids where things are supposed to go with picture and word labels. Books. Blocks. Pants. Pajamas. While you build good habits, you can help kids make meaningful connections between words, illustrations and actual objects.
express without mess
Designate shelves, tack boards or other special areas for artistic display-giving your child an outlet for personal expression and a sense of responsibility for the room. As they get older, your child may use these spaces to display trophies, aced report cards, or other items of inspiration.
gather and show
Tired of your child emptying out the dumpster-sized toy chest? Try providing smaller boxes, bins and baskets in easy-to-access places. In these, you can round up smaller toys, parts and pieces. Choose clear or coated wire containers to store a variety of unrelated toys-allowing tots to see what’s inside before overturning.
avoid sticky situations
Despite your best-laid plans, jelly, crayon or gum will inevitably enter the picture. Choose surfaces that wipe clean and resist stains.