Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keeping Me Sane in My "Little" World

Katherine at Raising Five had a wonderful couple of posts on children and chores. Katherine uses such a simple but great idea of chore sheets posted in each room so that the children know specifically what needs to be done, because as we all know, if it ain't spelled out, their definitions are definitely not our definitions of cleaned up. As Katherine states, "Kids do not naturally catch implications, hints, suggestions...". We must be clear so that they know exactly what is expected. And it avoids manipulation and frustration all around.

In emailing with Katherine about this topic and requesting a copy of her room by room chore sheets, she asked about what I have up my sleeve for dayhome in this area. Well I don't know if I have any tricks up there, but one thing I do know after working with preschoolers for 18 + years is that when the kids know what is expected there is much more peace and smoothness throughout the day.

With six pre-schoolers here every day, you can imagine the chaos and mess and the mega amount of work there would be if I somehow didn't involve them with a little bit of helping out. How do I keep some semblance of organization and cleanliness going with a very busy group of youngsters? At this age a chore chart, of course, would be age inappropriate for them so we thrive on routine. If I had to name one secret that I had, routine would definitely be it. We do different activities within the routine but the basic routine stays the same. Some things that define our routine throughout the day are:

-when we move from one area of the house to another, as in from the upstairs (where we wait for everyone to arrive) to the downstairs playroom, the toys that were played with up stairs must be put back into it's basket.

-before snacks and lunch a clean up is done

-if a toy or set of toys is done being played with it is encouraged that it go back on the shelf or in it's box. Doesn't always happen but it is encouraged.

-certain toys have specific places to play with them and they may not be carried around anywhere else but that area. For example: polly pockets, coloring, lite brite, games and puzzles, etc. may only be done at the table. This contains the small pieces and keeps the very little guys from getting ahold of them.

-at snack and lunch, we each put our own garbage in the garbage, carry our empty cup and dirty cutlery to the counter by the sink.

That is it. A very simple routine but the children work with it because it is not confusing and they know what needs to happen before the next thing can happen. Now within this simple routine there are a few "rules" or "guidelines" if you may, that help it to function smoothly.

1. Everybody helps. From the oldest to the youngest. Yes, even my 11 month old in the dayhome, with my guidance and encouragement, is very capable of throwing a few toys into a box.

2. There are some baskets or boxes for specific things. We have one box specifically for dolls, stuffies, pillows and blankets, one specifically for cars, trucks and accessories, one specifically for large toys that do not fit on the shelves, one specifically for lego, one specifically for "kitchen" items, one for construction and tools, and one for dress up clothes. Toys that don't fit into one of these categories, just go into containers on the shelves. This serves multi purposes rather than just throwing things into a couple of large toy boxes.

-It helps the kids to keep some semblance of organization with the toys and helps them to find specific toys when they want them. Which totally cuts down on frustration for both them and me.

-And, believe it or not, it helps to make clean up that much faster. It is amazing how quickly they learn which box is for what. I used to label them but find I really don't need to.

-it makes the toys more accessible to even the littlest ones.

3. Because they are preshcoolers the wisdom of line upon, precept upon precept, certainly does apply and must be remembered by myself. It is a process of learning for them. They will need guidance and reminders. They will try to get away with not participating. But for the most part even the three years olds know what to do.

4. If they are in the midst of building or playing intensely with something, and they ask to leave it set up, I need to be flexible and allow them that. However, end of the day cleanup is total. All toys must be put away.

5. This rule is for me, the adult: I need to leave enough time for them to be able to do this. At preschool age it will take them more time to accomplish the task. There is nothing more stressful for both the children and for me than to not allow enough time and then have me nagging at them and rushing them along.

6. Another rule for me the adult: Praise, praise, praise! The kids are so proud of themselves and really do like to please you, praise for a job well done, makes them more likely to want to do the chore rather just do it because they have to.

So there you go Katherine, I hope that answers your question and wasn't too rambling of an answer. Hopefully it helped somebody out. I know it's for my dayhome, but really, it works within a home also. The fact is, preschool kids thrive and can find success in routine. For some awesome tips on chidren and chores visit Katherine here and here.


Katherine@Raising Five said...

Susanne, thanks!! You are such an inspiration! SIX dayhome preschoolers, three teens, and a ROCKIN' BLOG! WOW!

I love this! Everything you said applies to home - and not just preschoolers. A predictable routine makes kids feel secure.

I also love the idea about certain boxes for certain things. Kids can't resist the urge to "DUMP" if they think there might be a treasure at the VERY BOTTOM of the toy box!!

Do your kiddos bring their own lunches and snacks or do you have to make their food? If so, do you plan that menu when you plan your family's meals? Also, do you rotate toys somehow?

Thanks for sharing this!


the voice of melody said...

I'm impressed at how detailed this is! I agree with you, it's important for children to know what's expected, and when they're used to the routine it becomes so much easier.

I'm training my little boy to be a great helper around the house, and I'm also thinking of how this will help him one day when he's a husband and he willingly helps out with some of the household chores. His wife will surely appreciate that.

Many sweet blessings!

Barbie@ Mamaology said...

I'd have to agree with Katherine on this do Rock:). Of coarse this was a great post for me to read:).I do apply a lot of these practices in my day care too, but #5 I can't hear enough of!!!!

Thanks for you example to me:)

Faith said...

Sounds like you are running a wonderful Daycare!!! If you had live near me back when I needed it, I would have given you my Claire!!
I also have used some of your ideas for my own 2 children and we do some of them in the kindergarten classroom (polly pockets, small cars, small legos is all table play). Interesting are one busy lady. God bless you! You are doing a VERY important job!

Michelle said...

Susanne If I had to work ,I'd have no trouble having McKenna with you ;-) It's true though children like a routine.

Barb said...

I ran a daycare home for a couple of years, many years ago, and I studied and implemented a lot of Montessori methods. She was convinced children do best in a setting of encouraging approval, where they're allowed to be a little independent but within a structured routine. And I tell you some of her simplest ideas kept me sane. You've just listed a lot of them here. Routine is everything at this age. And praise is everything at ANY age. :-)

Oh, I wish you could see these word verification letters. unbama. As in UN-obama instead of Obama. LOL

Smilingsal said...

Organization is so important.

I have some awards to share.

Org Junkie said...

Now that is what I call organized! Kids so do love routine don't they. I'm home with just one preschooler all day and it's a handful, I can't even imagine six.

Really great suggestions here!

Bonnie said...

HI ... this is my first visit to your blog. Came over from Sandra's place. I love this post !! It's so right up my alley ! I'll be back to read more ...

Jamie @ Purposeful Pursuit said...

You sure have your hands full! Routine is definitely key!

Chappyswife said...

Thanks for all of these great tips! I will be putting some of them to use here at home.

It takes a very special, energetic person to care for 6 little ones every single day. I can't even imagine.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Said it before, and i'll say it again--those parents are lucky (blessed) to have their child in your home.

Barbara H. said...

These are great, Susanne. Little ones really can learn orderliness to some degree. They are learning strategies that will help them in later life. I can remember when my guys were little and one of the things that left them beaming was to be told they were good helpers.

Jen said...

Thanks for the reminder of praise... needed that with our not so normal past few week. Love the idea of posting the chores in each room.