I received an interesting email this morning. The author has 2 year old and a nine month old. The two year old is testing her nerves and her patience. He plays with something just until it is spread all over the floor, and then he leaves it there, and goes on to play with something else. Within minutes, the room is a disaster. The scene is repeated over and over again many times a day.
She asked me if I have any suggestions. I have two.
The first would be to limit the number of toys that he owns. If he really isn’t playing with them for more than a few minutes, they are not that important to him. I would keep a minimum number of simple toys in a basket for him. The rest I would store in boxes in storage somewhere out of his sight. After a few days, or even several weeks, you can exchange the toys in the basket, with some of the toys in storage. If that doesn’t help, get rid of 90% of his toys. Keep only the toys that keep him occupied.
My second suggestion is to teach him how to play. I wouldn’t have thought this is possible, but the Mom’s Group that I belong to has wonderful caregivers and they proved me wrong. Part of playing is cleaning up. The grandma caregivers teach the 2-3 year olds to play with one toy at a time, and IMMEDIATELY after they are finished, they put the toy away on a set of shelves.
It takes several weeks, but every child learns the system. The moms of the children are in awe when they pick them up after the meetings.
These grandmas sit on the floor with them and explain the ‘rules of play’:
“Be kind Be gentle Share Don’t start playing with a new toy until the most recent toy is away.”
And they listen and obey!
So…I used their ‘rules of play ‘with my 4 sons. After explaining the rules to the boys, we role played. I had to remind them every few minutes for the first few days, but they got it! It was hard work with wonderful results. It works outside as well. When they finish playing with a toy like a ball, or riding their big wheel, they must put it away, before playing with something new.
It’s important that every toy has a home in which it can be easily returned! And the home has to be easily accessible for them to reach.