When I was a first grade teacher, I had the firm belief that some of the best lessons were the also the messiest and loudest. Children learn best when they are given the opportunity to explore...and with exploration comes mess (usually, at least!). Now that I am home with my toddler, I still wholeheartedly believe this. Of course while still setting some boundaries, I want Colton to be able to explore his environment and make a mess, explore, play, and have fun.
The problem, then, comes with my compulsive objection to clutter. I HATE it! And since the day I found out I was pregnant with Colton, I have insisted that our house not become a kid house...you know the ones...they are so filled with the kid's toys and other essential items that when you step into the living room, you feel like you're stepping into a daycare center or something.
Obviously, these two worlds would collide, and they do daily, but I have found a pretty reasonable compromise. This isn't exactly rocket science, but it has helped me immensely so I figured I would pass it along to you too, especially at this time of year when I figured some of you may be making resolutions and things.
Anytime we are home, Colton is free to play with and take out anything he pleases (well, his toys and things...not, like, knives and cleaning supplies). It's not as bad as it sounds...usually a few books, some cars, and maybe a football or other random toy. He plays, and I play with him, not wasting any time or energy dealing with the mess that is piling up. But when play time is over...when we are about to leave the house or Colton is going down for his nap...I insist that we take time to clean up. Sometimes, I have Colton help (one of the first words he learned to understand was "clean up!") and sometimes I just do it myself if we're in a hurry. But either way, the whole process usually takes no more than 5 minutes. Who doesn't have 5 minutes to spare? And the beauty of it, then, is when we get home or when it is my time to relax, I actually can because the house isn't a horrible disaster.
Now before you go completely patting me on the back, I have to confess that there is a second key component of this plan. I have always been a big "out of sight, out of mind" kind of girl. In our house's case, the front entrance, dining room, kitchen, and living room are immediately visible to me (and any guests that would happen to stop by). Therefore, these are the rooms that get our 5 minute clean-up treatment. Other rooms, namely Colton's playroom, are allowed to stay messy. See?
We do eventually clean up this horror as well, but with much less regularity...like every few days or so. Those shots were actually captured about 2 seconds before a major clean-up, as they showcase the playroom at its absolute WORST!
Now that Levi has joined this crazy household, our amount of "stuff" has once again increased. But, my commitment to my five-minute cleanups has really helped save our house and keep it looking presentable (of course, there are some key baby products like the bouncy seat that are more regular fixtures in the living room, but we, and any visitors, will just have to deal.)
So, there you have it...my tip to compromising between keeping myself sane and my toddler entertained/stimulated. Anybody else out there have some tricks of the trade to share?