LEGO Landmines and Dolly Dropzones
The aftermath of creative play is riddled with underfoot hazards. LEGO corners jab feet, inflicting eye-crossing pain. Dolls laid to rest under blankets roll ankles as well as any divot on a soccer field.
The messy madness is a common challenge of parenting, one we often feel ambivalent about. We would like our children to pick up their rooms but we don't want to bribe or threaten them to do it. We certainly don't want to do it ourselves.
But how often do you wind up sneaking around after bedtime stealing and stashing toys for donation and “treasures” for trash? What if I told you that two minutes a day could save you the trouble of daytime negotiating and the bedtime blitz?
Experts in organization and minimalism advocate for working routines into your day. It helps you simplify your life. Put junk mail directly into the recycling bin, pick up five things and put them away every time you walk in a room, etc. It is the two-minute rule that is a powerful parenting tool.
If you can complete the job in two minutes or less then just do it.
Two minutes. It isn’t too long for anyone. Even the most distractible child can do something for two minutes...especially with your help. And you can probably carve out two minutes to help your child clean his or her room.
This is how you do it.
|Sand timers give a nice visual cue.|
When are the Best Two Minutes?
First, find a time of day that will be the most likely time a routine like this will work. For my family, immediately after breakfast is the best time because we are rested, well-fed, and I have patience to help.
Helping Your Child for Two Minutes
Set the timer and work with your child to pick up his or her room. You could say, “We have two minutes to clean up in here. Let’s work together.” And give directions like, “I will pick up the dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. Will you put the LEGO in the LEGO box?”
Tips that Work
Work until the two minutes have passed, no more, no less. “Complete” in this case refers to the timer, NOT to the extent to which the room would pass Marie Kondo’s inspection. If you’ve been doing the two minute clean-up for a week and the floor is (gasp) free of debris, then vacuum or start the laundry or dust (do people still dust?) or wash the windows, walls or floorboards. Two minutes, every day. No more, no less.
Bins, bins, bins. Containers for stuff is the simplest solution to putting away just about everything in your child’s room. There should probably be at least two: a toy box and a book box. Or in my son’s case, a LEGO box, a stuffed animal box, a mini-figure box, a book box, an underwear box, a box for shorts, one for pants, one for shirts and another for pajamas.
It Even Works (It Especially Works) for My Autistic Son
At the risk of making sweeping generalizations I need to tell you that my son is like many autistic children who work and live better when things are defined and delineated. This includes everything from where he sits, what things are his, where things belong, to the amount of time it will take for something to happen.
“Cleaning until it is done” does not sit well with him. But cleaning for two minutes is palatable for him and you know what? It is palatable for me, too. His sister brushes her teeth while I help him clean. Then he brushes while I help her. Then they scamper off to play while I do the remainder of my morning routine.
Upon reflection I have realized that a lot happens in those two minutes:
- I clean the most disturbing messes and let him take care of lesser offenses;
- I provide the support my child needs to do something that is hard for him;
- I teach him a life skill by telling him how I tidy up and invite him to find his own method; and, last but not least,
- I succeed in carving out two minutes a day when he is not making a mess.
It worked for us and I know it can work for you. You just have to make it happen. All it takes is two minutes.