Where do you draw the line?

Discussion in 'The Toddler Years(1-3)' started by SC, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. SC

    SC Well-Known Member

    I've been wondering lately where others draw the line between letting your kids play as they wish vs. setting boundaries and saying no (indoors).

    I'm sure my 3 year old boys are not much different than others, but some days I feel like I'm the first person to ever have kids--haha!
    My three boys (3.5 year old boys and an 18 month old son) and I spend a lot of time in our house (I'm a SAHM). I try to get them out (when I'm alone), but it doesn't happen as much as I wish.

    So, onto my point... I don't think a hurricane or a gang of burglars could do to this house what my boys do. We have a playroom downstairs FULL of stuff. And, about six months ago, we set up a separate older-boys-only gated off area in the living room to reduce the fighting (it has helped a lot). The older boys have their train table back there, small cars, and other things not appropriate for DS3 or that I don't require them to share. By 8am the house is destroyed by all three of them. They're racing cars, playing with Legos, playing with tools, you name it... Things get carried around and left everywhere. There is tons of imaginative play at this age (my older boys), so there is a lot of, for ex., piling up a zillion toys and pretending it's a garbage dump, clearing off the entire train table of all of the tracks and trains (also a zillion) to make a "fort," or racing cars into the baseboards to imitate demolition derby. I've hardly had a sip of coffee and I'm cleaning up after them and making sure we're not tripping over toys strewn all about. We do make the older boys help clean up, but even that can take forever and I end up helping so that it's done in less than an hour and done properly. I'll admit that DH and I are clean/neat freaks and trying (or being forced to) let a lot of that go is still hard for us. Our carpets, walls, furniture have taken a terrible beating. Some days I feel like ALL I DO is clean up after them during their waking hours and for an hour after they go to bed. I also hate hearing myself constantly saying "stop doing such and such, it's ruining the paint...or it's not meant for that...or it's too loud...or it's making a mess." I love that they're having fun and being imaginative and I highly encourage it when appropriate, but it also sometimes drives me half nuts.

    So, where do you draw the line between letting them play/be imaginative and maintaining some order? Obviously, they need to learn that they have to clean up their own messes and that everything isn't a toy. But, do you stop them from making a complete mess of your living room or of their dinner because they're being imaginative or role playing? Do you let them race trucks like mad around the house because you can't take them outside at the moment? Do you let them pile up all of your area rugs 5x/day because they want to make a tent?

    What is fair to both them and us?
  2. Danibell

    Danibell Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    Yes, when they were younger I did let them make a disaster of my living room. That's our "play room", the majority of the baby/toddler toys were in there, and by the end of the day, some days I could barely walk through the room. We always tried to clean it up a bit at bedtime, but some days I did good just to shovel a path to get from one end of the room to another ;)

    Just before Christmas, just before the twins turned 4, we got a new puppy. So the new rule became "all toys stay in the bedrooms". I cleaned out all the baby/toddler/preschool toys so that everything fit in their room except the train table. They could bring the trains out, and the lego's, and use them on the table, but nothing else. It's been a challenge for them, learning to keep their toys in their room, and Izzy has destroyed a few toys in the process ;)

    Even so, there are some days where I can barely get them into bed at night. Because now their disaster/mess making is confined to their bedroom. We have to clean it up at night enough so if there's an emergency we can get them in and out, and they are much better about helping us clean up now than they were a year ago.

    I realize that kids need to be kids, and they need to have the freedom to play with whatever they want. But I also know they need to be taught to clean up after themselves. So every day is a new day and I try to stand back and let them make a mess, but then I try to step in and help teach them to clean up that mess.
  3. SC

    SC Well-Known Member

    Here's a good example right now... I'm doing dishes and they have taken the Crayola chalkboard/marker/magnet easel and turned it into a "car." They're "driving" it around the house as it tips over repeatedly and chalk dust goes everywhere. I want to tell them to put it back where it goes because it is making a mess on the carpet, but they're squealing with excitement... Mommy problems ;-)
  4. Danibell

    Danibell Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I totally get it! :ibiggrin: I'd probably let them continue until I get the dishes done, and then show them how to clean up and direct them onto something else ;)

    Mine played lovely with the chalk board the other day. Until i heard them banging the chalk on the board and sending chips of it flying everywhere! That was enough for me ;)
  5. miss_bossy18

    miss_bossy18 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    We got rid of a lot of their toys. ;) We still have too many (I think) but at least the amount is manageable now. The chalk dust thing would bug me. I'd probably stop them, let them know I don't mind the game they're playing but tell them they need to find something else to play it with. Then help them brainstorm an alternative that everyone's happy with (in other words it tips over a lot but doesn't send chalk dust everywhere). I find if I don't set those boundaries I inevitably snap at them because I feel stressed and overwhelmed. Living in a family means compromising and balancing everyone's needs/wants, including yours. :)
    1 person likes this.
  6. cheezewhiz24

    cheezewhiz24 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I'm tough on the destroying my house bit. I don't like it and don't really allow it. So, no chalk dust inside- but I would let them do it outside. Our art stuff is kept up as mine would LOVE to draw on walls it needs to be supervised.

    My rule with toys everywhere is as follows: we (DH and I) will pick up at night. As long as I can walk through the room I'm ok with a mess. If I or someone else hurts themselves due to stuff everywhere we immediately stop and clean everything up. Sometimes it's 3xs a day, sometimes not at all.

    To me it sounds like they have too much out- try leaving 1/3 of their stuff and putting the rest away and seeing if it makes a difference in terms of mess.

    2 people like this.
  7. slugrad1998

    slugrad1998 Well-Known Member

    This sounds like my house every day! My twins will be 4 this month and their sister is almost 20 months, so similar age difference to yours. I'm constantly fishing toy dinosaurs out of the cat's water because "they were having a pool party" and woke up yesterday to find their cardboard big blocks taken apart because the stuffed animals needed a boat! I never minded their playroom being a disaster, but now it's the whole house! One solution that worked to help decrease the amount on the floor was to get a small canvas bin (about the size of a small laundry basket) from target and put it in the corner of our family room. If I find toys on the couch or floor I throw them in the bin. Eventually they make it back to their proper place, but for the short term they are up off the floor.

    I do constantly reiterate that we expect them to put away one toy before taking out a new one, but the baby is just as bad about scattering things everywhere. I don't know if it happens in other houses, but she seems to think she's a big kid too and wants to do everything they do!
  8. slugrad1998

    slugrad1998 Well-Known Member

    Also, now that the weather is nice I let them play in the backyard and that definitely limits the mess. They can spend hours in their sandbox or playing imaginatively in the "forest"
  9. eagleswings216

    eagleswings216 Well-Known Member

    Sounds a lot like my kids, too. Honestly, there are certain toys I just don't let them have at all (markers, chalk, etc.) because all they do is make a mess. They also don't have things like toy bats, swords, etc. I feel like it's better for ALL of us to just not have things in the house that lead to them getting reprimanded all day for hitting each other or destroying the house. Certain rules I have just drilled over and over until they know them (ex: no hitting the walls) and for the most part, they follow those big ones because I keep them few and simple.

    We do as much outside play as possible and there are certain toys that are for outside only. And if they are intentionally just making a big mess, I make them clean it up or take the item(s) away. I also go through their toys every couple of months and get rid of things that are broken beyond repair, things they have outgrown, etc.

    I don't stress about the mess nearly as much as I used to, but some days it definitely feels like a tornado has gone through my living room!! I really wish we had a play room or that they had a bedroom that could also store toys, but we just don't have any place for the toys other than our main living space. Some days I just push things aside and let them be until morning, some days I throw them all in whatever bins/containers are near, and every so often I go through and re-organize. I figure this phase will pass sooner or later, so I try to balance my sanity and their fun and safety when I can.
  10. FGMH

    FGMH Well-Known Member

    We have a split level living room / family room area where nearly all their toys are; only books, dolls and their stuffed animals are allowed in the bedroom, and we have a small supply of special toys in the office for when DH or I absolutely need to get some work done.

    In the split level room we have two large carpets and the idea is that at least one of these carpets stays more orderly for ongoing big construction projects, blocks, legos or train set. If this area gets too messy they lose the privilege of not having to tidy up at night and continue building the next day. Most days this seems to work quite well.

    The other area can get pretty messy, I let them be as long as it is creative play and not just dumping everything because they are tired, bored or fighting. We pick up this area together at least once a day, more if necessary (as one of the PPs mentioned - if someone gets hurt by too much stuff on the ground, it is time for a quick tidying session).

    We also have the rule that the walls and the furniture are not for (rough) playing - i.e. you may sit and play with your dolls on the couch but if you use your tools on the walls the tools go into time out. I have also warned them that the toy may not be made for that kind of destructive play and let them destroy something (obviously not personal property of their sibling) and then made them try and repair it with me and finally dump it because it is too broken to play with anymore; while that sounds mean it seems to have given my warnings that toys are not indestructible some more weight.

    I still have our art supplies in a kitchen cabinet, but I am hoping they are ready for setting up an art table for free access soon.
  11. Feydruss

    Feydruss Active Member

    Anything potentially messy (paint, playdough, chalk, etc.) is only done with supervision and usually at the kitchen table (which is stainless steel). They will routinely dump out a basket of cars and trucks and run them around everywhere, but I try to make them tidy up a bit before they move on to a new activity/room. I have the same kind of visual timer that they use at their preschool to warn them that "clean up time is in five minutes" and that seems to make a big difference. I'm not expecting much, but if I can say to them "find all the red cars and put them in the red bin" or something like that they'll see it as a game. Or I'll tell them to use their big Tonka loaders/diggers to scoop up the cars and dump them in the basket.

    I'm also constantly rotating and culling their toys, removing things they don't pay attention to anymore, etc. They still have way too much stuff, and a dedicated playroom. But honestly they'd be happy with a giant cardboard box for imaginative play.
  12. Rollergiraffe

    Rollergiraffe Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    That sounds just like my boys. Everything they can get their hands on is a toy, no matter what it is. When I was at home with them it drove me bonkers. Since they have started at daycare they have daycare magic that helps them clean up, but I think it's really just the routine. If I were to be at home with them again, I would designate times of the day/rooms that I needed them to tidy, put the timer on and go for it. I also found around 3.5 or so they really wanted to help with everything. Everything got slower, but at least they were occupied ;) .
  13. SC_Amy

    SC_Amy Well-Known Member

    I understand! My boys have been really messy again lately. Two things I'm planning to start doing:

    * Rotating their toys. I think they just have too many right now, esp options with tons of pieces (marble run, duplos, train tracks, etc.) and I want to put half of them up in the attic and then rotate every few months. Also selling some they don't play with as often to cut down on the clutter.
    * Have them help clean up before naptime (or maybe before lunch if they don't nap anymore) as well as before bedtime, so there's not *as* big a mess by bedtime.

    And something we already do for bedtime cleanup is set the timer for a reasonable amount of time. If they finish cleaning up by the time it goes off, they get to watch a short video. That helps with motivation to do it faster.
  14. beverly55

    beverly55 Member

    My kids are a real hurricane. They are capable of destroying the whole house when I am away for five minutes. And here's the last time they tore a chair out of the Styrofoam. It's really hard to put away. Recommend some company that can clean it up.
  15. piko33

    piko33 Member

    Haha my kids are exactly the same. One time they spilled semolina all over the house. I have wooden floors and it all got stuck in the joints between the boards. There was no way I could clean it up so I called the service https://comfortclean.com/. I didn't think you could get that kind of dirt out so fast. I was happy with the result.

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