if you have a wide age-range of children, how/what do you "strew"? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 09-21-2010, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i'll try to keep this brief (i am still trying to finish reading the 23 page US debate ).

in an effort to improve our unschooling experience (i.e. fend off boredom/mischief), i am trying to be more attentive in the strewing department. my children are 2, 5, 5, and 8. the 2yo makes it difficult to "strew" because there are so many things that he would get into mischief with. mainly the strewing consists of different kinds of books and crayons/paper (which can be bad when the 2yo starts breaking/eating/coloring on furniture with them). we have a lot of things for them to do out doors (play scape, sandbox, chickens to chase, large kiddie pool w/ water slide...bikes out front, chalk) and multiple indoors toys (legos, blocks, dollhouse + dolls, play kitchen + food, etc.). i am in the process of bringing back some previously confiscated things (dress-up clothes, for one) with the idea that we'll all be more attentive to clean-up so as to avoid the chaos that caused the confiscation in the first place).

my children LOVE to paint. i love that they love it. however, keeping paints out where they can help themselves is a disaster waiting to happen with a 2yo around. i have come to dread painting time because it requires my 100% attention to the 2yo, who wants to paint too (while assisting the others if they need it). and i have to make sure they each have their own paints/water or else run interference on the sharing if we are running low (like we are right now).

i have to keep puzzles, board games, and lots-of-little-pieces activities locked up to prevent total disaster, parts going missing, etc. it's depressing. we have had to throw away countless things because of this problem, but i would LOVE for them to be able to use them without me worrying about things getting lost/separated/broken... it seems to defeat the purpose of strewing when they have to ask permission and be supervised for things like this, which they enjoy very much when they "get" to do them.

i don't cook/bake with them very often. cooking has become a chore for me (my hubby doesn't/can't cook) and i'm impatient and want to get it done quickly. not only that, but they always argue over who gets to help, and there's not enough room in my kitchen to have all of them in there.

for stocking-stuffers this year, i'm planning on getting soft tape measures, magnifying glasses, flashlights, little notebooks, and various other nontraditional "toys" that help facilitate exploration. they are also cheap, which is a necessity this year. we have had things like this in the past, but they always end up getting lost, broken, or fought-over. i feel like i have failed to teach my children the value of material things (that sounds very backwards coming from me, who strives for simplicity and non-materialism...but i'm referring to taking care of the things you have, cuz money doesn't grow on trees, etc.).

i guess my real problem is fear of mess. and i mean serious, chaotic, *4 children who care nothing about organization* mess. our house is constantly disorganized and messy unless we have just finished a weekend cleaning marathon (which are few and far between). i have chronic illness that prevents me from being the neat-and-tidy suzy homemaker that i wish i was, and my hubby is gone a LOT (police academy). it is physically exhausting to keep up with them and their activities, and the amount of supervision required to allow them to do all the things they want to do is just overwhelming. it is impossible for me to supervise them all all the time, but it often seems like that's the only way to prevent disaster... and the constant clean-up is literally painful for me, so i want to keep is short and simple.

so, for those of you US'ers with either lotsa kiddos or at least a wide age range of "students", how and what do you strew? how do you keep the mess under control? do you enforce the "one thing at a time" rule? if so, how? how do you get children motivated to help keep things neat? i know these are a lot of questions, sorry...pick the ones you have an answer for i guess...

TIA

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#2 of 21 Old 09-21-2010, 03:12 PM
 
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I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I have few suggestions that might help:
1) It sounds like your kids are using tempra paint-- have you considered getting water colors? They're a lot less messy.

2) Instead of focusing on "strewing", could you switch to offering activities that they tend to like? It would let you offer a little structure to the day, so they get to do the things they like at times that work for you.

3) You have a very full plate right now. Don't beat yourself up about needing to set limits to maintain your sanity, and make sure you're asking your kids to help. It's perfectly reasonable to expect kids to put the stuff they're done with away before getting out something new.

4) If your 2 year old naps, get the big kid stuff out during naptime.

5) Could you have the kids take turns being the dinner helper? I think it's fine to cook alone, but if you want to cook with your kids, this might be less stressful.

Good luck!
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#3 of 21 Old 09-21-2010, 03:45 PM
 
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OK, I only have one 3YO and I'm not qualified to respond so take what I say with a grain of salt Re: painting -- I tape up long, long pieces of newsprint outside on the house, squirt paints on a big plate and supply DD with a rinsing jar, old towel and wide assortment of things to paint with. Then I can sit back and do my own painting b/c she is so occupied. I've been doing it since she was 2 so maybe that would work for your little one.

Also, I usually love to cook but I go through times when I really don't want to (for like weeks at a time) and during those times I preplan my weekly menu so that I only have to cook 2--3x maximum -- making a huge pot of soup, stirfry or pasta dish that lasts at least a couple days. You could make pizza dough and let the kids decorate it. Also I try to make double when I do have the time and freeze extra -- like get 2 lbs of ground beef and make 2 meatloafs, freeze one.

Sorry if my suggestions are lame. I agree with PP that it is better to ask your kids for help (or insist they help) than for you to do it all or be unduly stressed about it.

Also I enjoyed reading your suggestions about what you are getting for gifts, you have some great ideas and it sounds like you have a wonderful household even if you think it's a bit messy (who's isn't?!!) At least you are not boring!

Loving wife and SAHM to our nursing 5 YO ~ We''ve started our home school adventure!

 

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#4 of 21 Old 09-21-2010, 06:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zeldamomma View Post
I'm sorry you're having a rough time. I have few suggestions that might help:
1) It sounds like your kids are using tempra paint-- have you considered getting water colors? They're a lot less messy.

2) Instead of focusing on "strewing", could you switch to offering activities that they tend to like? It would let you offer a little structure to the day, so they get to do the things they like at times that work for you.

3) You have a very full plate right now. Don't beat yourself up about needing to set limits to maintain your sanity, and make sure you're asking your kids to help. It's perfectly reasonable to expect kids to put the stuff they're done with away before getting out something new.

4) If your 2 year old naps, get the big kid stuff out during naptime.

5) Could you have the kids take turns being the dinner helper? I think it's fine to cook alone, but if you want to cook with your kids, this might be less stressful.

Good luck!
1) no, it's watercolors -- i am NOT brave enough for tempera paints!! but it still requires significant set-up and clean-up when there are 4 of them painting, and the 2yo cannot be left alone with it because he will paint everything (including his siblings' papers) and mix all the colors together so i have to waste a bunch of paint by rinsing the palettes...clean up is time-consuming, even if it's just with water, yk?

2) that is a goal, but i have to keep the house at some basic level of order so we can do special activities...when the place is a mess, i tend to say "no" a lot more because the thought of adding to it makes me want to cry... we're having a new baby soon, so the nesting has certainly helped in the neat/tidy department, but then again, we have always gone through cycles with this kind of thing...i wish i was capable of keeping it up!

3) this is something we are making more of a priority recently, because things just can't continue the way they've been!!!

4) he does not nap regularly anymore and hasn't in almost a year. he occasionally falls asleep in the car, but that's useless for this purpose.

5) i would honestly rather cook alone, at least until they are older. i know there will come a day that i truly NEED a helper, but right now i just don't have the patience most days. i do feel guilty about that, though, because i know cooking can be such a fun and enlightening experience for kids. i have even caught myself telling my children "i learned to cook by watching my mother cook, not by helping her" to make myself feel better about not wanting them to help. it's the truth (at least until i was 10 or so), but it seems like so much of a cop-out on my part....


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Originally Posted by MsCCM View Post
OK, I only have one 3YO and I'm not qualified to respond so take what I say with a grain of salt Re: painting -- I tape up long, long pieces of newsprint outside on the house, squirt paints on a big plate and supply DD with a rinsing jar, old towel and wide assortment of things to paint with. Then I can sit back and do my own painting b/c she is so occupied. I've been doing it since she was 2 so maybe that would work for your little one.

Also, I usually love to cook but I go through times when I really don't want to (for like weeks at a time) and during those times I preplan my weekly menu so that I only have to cook 2--3x maximum -- making a huge pot of soup, stirfry or pasta dish that lasts at least a couple days. You could make pizza dough and let the kids decorate it. Also I try to make double when I do have the time and freeze extra -- like get 2 lbs of ground beef and make 2 meatloafs, freeze one.

Sorry if my suggestions are lame. I agree with PP that it is better to ask your kids for help (or insist they help) than for you to do it all or be unduly stressed about it.

Also I enjoyed reading your suggestions about what you are getting for gifts, you have some great ideas and it sounds like you have a wonderful household even if you think it's a bit messy (who's isn't?!!) At least you are not boring!
your suggestions are not lame at all! but i had to chuckle a little about the cooking thing. i have 6.5 mouths to feed and your doubled recipes are a single meal with no leftovers around here! i love having leftovers, but in order to have them i have to triple or quadruple a recipe. i know that will only get worse as my kids grow up (3 stocky boys + a stocky hubby, heaven help me!). my daughters will be my sous-chefs soon enough.

your painting idea sounds fun, but it seems to be even more involved (set-up and clean-up wise, at least) than watercolors at the table. there are also the other children to consider, because EVERYONE will want to do it...i can see it becoming more chaotic and messy. i figure if i just bring the paints out more often, it won't be as special and maybe they'll be happier doing it one or two at a time...

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#5 of 21 Old 09-21-2010, 11:08 PM
 
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1) no, it's watercolors -- i am NOT brave enough for tempera paints!! but it still requires significant set-up and clean-up when there are 4 of them painting, and the 2yo cannot be left alone with it because he will paint everything (including his siblings' papers) and mix all the colors together so i have to waste a bunch of paint by rinsing the palettes...clean up is time-consuming, even if it's just with water, yk?
Would it help if you just accepted that some mess and waste is part of kids painting? Play dough used to drive me crazy, until I just let go of the ideas that the colors should stay unmixed, and the package should last forever. Now I consider the mixing to be part of the experience, and expect to buy a new pack about once a year (I don't replace it instantly after throwing away the old stuff). If you have a highchair, you could put the 2 year old in it when he paints, so his mess is contained somewhat, or only bring out the paints at a time when you can sit and paint with them/supervise.

GL!
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#6 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 12:01 AM
 
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I usually dont' post on the unschooling board since we aren't unschoolers however the part about the mess of painting and your family's appetites struck home to me! I have less children than you do (I have a 3 year old and a 21 month old, I'm pregnant with number 3 due in February) and your house sounds like mine at times! I'm almost scared now to add the third.

Painting: my 21 month old would destroy the house if I didn't give her an activitiy to do while her sister paints.. it would be a horrible awful mess, I forgot to once and she painted the book I was reading that morning that I had left out. Yes, now Percy Jackson has pink, purple and blue on his pages.. Luckily I realized it and didn't close the book otherwise we would have had a problem. She loves finger paints though and i find that they can be a whole lot less mess then doing regular paints that require brushes with her. I just squirt several blobs on a plastic pallete (yea, I know most people here don't like plastic but my daughter is also a thrower, seriously this kid is going to end up being a baseball player, she can already throw from the kitchen into the back of the hall, a good 30 or so feet so glass would equal stitches for someone) and let her paint with that. I usually put a plastic tarp down (Im going into hiding after this post with all this mention of plastic) and put her paper on top of that.. then I just fold up the tarp at the end. The tarps usually last a couple of months and I spent about 1.00 each but it saves my dining room table.
Dinner, the bane of my existence. Is there a way your DH could watch part of the children once a month while you do some serious bulk cooking? When my youngest was a newborn we did this once a month for about 6 months until I felt like I could cook daily again. I didn't make all the meals but I would cook up all the meat, put together any sauces I needed, make a ton of bread/tortillas/biscuits, make pancakes/waffles for breakfasts.. basically do a lot of the prep work so during the actually week all I had to do is throw it together.. The 8 year old could definitely help you a lot and so could the 5 year olds, so even if you husband could take the 2 year old once/twice a month for a few hours so you can do the prep work. Most recipes if I want leftovers I need to double/triple, my girls out eat me (honestly, they have adult size appetites, Ive taken them over to people's houses and had them ask me where they put it all because these kids can eat.. honestly I'm scared if the next one eats like them what my food budget is going to look like). I doubled a recipe right before my DH left for training thinking it would last a couple of meals, of course he came home starving that day (they had done some major PT I guess that morning and then he had help storm prep his work place so a lot of physical activity) and ate 4 plates of food.. lets just say we didn't have leftovers and I figured out doubling meals just isn't going to work. It does help though that my 3 year old LOVES to cook and can do many of the cooking tasks with minimal supervision. This morning she did everything but stir and crack the eggs for the coffee cake we made. Just so you know though, cracking eggs+3 year old isn't a good idea.. ooops.

I keep our puzzles and other things with small parts up as well. Lacing beads as also kept up and away unless I can supervise. I came into the room once to my oldest playing "cops" with her sister and tying her up.. yea, my kids are little trouble makers but I love them. When the girls ask me to take them done they have to either do them sitting on the floor with my supervision or sitting at the dining room table if I'm cooking/cleaning. If its a sanity saver I don't' see the problem. Ideally I like the "idea" of free access for the kids to play with whatever toys they want but its just not practical at least for my family. Anything messy is also kept where they have to ask for it.. so paint, crayons, markers, playdoh, goop, bath paints, etc are all kept up and away, if I don't' do this I walk into them making a Picasso on the bedroom rug. Also anything that could make them ill if consumed is kept up, I walked into my youngest drinking bubble mix once luckily it was non-toxic. She did have a bit of a belly ache for a while.

~Heather~ Mama to Miss E (1/07), Miss A (11/08), Mr.T (2/11) and Miss A (10/12) Expecting our newest blessing sometime late Sept/early Oct.. Wife to my Marine since 11/2005
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#7 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 01:56 AM
 
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I'll take a crack at providing some helpful suggestions. :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DirtyHippyMama View Post
the 2yo makes it difficult to "strew" because there are so many things that he would get into mischief with. mainly the strewing consists of different kinds of books and crayons/paper (which can be bad when the 2yo starts breaking/eating/coloring on furniture with them).
I have found it very helpful to use bins and boxes to stores stuff. Lego blocks in one box, art in another, etc. And then you could put the bins out of reach of the 2 year old so he/she can't get to them when not in use. Your older kids could then help themselves to what they feel like playing with at the time.

I only have 2 kids, but I well remember the physical exhaustion of having a toddler. My own opinion (and you're free to disagree of course) is that it is my responsibility to keep the toddler out of the older one's space, when the older child is working on a project, etc. It's not fair to have their stuff taken, broken, ripped, stepped on, or ruined. Looking after toddlers is so exhausting, but it is also temporary and IMO, my responsibility not the other child's. So, my suggestion is that when the other kids are doing something perhaps you are just going to have to shadow the 2 year old and give them something to do. I understand that the "something" might have to be the same thing the older kids are doing (b/c that is what the toddler will want to do), but at least you can be right there helping them and keeping them out of the way of the older kids.

Quote:
i am in the process of bringing back some previously confiscated things (dress-up clothes, for one) with the idea that we'll all be more attentive to clean-up so as to avoid the chaos that caused the confiscation in the first place)...i guess my real problem is fear of mess. and i mean serious, chaotic, *4 children who care nothing about organization* mess. our house is constantly disorganized and messy unless we have just finished a weekend cleaning marathon (which are few and far between). i have chronic illness that prevents me from being the neat-and-tidy suzy homemaker that i wish i was
This could be a whole other thread but honestly, I think you need to just let go of the idea that your house should be at a certain level of tidiness and that your kids should just intuitively share your issues with it being clean. I have only 2 kids, but we live in a very small mobile home so it can get crazy. I really love orderliness in my life, but I've had to really change my attitude because it was creating tension and resentment with my children, constant conflict, and I was missing out on interacting with them because I felt I "needed" to clean. Your plate is so full I really think you need to let go of this issue. Easier said than done, and again a whole thread would probably be appropriate on this topic. Kids are messy, but then they grow up and leave and you have the rest of your life to live in a tidy house. I say all this, btw, with great respect and goodwill, as it is an issue I have struggled with off and on for years and feel I've only just recently had my epiphany about.

With all that said, one thing that worked well for us for a long time was having toys in separate bins (as described above) and a "rule" that you put one bin away before taking out another. Again, in your case the bins would be out of reach of the 2 year old, but accessible to the others.

Quote:
my children LOVE to paint. i love that they love it. however, keeping paints out where they can help themselves is a disaster waiting to happen with a 2yo around. i have come to dread painting time because it requires my 100% attention to the 2yo, who wants to paint too (while assisting the others if they need it).
I feel like you have two choices here. Either you accept that painting requires your 100% attention to the 2 year old and just accept it as part of your job right now (again, remember "this too shall pass"!). OR you find a space where they can paint their tails off and it doesn't matter. Basement? Garage? Can you put up a shed in your back yard? Somewhere you can hang sheets of paper on a wall and simply not care how messy it gets?

Quote:
i have to keep puzzles, board games, and lots-of-little-pieces activities locked up to prevent total disaster, parts going missing, etc. it's depressing. we have had to throw away countless things because of this problem...
I think this is just par for the course with kids. We've BTDT many times, too. I just think it's unrealistic to expect that level of concern about such things from kids - the whole notion of budgetary realities, organization, etc is just lost on them. They live in the moment, truly. Again the idea of taking out one bin/box at a time can help a lot with this problem. Or, instead of feeling resentful about the money being spent/wasted how about setting aside a set amount of money each month for the purchase of toys, puzzles, etc then having the kids involved in the conversation. What happens when a puzzle piece is lost? Can we replace the puzzle? What does that mean with respect to our ability to buy other items within our budget? It doesn't have to be a battle or a punitive issue.

Quote:
i don't cook/bake with them very often. cooking has become a chore for me (my hubby doesn't/can't cook) and i'm impatient and want to get it done quickly.
This is SO me. I'm of the "if you want something done right you have to do it yourself" camp and for cooking I had a really hard time being patient and dealing with the messiness that is children cooking. I'm working on myself and I'm happy to say I'm starting to show progress :-D. I invited my DD to cook breakfast with me the other day, reminding myself that we weren't in a rush and how important this was for her (and I). It was really nice, actually. As with the cleaning thing, a change in one's own attitude can work wonders.

Quote:
i feel like i have failed to teach my children the value of material things (that sounds very backwards coming from me, who strives for simplicity and non-materialism...but i'm referring to taking care of the things you have, cuz money doesn't grow on trees, etc.).
I really have come to believe that these issues are adult concerns, and that children just aren't wired to worry like that. They live in the moment, truly. The lack of money, concern about materialism, accumulating stuff, wasting stuff...those are all adult concerns and I just don't think it's realistic to expect kids to see the world through that view. With that said, you can share YOUR concerns with them and ask them for suggestions on how to get everyone's needs met. But I wouldn't beat yourself up over this.

Quote:
it is physically exhausting to keep up with them and their activities, and the amount of supervision required to allow them to do all the things they want to do is just overwhelming. it is impossible for me to supervise them all all the time, but it often seems like that's the only way to prevent disaster... and the constant clean-up is literally painful for me, so i want to keep is short and simple
This is why giving them a space that CAN be messy would be so great for ALL of you. They'd be free to create without being nagged or restricted, and the messiness factor would no longer stress you out and create more work for you.

Quote:
... for those of you US'ers with either lotsa kiddos or at least a wide age range of "students", how and what do you strew?
When DS was in the toddler phase I simply kept DD's stuff out of his reach, ordered in bins, and she would ask me and I'd hand her a bin and then find a way to keep DS out of her space (or else allow him to join in but I would need to shadow him). Not everything required that - many toys were just fine for him to share or join in play with.

Because DD would then need my assistance to help her get a bin or box (usually) I could say "okay, but let's put this stuff away first, okay?" and I'd help her do that. After a while she got pretty good at doing it herself by habit. Of course eventually they got to an age where they didn't need my assistance to get the things down, and then we had to change tactics.

As for getting children motivated, as mentioned above I recently had an epiphany about this and totally changed my attitude. It's amazing how much this has changed the tone in our house. To put it VERY simply (as I've already written a novel, here) I realized that I chose to be a homemaker and love it immensely, and didn't mind doing "all the work" when the kids were really young. My resentment of their lack of willingness to help started when they got to an age where *I* felt they were supposed to help out. The workload didn't really change, just my attitude. So I decided to remind myself how damn lucky I am to be able to stay home with my kids and that I actually really love being a homemaker and should stop complaining about the cleaning because that is what I signed up for. I could have a housekeeper but I choose not to so I need to suck it up. Second, the situation that would really get me mad is when I faced a mess they had made, asked for help, and they said no. Then I realized that I wasn't truly asking, because the only answer I was willing to accept was YES. That is an order desguised as a request. A true request means you are willing to accept a NO. Kids can sense when it's not really a question. Since I have opened myself up to hearing NO and being cool with it, it's amazing how much more helpful they have been, in part because they know it's a CHOICE (even the funnest thing isn't that fun when you are being forced to do it). Also, since letting go I've realized that there are actually LOTS of things they help out with, just maybe not the instances I wanted help, which clouded my judgement of them. Finally, sharing how you feel invites more help than pointing fingers (eg "I've got to do the dishes, sort the laundry, and feed the dog and I really wanted to do some crafting with you and now I'm feeling a bit stressed about getting it all done. Would either of you be able to help me with some of this?"). It's amazing to me how willing they are to help when it's framed like that. AND when they know I won't be mad if they say "no". Oh, and when they ask for help now I DO help even if I didn't make the mess and don't feel like cleaning it up. When they see me helping it makes it more enjoyable for them PLUS I am modelling helping out.

Whew!

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#8 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 03:01 AM
 
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My life feels as chaotic as yours sounds. Except I only have 2 kids (ages 2 and 4.75) and am not pregnant.

We'll wash and paint the walls when the kids are older. We'll clean off the countertops when I have more energy. We'll organize the toys like they were organizer when we only had 1 kid (musical toys in one bin, broken electronics turned toys in another bin, Etc.)

I got a dresser for $5 at a yard sale. All the costumes live in that.

My son can't reach all the tempera paints by himself. He needs my help. His rolling art kit is kept in a closet my toddler can't open. But my so often forgets to put the kit all the way in the closet so the toddler rummages through it.

In addition to the kids, we have 2 cats and 3.5 dogs (we have 3 dogs and do doggie daycare for another.) My hardwood floors were atrocious. I got a roomba floor vacuuming robot and a scooba that mops the floor. They were amazing purchases and I don't know how I got by without them. I vaccum the floors every day. The scooba gets used a couple times a week. Our house is so much cleaner with these. Expensive, but well worth it. http://www.hammacher.com/Search/Defa...x?query=roomba

I'm wondering if part of the issue is your vision of unschooling is that the kids can be totally self-sufficient without needing you. That's not where we are on the US spectrum. My kids need to ask me for help and I sometimes tell them they will do something. I try not to be too demanding, but that's just the reality.

In addition to art supplies and creative toys, we have tons of books. I really like the secular books at www.sonlight.com. When the kids get older things will be so much more organized. For now we get through the day as best we can. After dinner I roomba the house and the next morning it starts all over again. I found visiting the decluttering forum here helped a lot. http://www.mothering.com/discussions...play.php?f=315

I now joke that people can visit me between the hours of 9pm and 6am, when my house is clean.

Sorry if this is disjointed. I keep falling asleep.

Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.

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#9 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 03:07 AM
 
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For a while at least it would probably be helpful to think of strewing as being about something other than "stuff." Sure, you can strew stuff. You can pick up nifty activity books and craft supplies and science tools and kitchen tools and construction toys and textiles and the like. But honestly, when I had a bunch of kids under 10 with a 9-year age-range, I wanted to make a big bonfire with all our stuff and burn it all and never buy another thing again, ever in the hope that I would someday be able to see our living room floor again. And our kitchen table top. I felt the same way you did. I felt like I should be providing paints and crafts and sensory tools and educational toys and games, but I hated the mess, the clutter, the complications of mobile baby and distracted mom.

I didn't have an actual giant bonfire, but we pared down, purging a lot, and scaled our new purchases way back. My strewing became about intangibles: experiences, opportunities taken, conversations held, places visited, people encountered, relationships forged, rhythms and rituals partaken of. Strewing meant me tossing out ideas for places to go or things to talk about to see if the kids were interested. Games became things like I Spy and Round-robin storytelling and 20 questions rather than Monopoly Junior and Blokus. Crafts were outdoor ephemeral art -- Andy Goldsworthy-style natural constructions, sandcastles, woven-stick mandalas or arrays of curiously-coloured rocks. Informational strewing was less to do with books and more to do with conversations. Basically if it didn't make a mess inside, it was fair game and I would enthusiastically toss those ideas and suggestions and invitations at my kids.

So I guess that would be my main suggestion. Don't take the word "strew" too literally. You don't have to physically strew things in your children's paths to be an effective unschooling parent. You can strew ideas and activities and suggestions and invitations and conversations. And they're a heck of a lot easier to clean up!

Miranda

Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grown-up

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#10 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 10:41 AM
 
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Ok, I just have the one kid so I can't comment on most things. But I did want to say, you should check out these crayons/water colors: http://www.stabilo.com/pages-com/pro...ody-3-in-1.php

They can be used a crayon for the 2 year old or dip them in water and you can paint with them for older kids. DD LOVES them and they make little mess. They are not cheap but well, well worth the price! Trust me.

Oh, and for cooking/baking. Could you do the heavy prep after the kids are in bed? For instance, I make bread most nights but mix it while watching TV after DD is in bed. She gets to "help" me put it in the oven but it saves on the mess of her wanting to constantly stick her hands in it. We try to make enough food at night to last at least for lunch the next day. Although, I'm sure with 4 kids that's much more difficult, good luck!
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Just a quick note on very small children and painting... When my DD was little(1.5-2.5) I would give her construction paper, a paint brush and a cup of water. When she "painted" with the water on the paper, the paper would get darker and it seemed to do the trick for her. I would then throw the pages somewhere to dry, and the kids could use them again for another project. It saved her messing up the water colors and getting paint all over everything.
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#12 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 12:10 PM
 
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I remember my ds was much more interested in changing the color of the water than painting...

I only had one dc and I kept art supplies and small part toys up high, mostly so I'd simply know when he had them so I could supervise.

Ds naturally likes things in good condition so I think there is a temperament side to wanting to take care of possessions. He has some sensory aversions so is bothered by sticky and dirty to a greater extent than other kids. There are certainly some benefits to not being like him, just as there are benefits in the neatness realm.

It's tricky because you want enough so the kids feel like they are coming from a place of plenty. That makes it easier for them to be generous and to share. But you don't want them thinking they don't need to take care of things because they will be replaced. I talked with ds about quality items, how to tell if something looked like it would break easily. Sometimes we'd buy the cheap thing knowing it would probably break. And sometimes we'd spend more money on a more expensive version that seemed sturdier...

With 4 kids, any day you get through with everyone reasonably happy is a successful one, imo.

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#13 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 12:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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oh my goodness, so much to reply to!

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Originally Posted by zeldamomma View Post
Would it help if you just accepted that some mess and waste is part of kids painting? Play dough used to drive me crazy, until I just let go of the ideas that the colors should stay unmixed, and the package should last forever. Now I consider the mixing to be part of the experience, and expect to buy a new pack about once a year (I don't replace it instantly after throwing away the old stuff). If you have a highchair, you could put the 2 year old in it when he paints, so his mess is contained somewhat, or only bring out the paints at a time when you can sit and paint with them/supervise.

GL!
re: playdoh - i really don't care about the mixing. i stopped caring about that a while back. i even made some white playdoh for them after our last bit of commercial playdoh got thrown out (and with the white, it's more like "real" dough and mixing colors is a non-issue anyway). it lasted a while, but started to turn sticky so that's gone now, too. i want to make it again but i haven't gotten around to buying some more cream of tartar...

as for the high chair, well, we don't have room for one anymore the 2yo uses a booster seat at the dining table, but it DOES have a strap/buckle. he doesn't like the strap anymore so we usually don't use it, but i suppose that would be a good idea for containing arts and crafts messes, huh? i'll just have to present it to him as a condition upon which he can participate.

as for paint waste (or waste in general), i am fully aware that this goes with having children, believe me. the problem is money right now; we are seriously broke (hubby is a student) and i have been more protective of what we have lately because we literally can't afford to replace these things once they are gone. we will HAVE to move on to the tempera paints soon.

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Originally Posted by OkiMom View Post
Painting: my 21 month old would destroy the house if I didn't give her an activitiy to do while her sister paints.. it would be a horrible awful mess, I forgot to once and she painted the book I was reading that morning that I had left out. Yes, now Percy Jackson has pink, purple and blue on his pages.. Luckily I realized it and didn't close the book otherwise we would have had a problem. She loves finger paints though and i find that they can be a whole lot less mess then doing regular paints that require brushes with her. I just squirt several blobs on a plastic pallete (yea, I know most people here don't like plastic but my daughter is also a thrower, seriously this kid is going to end up being a baseball player, she can already throw from the kitchen into the back of the hall, a good 30 or so feet so glass would equal stitches for someone) and let her paint with that. I usually put a plastic tarp down (Im going into hiding after this post with all this mention of plastic) and put her paper on top of that.. then I just fold up the tarp at the end. The tarps usually last a couple of months and I spent about 1.00 each but it saves my dining room table.
Dinner, the bane of my existence. Is there a way your DH could watch part of the children once a month while you do some serious bulk cooking? When my youngest was a newborn we did this once a month for about 6 months until I felt like I could cook daily again. I didn't make all the meals but I would cook up all the meat, put together any sauces I needed, make a ton of bread/tortillas/biscuits, make pancakes/waffles for breakfasts.. basically do a lot of the prep work so during the actually week all I had to do is throw it together.. The 8 year old could definitely help you a lot and so could the 5 year olds, so even if you husband could take the 2 year old once/twice a month for a few hours so you can do the prep work.
re: paints - that sounds like a good idea for my 2yo - blobs of washable tempera on a plate...but i would give him a brush; i have some big chunky "toddler" paint brushes. this scenario would be easier on my sanity because he wouldn't be trying to navigate the tiny wells in the watercolor palettes, and i wouldn't be worrying about the mixing and cleaning.

as for dinner, well, my hubby's hours are 12pm-10pm, M-F. yeah. i am on my own for dinner every weeknight. and bulk cooking...i'll tell you, my standards have just gone out the window since i've been pregnant. i don't bake our bread anymore, we eat a lot of food from the freezer section, and most of my "homemade" stuff is out of a box. i just don't have the energy to do a bulk cooking session, and like i mentioned before, "bulk" for this family would be like cooking for a school cafeteria!! it's so much simpler to buy 6 boxes of BOGO eggos at the store or a bunch of on-sale family-size stouffers entrees, yk? yeah, it's that bad. so you see, there really isn't much prep-work to be done these days. the older kids can get their own drinks, make sandwiches and work the microwave for certain things, so that's a big help, at least. i know things will get better in this department after the baby's born, and hubby won't have these same awful hours anymore either. he's done with police academy in about 5 weeks (just in time for me to be "term" ), so things will be very different once he's home for his "paternity leave".


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Originally Posted by Piglet68 View Post
I'll take a crack at providing some helpful suggestions. :-)

I have found it very helpful to use bins and boxes to stores stuff. Lego blocks in one box, art in another, etc. And then you could put the bins out of reach of the 2 year old so he/she can't get to them when not in use. Your older kids could then help themselves to what they feel like playing with at the time.
we have done this in the past. the problem is twofold: 1) it became very difficult to enforce the put it away rule without direct supervision (which is not always possible), and it would quickly become an overwhelming mess. the children often get into things early in the morning when we are still asleep. it became easier to either take stuff away or mix it all up in the bins. 2) there is literally not enough storage space to keep things out of reach, and the really messy stuff is already locked up. the kids have shelves in their rooms with containers, and while they are better than they were at younger ages, it still seems as though everything they own ends up all over the floor at once sometimes. then everyone shuts down, refuses, or throws a tantrum when it's clean up time.

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I only have 2 kids, but I well remember the physical exhaustion of having a toddler. My own opinion (and you're free to disagree of course) is that it is my responsibility to keep the toddler out of the older one's space, when the older child is working on a project, etc. It's not fair to have their stuff taken, broken, ripped, stepped on, or ruined.
this is true, and there really haven't been a lot of issues with this (although painting is a good example). i have a problem excluding my 2yo from things that he COULD do with supervision..i dunno why. i remember doing this a lot when my twins were toddlers and my oldest was 5 and wanting to do things without them interfering. i happily accommodated that with baby gates and putting a work table in his room for not-so-messy projects. the twins had each other to play with, though, and didn't even really realize that they were missing anything. with my 2yo, there's only one of him, and 3 olders having fun without him... one of the neat things about having so many kids is that the youngest grew up with all these big kid things around him, so they are all just part of life. he likes to play with whatever his big brothers are playing with, which i think is awesome, and they usually let him. i don't have a problem telling the big boys to go shut themselves in a bedroom if they want to keep their little brother away from a project. and they go out front without him, too; that's just safety, plain and simple, even if it upsets him.

Quote:
This could be a whole other thread but honestly, I think you need to just let go of the idea that your house should be at a certain level of tidiness and that your kids should just intuitively share your issues with it being clean.
this is so true, too. it is something that i have been struggling with for years, and it's because of outside influences (my mother, neat freak "friends", people with no kids or much fewer kids or no boys). it has driven me insane and made me feel like a failure over and over again. my own mother doesn't like to come over to my house. i have recently decided to stop trying to foster friendships with people who are not understanding and/or respectful of my lifestyle. it is not good for me mentally. i have stopped trying to have people over because the mess is sometimes so overwhelming that i would rather hide in my cave than satisfy my social needs. i am working on finding peace and balance in this department.


Quote:
I feel like you have two choices here. Either you accept that painting requires your 100% attention to the 2 year old and just accept it as part of your job right now (again, remember "this too shall pass"!). OR you find a space where they can paint their tails off and it doesn't matter. Basement? Garage? Can you put up a shed in your back yard? Somewhere you can hang sheets of paper on a wall and simply not care how messy it gets?
there really isn't anywhere for them to have to be messy. we have a family of almost 7 crammed into a house made for 4. the rooms are small and closed-off from each other. i literally describe it like a cave. ugh. we have a nice big back yard, and we have major issues with clothes and toys being left out there and getting ruined by the weather or the lawnmower. nothing like shredded pajamas strewn all over the place (my kids are kinda nudist and STILL strip whenever they feel like it). our garage is basically a storage unit that needs some serious attention. it continues to be low on the priority list because of heat or scheduling problems. soon...


Quote:
I think this is just par for the course with kids. We've BTDT many times, too. I just think it's unrealistic to expect that level of concern about such things from kids - the whole notion of budgetary realities, organization, etc is just lost on them. They live in the moment, truly. Again the idea of taking out one bin/box at a time can help a lot with this problem. Or, instead of feeling resentful about the money being spent/wasted how about setting aside a set amount of money each month for the purchase of toys, puzzles, etc then having the kids involved in the conversation. What happens when a puzzle piece is lost? Can we replace the puzzle? What does that mean with respect to our ability to buy other items within our budget? It doesn't have to be a battle or a punitive issue.
i'm glad to hear that we aren't the only ones that happens to! the problem here is, once again, them getting into "supervision only" toys without permission (when i'm in another room or still asleep early in the morning). they will leave it out and pieces get kicked under furniture, etc. i gether them as i find them, but there have been times when i have just said "screw this" and tossed the whole game. i feel so angry about it because they seem to have no respect for the rules and disobey them at any chance. i literally have had to put a padlock on the homeschool cabinet to keep my hard organizational work intact inside there. i know that i need to bite the bullet and just say "yes" more often when they ask for these activities. i just hate being tied to one room for the duration of it...


Quote:
I really have come to believe that these issues are adult concerns, and that children just aren't wired to worry like that. They live in the moment, truly. The lack of money, concern about materialism, accumulating stuff, wasting stuff...those are all adult concerns and I just don't think it's realistic to expect kids to see the world through that view. With that said, you can share YOUR concerns with them and ask them for suggestions on how to get everyone's needs met. But I wouldn't beat yourself up over this.
this is another thing i have been working on. it has become necessary since we've been on such a tight budget to explain to them over and over that we cannot afford to go buy things right now, and that if something is ruined, it's gone for good. i think it's slowly sinking in. i have repeated "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" a few times, and will continue to do so (re-explaining what it means each time) until they get it.


Quote:
As for getting children motivated, as mentioned above I recently had an epiphany about this and totally changed my attitude....
....When they see me helping it makes it more enjoyable for them PLUS I am modelling helping out.
yet another recent resolution for me! i'm trying to get hubby on board with this, too, as he seems to be the clean-up tyrant when he gets involved. this past weekend we did an overhaul of the kids rooms, and they helped (a little) without us asking. my main problem is my physical disabilities (aggravated by pregnancy) that make it very difficult to be the main clean-up person. bending over repeatedly is already painful for me, but add in a big belly fulla baby and it's nearly impossible. i have to sit on the floor to clean up, and scoot around on my butt. i have learned recently that i need to use different wording when asking for help. point to something and tell a child "go put that ____". and they do! a little at a time, no scheduled clean-up. i have also started making clean-up time a requirement before they start another activity or we go somewhere. i have to be careful not to use the word "clean".



Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post
My life feels as chaotic as yours sounds. Except I only have 2 kids (ages 2 and 4.75) and am not pregnant.

We'll wash and paint the walls when the kids are older. We'll clean off the countertops when I have more energy. We'll organize the toys like they were organizer when we only had 1 kid (musical toys in one bin, broken electronics turned toys in another bin, Etc.)

I got a dresser for $5 at a yard sale. All the costumes live in that.

My son can't reach all the tempera paints by himself. He needs my help. His rolling art kit is kept in a closet my toddler can't open. But my so often forgets to put the kit all the way in the closet so the toddler rummages through it.

In addition to the kids, we have 2 cats and 3.5 dogs (we have 3 dogs and do doggie daycare for another.) My hardwood floors were atrocious. I got a roomba floor vacuuming robot and a scooba that mops the floor. They were amazing purchases and I don't know how I got by without them. I vaccum the floors every day. The scooba gets used a couple times a week. Our house is so much cleaner with these. Expensive, but well worth it. http://www.hammacher.com/Search/Defa...x?query=roomba

I'm wondering if part of the issue is your vision of unschooling is that the kids can be totally self-sufficient without needing you. That's not where we are on the US spectrum. My kids need to ask me for help and I sometimes tell them they will do something. I try not to be too demanding, but that's just the reality.

In addition to art supplies and creative toys, we have tons of books. I really like the secular books at www.sonlight.com. When the kids get older things will be so much more organized. For now we get through the day as best we can. After dinner I roomba the house and the next morning it starts all over again. I found visiting the decluttering forum here helped a lot. http://www.mothering.com/discussions...play.php?f=315
i agree about the walls. we say the same thing.

we do store the dress-up clothes in a dresser now, after 3 trunks were broken from being used as a hiding place one too many times.

i do have a roomba, but haven't used it in a long time because 1) it needs a new battery that we cannot afford right now, and 2) it was getting to be a PITA to pick up the little stuff that would clog it...also, it kept getting stuck places, despite the use of the virtual walls. ugh. i bought an electric sweeper that is lightweight and easy for me to use, so that's how i keep the floors clean now. we don't have any pets and have mostly hard floors, so that's pretty low maintenance (as long as the sweeper is charged, that is!).

the self-sufficiency thing is definitely a goal in general due to my disabilities, but is being stressed right now because of my pregnancy. i will be able to be more involved (physically) after this little alien vacates my belly.

we do have lots of non-fiction kids books (think eyewitness series), and i think i should start strewing those more in rotation. i tried leaving a pile of random books out on the coffee table and was pleased with the results. and my 2yo brings me books to read to him all the time, which is a very lazy-pregnant-mama-friendly activity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
For a while at least it would probably be helpful to think of strewing as being about something other than "stuff." Sure, you can strew stuff. You can pick up nifty activity books and craft supplies and science tools and kitchen tools and construction toys and textiles and the like. But honestly, when I had a bunch of kids under 10 with a 9-year age-range, I wanted to make a big bonfire with all our stuff and burn it all and never buy another thing again, ever in the hope that I would someday be able to see our living room floor again. And our kitchen table top. I felt the same way you did. I felt like I should be providing paints and crafts and sensory tools and educational toys and games, but I hated the mess, the clutter, the complications of mobile baby and distracted mom.

I didn't have an actual giant bonfire, but we pared down, purging a lot, and scaled our new purchases way back. My strewing became about intangibles: experiences, opportunities taken, conversations held, places visited, people encountered, relationships forged, rhythms and rituals partaken of. Strewing meant me tossing out ideas for places to go or things to talk about to see if the kids were interested. Games became things like I Spy and Round-robin storytelling and 20 questions rather than Monopoly Junior and Blokus. Crafts were outdoor ephemeral art -- Andy Goldsworthy-style natural constructions, sandcastles, woven-stick mandalas or arrays of curiously-coloured rocks. Informational strewing was less to do with books and more to do with conversations. Basically if it didn't make a mess inside, it was fair game and I would enthusiastically toss those ideas and suggestions and invitations at my kids.

So I guess that would be my main suggestion. Don't take the word "strew" too literally. You don't have to physically strew things in your children's paths to be an effective unschooling parent. You can strew ideas and activities and suggestions and invitations and conversations. And they're a heck of a lot easier to clean up!

Miranda
i have had many dreams of bonfires and never shopping again. i honestly think our problem is that we pared down too much, and the children are bored and get into things i don't want them playing with (think 8yo making a pulley in a tree with the jumper cables ). that's why i'm trying to reorganize the things we already have to be more available AND easier to maintain without so much mess/clutter/chaos.

the outings have been scarce over the past few months because of intense heat and my level of fatigue. i'm hoping to start doing things again now that the weather is starting to cool off (just in time for the most physically debilitating part of pregnancy). a lot of this is only temporary -- just trying to make it through these last couple of months before i can just sling the baby and get up and go places again!

we definitely talk a lot. i love it when they come ask me questions and come up with things to do that we can do from the couch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by physmom View Post

Oh, and for cooking/baking. Could you do the heavy prep after the kids are in bed? For instance, I make bread most nights but mix it while watching TV after DD is in bed. She gets to "help" me put it in the oven but it saves on the mess of her wanting to constantly stick her hands in it. We try to make enough food at night to last at least for lunch the next day. Although, I'm sure with 4 kids that's much more difficult, good luck!
at this point, i'm interested in doing nothing but vegging after the kids are in bed. i'm so exhausted after getting 4 kids fed and to bed by myself that i collapse on the couch to eat and watch tv (or get online ). and like i said above, there is little prep work these days as i've taken the easy way out in the food department.

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#14 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 03:30 PM
 
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oh my goodness, so much to reply to!
re: paints - that sounds like a good idea for my 2yo - blobs of washable tempera on a plate...but i would give him a brush; i have some big chunky "toddler" paint brushes. this scenario would be easier on my sanity because he wouldn't be trying to navigate the tiny wells in the watercolor palettes, and i wouldn't be worrying about the mixing and cleaning.

as for dinner, well, my hubby's hours are 12pm-10pm, M-F. yeah. i am on my own for dinner every weeknight. and bulk cooking...i'll tell you, my standards have just gone out the window since i've been pregnant. i don't bake our bread anymore, we eat a lot of food from the freezer section, and most of my "homemade" stuff is out of a box. i just don't have the energy to do a bulk cooking session, and like i mentioned before, "bulk" for this family would be like cooking for a school cafeteria!! it's so much simpler to buy 6 boxes of BOGO eggos at the store or a bunch of on-sale family-size stouffers entrees, yk? yeah, it's that bad. so you see, there really isn't much prep-work to be done these days. the older kids can get their own drinks, make sandwiches and work the microwave for certain things, so that's a big help, at least. i know things will get better in this department after the baby's born, and hubby won't have these same awful hours anymore either. he's done with police academy in about 5 weeks (just in time for me to be "term" ), so things will be very different once he's home for his "paternity leave".
Im glad the paint suggestion might help some! Im scared of trying paint brushes with my 21 month old again, she figured out how to flik it and get paint everywhere. Since the furniture we have isn't ours (we are military overseas, the furniture is loaner furniture from the government) I really dont' want it to messed up. I already have to figure out how to get sharpie out of the couch from my 3 1/2 year old.

I missed the fact you were pregnant, in that case. Try to just not worry about the cooking right now. I haven't made bread since I got pregnant this time, last pregnancy was so much easier than this one when it came to that stuff. Its hard when your DH is gone so much as well. Mines in training right now (hes been gone 2 weeks and has another week before coming back) so we are living on crockpot meals, leftovers and the occasional frozen pizza (hey, pizza with veggies on it has all the major food groups so it has to be at least somewhat healthy right??). I told my husband when I can keep down at least 90% of what I cook Ill start making everything from scratch again but until then morning sickness+toddlers+cooking=a really big mess that isn't going to happen. Id say let go of the guilt, I dont' know what Id do if I didn't have a crockpot big enough for everyone. The crockpot has become by best friend, so much so DH got me a second one because there are times that dishes don't get done until after breakfast the next morning (gross I know but hey Im being honest here.. I do put them in the dishwasher!)

As for organizing the toys, my DH got the girls one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Tot-Tutors-Org...5180105&sr=8-6 he just didn't pay that price for it. I wasn't to happy about it when it bought it but it helps with the dumping problem since the girls can see everything and know where things are. Before we had the toys in boxes and they would dump it all to find the toy they wanted. I also started trying to do 3 15 minute clean ups a day where everyone helps cleaning up the toys and other stuff on the ground. The girls seem a lot more willing to help when its 1) a planned thing and 2) they have me sitting there helping them. DD1 every once in a while tries to tell me no which results in a tickle fight and then she picks up (well when shes done laughing.. she can't managing the picking up and laughing at the same time).

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#15 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As for organizing the toys, my DH got the girls one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Tot-Tutors-Org...5180105&sr=8-6 he just didn't pay that price for it. I wasn't to happy about it when it bought it but it helps with the dumping problem since the girls can see everything and know where things are. Before we had the toys in boxes and they would dump it all to find the toy they wanted.
i want one of those sooo bad; i have ever since they came out with them (like 8 years ago?). even though they are plastic, and i'm not a fan of plastic storage for several reasons (and aesthetics is one of them), they still seem great for organizing kids' stuff, and i've seen several in action at friend's houses. i know they are available now for super cheap if you know where to look (or even better, used), but it will have to be a "wish list" item until we have more money again.

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#16 of 21 Old 09-22-2010, 08:43 PM
 
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great thread! not pg, thank All Deities, but I do have 3, ages 7.75, 3, and 1. it can be bad does NOT help that the oldest has 80 bajillion legos...

couple of quick ideas: what about stripping the 2 y.o. nekkid and sticking him in the tub with fingerpaint? maybe?! depends whether he'll escape the tub I guess. and my other idea is to get really ruthless with the decluttering. I've been doing this all summer for various reasons and a delightful side effect is that the whole house is a ton safer for the youngest. also has made general cleaning a lot easier. check out some of the threads in the mindful home forum for ideas.
also, I DESPISE cooking personally. can't get around it. if there were such a thing as healthful frozen pizza that would fill everyone up (and everyone liked it!) we'd never eat anything else! I'm still working on this one. my oldest is really hitting that bottomless pit phase early and I hardly know how to feed him!!

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#17 of 21 Old 09-27-2010, 01:27 AM
 
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How do you declutter with a baby around? And how do you do it if your child doesn't want to get rid of anything?

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#18 of 21 Old 09-28-2010, 03:03 AM
 
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couple of quick ideas: what about stripping the 2 y.o. nekkid and sticking him in the tub with fingerpaint? maybe?! depends whether he'll escape the tub I guess. and my other idea is to get really ruthless with the decluttering. I've been doing this all summer for various reasons and a delightful side effect is that the whole house is a ton safer for the youngest. also has made general cleaning a lot easier. check out some of the threads in the mindful home forum for ideas.
I actually have a recipe for bath finger paints if you are worried regular ones will stain your tub. My kids paint and I make and it doesn't stain anything. Added bonus it only takes maybe 5 minutes to make a batch. I do a double batch and have enough for a while.

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How do you declutter with a baby around? And how do you do it if your child doesn't want to get rid of anything?
With the baby I would say either have someone willing to watch them or find an activity they love to do. My first loved to put magnets on the fridge so I got a metal cooking sheet and magnets, she would sit next to me and play with the magnets starting around 4-5 months. My second had her sister to play with. The both had an exerciser they loved. When they get a little older I had to get more creative. With my oldest she started "coloring" (and I use the term loosely, at least she didn't eat the crayons) around 12-13 months, that would keep her busy for at least 10-15 minutes. Enough time to do one closet. When you have young ones its slow and steady, don't expect to get it all done in one day.

As for getting rid of things, my youngest doesn't care unless its a monkey. She has a bit of a monkey obsession and doesn't even like returning library books with monkeys on them. My oldest is a little more problematic things I do:
- If it doesn't get played with in a while (couple of weeks) it gets spirited away. Might sound mean but my DH is bad at getting random cheap toys for them and if we kept them all we would be in trouble. Generally they lose their novelty at about the 2 week mark but if I let them see me get rid of it there would be a tantrum. If they don't see it then they don't even ask about it.
- If it gets broken it gets trashed. Again might sound mean but with some toys broken pieces become chocking hazards or they can get cut on them so it breaks it goes. The exception is ripped stuffed animals. Both my girls have their favorite comfort animals that they would be devastated if something happened to. I have spent quite a few evenings mending Minnie, cats, dogs and monkeys.
- If it loses pieces that can't be replaced and makes it so you can't play with it properly (like missing pieces to a puzzle) it goes. It saves sanity not to have a meltdown when my 3 1/2 year old can't finish her puzzle.
- After that there is a certain amount of storage in the playroom. If its full (and it has never been actually full) then things have to be gotten rid of before anything new is brought in. I try to involve my 3 1/2 year old in getting rid of outgrown toys. She is actually getting use to it now.

Best way to keep a space decluttered is keeping a tight hand on what comes in. I use to feel bad if someone gave the children something and I didn't let them at least play with it. Because of that we ended up with a ton of toys we didn't like, didn't want in the house but was given to us by our friends or handed down to us. Now I don't feel bad. If I know I don't want something in the house I won't even let the girls see it and it isn't even brought into the house. Again might sound mean but my girls are happy and creative with the toys they have. They know what they like and if there is something they really want then they ask me if I could put it on me "look for" list. Lately they have asked for: play clothes (Im so neglectful in that area, they only have 3 costumes to dress up in), a bigger train set and baby dolls (the ones we had were recalled so I want to make them cloth dolls I know won't be recalled, try explaining to a 2 1/2 year old why you have to get rid of her "baby".. its not pretty, don't want to do that again).

If you look at the mindful home section of the boards there are a lot of suggestions on how to deal with older kids. Im only versed in how to deal with the young ones since mine are so young.

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#19 of 21 Old 09-30-2010, 10:47 PM
 
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How do you declutter with a baby around? And how do you do it if your child doesn't want to get rid of anything?
okimom had a lot of the same suggestions as me. we developed a brown recluse spider problem this summer, so it became extremely urgent to me that I go through e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. in the entire house I would blitz through things when the youngest was asleep, I called in friends to watch the kids while I did closets, and recruited my mom and MIL to take the big kids sometimes. there was a lot I could get rid of that was specifically mine or that the kids didn't care about anyway, and I'd get that stuff out first. black garbage bags and white lies took care of the rest I did get rid of a few things ds or dd noticed and got upset about, which was of course awful, but luckily only briefly, and out of a few thousand items and several hundred pounds or more of stuff (most of which got sold or donated!), this was less than 5 things that were missed. not bad! but I did have to do it behind their back-- even clothes that didn't fit anymore they would want to keep, but only if they saw the items. I'm nearly done now and everything is so much easier in the rooms that are completely done (not to mention I can be pretty sure there aren't spiders in their toys!!). now I'm down to very small amounts of things to go through and it's pretty easy to do that in "stealth mode"

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#20 of 21 Old 10-01-2010, 12:55 AM
 
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My daughter is extremely attached to her toys and treasures, at the moment they enter her consciousness that is. ;-) Mostly I declutter when the kids aren't around or are otherwise busily occupied. I have to be stealthy about it. I know which toys are "special" to them (and I always keep those) and which ones they've totally lost interest in. It feels a bit deceptive but OTOH if we kept every piece of plastic junk that somehow seems to be attracted magnetically to young children well...we'd be swimming in it! And if I told DD beforehand she would freak out. As it is, it is a rare occasion when she has asked me for something that I've gotten rid of. And then I blame it on moving. ;-)

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#21 of 21 Old 10-29-2010, 03:21 PM
 
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WARNING: I am not an unschooler.

However, I live a lifestyle that is very unschooly and this has been a MAJOR issue for me as well. My DD8 created an art bin that went in her room so she could access it when she wanted.

So far.....DD3 has ruined her pillow project, traced her handprints on her comforter (BRAND new!) and painted on the door and wall.

I do not mind so much the free expression, but DD3 doesnt realize she can not free express on other peoples property.

Also....18 month old.....CONSTANTLY into everything! Had beautiful rocks and gems out for exploring. She explored them right into her mouth. Cant have magnets out for the same reason. And any books, paper, flat surface becomes her writing station.

I too would LOVE input as I believe strewing is crutial. I just seem to be failing at it.

Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013.   If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!

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