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We need some serious advice, here, all. We're about on our last rope with this.

DS is 3 years old ( as of July). Every afternoon he has a period of about 90 minutes we call Quiet Time, wherein he has to stay in his room and give mama some time to rest too. I tell him he can play quietly or look at books or sleep. This came about because he stopped napping abruptly when he self-weaned last December and has not reliably napped since, and when early pregnant with this baby I was very sick and desperately needed the rest.

Here's the issue: When in his room for quiet time, almost every time, he DESTROYS his room. I'm talking every single toy taken out of the bins, every single book off the shelf, and every single article of clothing pulled out of the drawers. Bedclothes and stuffed animals everywhere. One day I came in to find every single crayon taken out of every box and the paper ripped off and scattered everywhere. Every afternoon it becomes a frustrated attempt to get him to put all the stuff away before DH gets home, and in order to get the room cleaned I have to either do it all myself, or sit right there on the flor and say "Put THAT ball into THAT bin right there", or he does nothing but play more. Taking all the toys away would do no good, as that is ALL his toys. We live in a very small apartment, so his room IS the playroom, and there is nowhere else for all his toys. Every time he comes across a packed-up box or hamper of folded laundry waiting to be put away, its immediately dumped and scattered everywhere.
DH is incredibly frustrated when this happens, and I get so crazy when I open that door and see the unending mess where I had just cleaned the day before that I just want to cry.

So, my question: What, developmentally speaking, should we be expecting froma 3 year old in this respect? Are we asking too much of him by making him put the toys away? I know the phrase 'clean your room' is too vague a concept for him, but its so hard having to sit there for (seriously) the better part of an hour naming every single toy he posesses and telling him to put each in a bin. We are just so tired of this mess EVERY SINGLE AFTERNOON. He's very sweet and really wants to please in every other respect; this is just his 'thing'. Its driving us nuts.

Any advice? Please?

Lisa
 

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Developmentally, yes, asking a 3 yo to be responsible for cleaning up his own mess is too much.

Here's what I do if you're interested:

1. I tell my ds and dd, this is the time we clean up, please chose something to put away. I give a big thank you, that was such a great help.

2. Then i choose something to put away, and show them where it's going and what i'm doing, talking about it's home, etc.

3. We go back and forth (usually I do a bit more...) until the room is put away.

After we talk about how nice it is to have a clean room, more fun to play, more room, know where things are, etc.

I've been doing this for about 2 years now and it goes faster and faster each time. We clean the room together about every other day or every day around the same time each day so that they come to expect it and not at a time when they are ready to melt down.

I try to keep it positive, but I sometimes lose it when they refuse to help, but that thankfully is seldom.
 

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Honestly, leaving a 3 year old alone in his room for 90 is just asking for trouble. If he were asleep, obviously that would be different but I don't know any child on this planet that at 3 could be left alone in a room full of toys and have it be remotely in order after 90 minutes.

He's bored, he's alone, he's trying to find something to fill his time and taking down every toy is pretty normal I would say.

I seriously think leaving a 3 yo alone and awake for 90 minutes is WAY too long. But, if you're going to do it, for his safety, I think you have to let him pick maybe 5 toys and 5 books or something along those lines and tell him he must stay in the bed. Or, and I don't really believe in this but, if he's going to be forced to be alone that long, I'd probably put a tv with a dvd in his room and put a video on for him to watch.

90 minutes is just too long to expect him to entertain himself at that age.

As far as cleaning up, I'd do things one at a time. Tell him to gather up all the books and put them on the shelf, then start on the stuffed animals, blocks etc.... but, you'll have to be there helping and directing the entire time.
 

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I'm having this same problem with my daughter, but really it is the fact that she has so many toys and I DON'T try to get her to put them away regularly
: that makes it a complete mess. She's never alone for so long, but she'll play with a toy for some time, and then get another one, and so on, until practically everything is off the shelf and on the floor.

Just today I started getting rid of the stuff that she doesn't use to make space in drawers, and tommorow we will be going through the toys together and giving to good will the ones she is fine with getting rid of.

I HATE cleaning her room because I know in 24 hours it is going to be a disaster again. Looks like I will need to sub to this thread and get some tips on getting her to do it herself!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by amcal View Post
Honestly, leaving a 3 year old alone in his room for 90 is just asking for trouble. If he were asleep, obviously that would be different but I don't know any child on this planet that at 3 could be left alone in a room full of toys and have it be remotely in order after 90 minutes.

He's bored, he's alone, he's trying to find something to fill his time and taking down every toy is pretty normal I would say.

I seriously think leaving a 3 yo alone and awake for 90 minutes is WAY too long. But, if you're going to do it, for his safety, I think you have to let him pick maybe 5 toys and 5 books or something along those lines and tell him he must stay in the bed. Or, and I don't really believe in this but, if he's going to be forced to be alone that long, I'd probably put a tv with a dvd in his room and put a video on for him to watch.

90 minutes is just too long to expect him to entertain himself at that age.

As far as cleaning up, I'd do things one at a time. Tell him to gather up all the books and put them on the shelf, then start on the stuffed animals, blocks etc.... but, you'll have to be there helping and directing the entire time.
yeah I agree here 100% - every word.

It's just too long. 3-year-olds don't have a real sense of time. It might as well be hours and hours. I'm not a fan of that much use of TV but I think the TV would be preferable to this too.
 

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90 minutes is a long time to leave a child that young to his own devices. I could see 30-45, but more than that is asking for trouble, IMO.

My 3yo son keeps his room spotless, but he has very minimal stuff in there, and everything has an easily accessible place where it belongs. He has a three cubby shelf as his nightstand -- one cubby for blocks, one cubby for cars, and one cubby for board books. His guitar rests on a stand at the foot of his bed. Under his bed is one of those plastic underbed storage containers which contains a couple of larger toys and all of his stuffed animals. That's it for toys. Other than that, he has a bed, a dresser, and a small children's table and chair as a "desk" for coloring (I keep the crayons in my room when he's not actively using them to prevent problems). In the closet is his hamper, where he deposits all his own dirty clothes each day.

He knows that everything has a place, and that he is responsible for returning things to their home when he finishes using them. All I have to do is remind him sometimes. Having a manageable-to-a-3yo amount of stuff, very well-organized, works so well for us that I'm considering getting rid of most of the stuff in his downstairs playroom and just keeping the play kitchen and art supplies down there. Lately he prefers to play in his bedroom, anyway, where he doesn't get overwhelmed with choices or massive clean-up. Even if he got out every toy in his room and threw it on the floor, clean up would take less than five minutes working all by himself -- and if I helped, it would take seconds. It's that streamlined in there. My goal is to get the rest of my house to be the same!

Oh, as for the clothes strewing ... we used to have that problem when he was younger, and it stopped when we went to the current layout with the cubbies and just a few toys. It was like, once he could focus on a few favorite things, he didn't need to trash the room anymore. He also knows that if he doesn't treat his things nicely, they get taken away, and he's kind of a clotheshorse, so that is actually a good motivator for him. You could do the same with the bedding -- if rips it all off the bed and throws it on the floor, you could explain that it is dirty now and has to be washed, then make him go without bedding that night while it's being "washed" (whether you actually wash it or not), if it isn't too cold.

My advice is not to leave your son alone for more than 45 minutes, and to remove the majority of his stuff from his room even if you have to get rid of it altogether. Or you could lock it in a trunk at the foot of his bed and make him "check" his things out. That way he can't get a new toy out until the old one is put back. I promise you that he is as overwhelmed as you are by the daily mess and clean-up, and a new routine in this regard will do you both a world of good.
 

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Ditto to what everyone else has said re: the 90 minutes being too long. When my dd dropped her naps and I tried to do a 'quiet time,' we started with 15 minutes and worked our way up (and she could do whatever she wanted around the house, as long as it didn't involve me!). In the end I felt like 30-45 minutes was enough for me to sit and have a cup of tea and read a magazine article or two.

re: picking up, my ds is 3 (as of May) and he definitely isn't capable of picking up much. I mean, I try to get him to pick up a few things, but I have to be right there with him.
 

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When my DDs went through the stage when they needed quiet time but could no longer nap, we did quiet time on the couch. They could have a pile of books with them, but they had to stay on their couch or love seat. I can't remember now how long we did it for, but it seems like it was about 45 minutes.
 

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Destroying the room is normal. my son does it all the time when he's supposed to be sleeping. Although he will nap 99% of the time, it's that 1% that is the trouble.
As far as them not being developmentally ready to clean up.... don't know if I buy that, only because my son goes to montessori school and has learned that when he "works" with one thing, he must put it away before working on another thing. The class room is spotless, and most 3 yo (believe it or not) like some kind of order. this is why they enjoy playing with their toys after they are put away nice and clean. haha. Now, just because my son keeps is classroom clean, doesn't mean he does it here....... I'm still trying to bridge that gap. LOL I mostly clean up and ask for his help. Try to make a game or count how long it takes, ect. As long as he is helping me clean up, I'm ok with that.
 

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I agree with the pp's about 3 being too young to be playing unsupervised for such a long period. But if you need your rest and it's been going well so far, then maybe it's something you should just live with for the moment. As far as the toys go, maybe you need to remove them to another space in the house (obviously in a safe place so that dc doesn't get hurt trying to "rescue" them) and leave only a couple of toys for him to play with in his room. If he wants to play with something else, then he needs to put those toys away first before you get out something else for him. I sometimes think kids are just overwhelmed with everything they have and don't know what they really want to play with so they pull EVERYTHING out. The same goes for cleaning up - saying "clean your room" is just too vague for kids. There's just soooo much to do and they don't know where to start. Saying "put the books in the bookshelf" is more concrete.

Good luck!
 

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If you want to continue the 90 minute period, here is some concrete advice to move him into non-destructive habits..

Childproof his closet door and his dresser.

Get a sleeping bag for his bed.

Put away EVERYTHING ELSE except 3 toys and/or books. The first 3 items must have no extra parts. Put all his other toys/things/decor in a big box out of reach. Certainly toys are not developmentally necessary in the quantity our children have them, particularly if they mean the parents' energy gets burned out.

The first 3 days he must put the sleeping bag back on his bed and he must put away the 3 toys in the specific place they go after nap time.

After 3 days, add one more toy or book to the room.

After 2 weeks, add another. Introduce the concept that you put away your current activity before getting out a new one.

Keep adding a toy a week (he can do exchanges after a few weeks) as long as he is able to put everything back, and be mindful in terms of ultimate toy volume of how much harder it is to put things away when each thing doesn't have an easy to find place. If he can't, then he's not developmentally ready to be responsible for more than a couple of things at a time, which is OK.

Do not add any loose decor back to the room until he is able to handle the absolute basics.

Yes, he is probably ready to not go around upending folded laundry baskets.
 

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Agreed about 90 minutes seeming like a long time for a 3 year old to entertain himself alone.
However, whatever works for you.

I wonder if the things n his room are easy for him to put away. Are things in boxes or baskets that he can just toss them back into or is it a more detailed clean up? Is everything at his level so that he doesn't have to reach high shelves to put it away? Being able to accomplish it easily makes a big difference.

Maybe you could put together a quite time box with projects and fun things that could keep him occupied while he's in there.

Regardless at the age of 3 he will definitely need help with cleaning up and the easiest way to do that is to make it fun and make it a game so neither one of you feels like it's a big chore.
 

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It doesn't sound like he is developmentally ready to be left alone like that. You might be expecting too much from him. Is your child in a preschool program? If it's something you are willing to do then having that couple of mornings per week might be a good change of pace for both of you. That way you would have some time alone for 2-3 hours and he would still have supervision and direction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I have tried trying to get him to stay in bed, but he refuses. We tired having a movie time with me napping on the sofa, but he cannot seem to physically leave me alone. He climbs on me, pokes me, fiddles with my hair, licks me, does everything to get me to wake up and pay attention - "Mama! Mama! Open eyes, mama! Play, mama! Move over, mama!". This can't be coming from a lack of attention the rest of the time, because we are together constantly all day long, and we do things together all day. No matter what I do, he helps / does it with me, from housecleaning to cooking to laundry to grocery shopping, and we read books and play. Now that I am 8 months pregnant, if I try to rest with him there, he insists on climbing onto my belly, which is incredibly uncomfortable, and refuses to sit/lie on the sofa unless he is lying right on top of me. I can't rest that way. We moved into the quiet time in his room thing because nothing else resulted in me getting any kind of rest.
 

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Well, then I would remove most of the toys from his room and only leave what he can pick up himself.

I'd also try to lay down with him. But, make the rule that if he doesn't lie still, you'll have to go in the other room.

I don't know what to tell you but, if you've tried everything else and nothing works, then it looks like you're just going to have to accept the fact that it is perfectly normal and to be expected that his room will be a disaster after being left alone for 90 minutes. And to then punish him for that or to get angry etc... to me is completely unfair. He's only 3.
 

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No way I'd leave a 3 yo alone for that long. That's just asking for trouble. Can't he get OUT of the room and roam the house? Knives, outlets, roaming outside, turn on stove, pull stuff out of fridge, jump on couches and beds, these are the things that immediately come to mind. I don't blame him for pulling all his stuff out-- he's bored. I also don't see how giving him 3 toys and 3 books only will help. It seems like he'll get bored even quicker that way and who knows what he'd do. It may be better during awake time to help him to clean.

I would bring him to lie down with me. If he chose not to sleep he'd have to lay there and relax for a little bit: read, watch a dvd, color, or whatever.
 
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