For the sake of the floor

Amy has been nuts lately with just getting out every possible thing and distributing them every possible place — scattered all over the floor, the couch, the chair, precariously added to already full locations… and she’s also been nuts lately with taking something out of its container, dumping it, and using the container for something else.

Can you imagine her in a Montessori school, where everything has not only its own container, but its own place on the shelf? Where whatever activity you’re doing must be contained on a small mat? And where every item is only to be used for its intended purpose?

I like efficient, convenient organization, like specific containers and places for things. I think it makes cleaning up easy, because you know where to put things and don’t have to decide each time. And it makes selecting and finding toys easy, too, because you know where to look for each thing.

I used to think the thing about intended purpose only was overkill — stifling creativity and all. The rising level of my irritation with the scattering and the container-shifting has made me think about that policy with more respect.

I still think it’s good to allow using some things alternatively rather than as intended — as long as the alternative use has no or minimal risks. Thus, go ahead and play the wooden spoon like a fiddle, using the spatula as the bow. But don’t use colored pencils as drumsticks — might mark something, might break the pencil, might break the tip.

Anyway — after Amy knocked over my full glass of water and I couldn’t walk anywhere on the floor because her stuff was everywhere and when I asked her what she was doing when the glass fell over and she didn’t answer and I got so irritated and she said she did it on purpose even though I think she was actually playing with something on top of the glass which I must have noticed peripherally but not for sure and then we asked her to clean up her things so we could walk and she balked and procrastinated and was only somewhat obeying and was doing the look at you while not obeying thing and that was irritating, too — anyway, we put her in a nice long timeout and we took all the extant toys to the basement.

And instituted a new rule. One I’ve been meaning to have anyway, but have been uncertain about how to apply and enforce without unnecessary strictness and stifling.

Before getting out a new toy, put away the previous one. Where it goes, not just in a convenient place nearby. And if you want to use a container that’s already being used, find a different one for its contents first. And be sure to switch things back when done.

But there’s nothing wrong with playing with multiple toys — the Little People and some stuffed animals can frolic in the house made of blocks, or the checkers can be pretend cookies made with the kitchen set and served on the tea set. So — maybe a limit of three toys at once? Or some such… She has such a tendency to just go from one thing to another and back again, so it’s not obvious to her or to us when she’s done playing with something. And of course if we ask, she says she’s still playing with it, or leaves the more recent thing to go back to it. It can get circular — just ask about the thing just left.

And the new rule will require a little more vigilance on my part — which I am not looking forward to, but which I think will be good for us.

Also: A tip — when grumpy (especially if the grumpiness is due to a frustrating task like trying to figure out how to sew a lining onto a knit item), don’t keep pushing through — get up and do something else.

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