How we handle little Legos…A follow-up to the paper clutter conversation

Well my friends, if you have children that are old enough to play with little Legos, then you have probably experienced a phenomenon of a “Lego explosion” 🙂 This phenomenon involves a central location where most of the little Legos are kept, probably a little boy’s room or a playroom, but – and this is the part that has mothers everywhere shaking their heads in confusion – it also involves the entire scope of the rest of the house, including the baby’s room, the kitchen, and every little nook and cranny of the family room. 

You may be thinking to yourself, “This is very unsafe! Don’t they know that babies put everything in their mouths and could choke on little Legos? Why don’t they just make a rule that the little Legos are not allowed to leave C’s room?”
Well, this is in fact the rule in our house – the little Legos are not to leave C’s room. What happens, though, is that C builds all sorts of lego “creations” in his room and then carries them out into the family room, the kitchen, the playroom, etc. to show to us, and then he proceeds to dismantle them and build them into something else. He really does try to keep the Legos off the floor – we’re constantly reminding him that baby Maria could choke on them and that we can’t have Legos all over the house – but inevitably, some Legos blend into the carpet and no one (except for the baby, who is crawling all over the carpet and sees every last morsel that is lying there) sees them. 
The other part of the problem is cleaning up the Legos that are in C’s room, where they are supposed to be. By the end of the afternoon, it seems like his room is covered in little Legos, which is fine since I’m glad that he plays all day and uses his imagination to build. The problem is that the task of cleaning seems so insurmountable to C that he resists doing it at the end of the day. I’ve been trying to brainstorm creative ways to help him with his clean-up task, and I started to think about what things help ME when I feel that my household chores are insurmountable! Here’s what I came up with:
1) It helps me immensely when I break my household tasks into smaller, separate pieces. If I have three “cleaning goals” for the week, then I can do one each day and feel like I’ve accomplished part of my goal, or I can do them all at once and feel really great about checking three things off of my list! In C’s case, it helps him if I say, “Why don’t you clean up the blocks first, then your cars, and then we can get to your Legos.”
2) I am always encouraged when someone offers to help me with my tasks! When ET washes the dishes or does the vacuuming, boy does that make my week that much more manageable!! So, usually I sit with C and say, “Okay, let’s have a race to see who can pick up the most Legos!” or “You clean up the cars and I’ll do the Legos, and we’ll see who wins.”
3) If at all possible, it’s nice to have some sort of a distraction while cleaning. In my more grace-filled moments I’ll pray the rosary while cleaning, but more often I tend to chat on the phone while doing the dishes, or listen to music while I’m cleaning the bathrooms. This makes me think that maybe I’ll start telling C a story or playing some kid’s music for him while he cleans up.
At the end of it all, I want C to clean up because I want him to learn to be responsible for his toys, I want him to learn that having toys is a privilege, and I want him to learn the value of following a task through to completion (part of playing is cleaning up when you’re done). But I also realize that when I’m completely authoritarian in enforcing the rules, I am not helping him to cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the huge (in his eyes) task before him. We’ll just have to keep working on keeping Legos out of the other parts of our home – I’m sure that we’ll be fighting that battle for years to come! – but for now, I hope that we can at least move towards a more pleasant cleaning up time at the end of the day.
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