Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Applying Structured Teaching Principles to Home Organization

After several hundred hours of picking up toys around our house, I have finally come up with several ways to encourage my boys to clean up after themselves.  It also helps me know where their toys are when they request them as that happens all the time! 

For their playroom, I purchased three large tubs for the barn & farm toys, fire trucks & emergency vehicles, and rockets & airplanes.  I simply labeled each tub with picture icons printed on self-adhesive shipping labels. 

The labels make it easy for the boys and their playmates to help in the clean-up process.   
After recognizing the success of these tubs, I went garage sale hunting and found a colorful drawer set that store our dress up clothes, shields and swords, and pretend construction tools.  

I also labeled other things in the playroom with self-adhesive shipping labels such as cardboard blocks, stuffed animals, and board games. 

By organizing the boys toys in this manner, I have found they are able to pick something to play with and stick with it longer.  Think about your desk at the office. How would you get anything done if you couldn’t find what you needed to work on?  Not only did the organization help improve the boy’s play skills but it also helped them practice a very important life skill of being organized and cleaning up after themselves.  Even our 2 1/2 year old has gotten the hang of ‘helping’ clean up.  

Instructor's Insight:  To help your child communicate what he/she would like to play, velcro a set of icons to the top of the shipping labels you attached to your toy tubs and bins.  Your child can then bring the icon to you when wanting to play with something specific.  This trick especially works well if the child can't open or reach the tubs or bins used to the store the toys. For more instructions on this and similar techniques, check out Teresa A. Cardon’s book entitled Initiations and Interactions: Early Intervention Techniques for Parentsof Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Another solution may be to put an aided language board in the room at easy access so your child can make requests like asking for help, asking for more, asking to be all done, or make comments. 

It's similar to the of P.O.D.D (Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display) philosophy.  For more information regarding P.O.D.D., check out the work of Gayle Porter, Linda Burkhart or my earlier post on aided language boards.  

In order to make life easier in the family room, I took the advice of my oldest son’s Parent Educator, Miss Pat. When he was 18 months, I cleaned out one of the cabinets in our kitchen island and designated it as the toy cabinet for all his upstairs toys.  It worked out so well that I cleaned out the other two cabinets in the island for me and my husband’s things. Then when Payton came along, I cleaned out my cabinet and donated it to him for all his baby toys and manipulatives.  Recently, I added names to the cabinets using scrapbook stickers.

For fear of scaring you, I did not take pictures of the cabinets' insides as the boys literally have them jam packed with toys. However, this has been the best method for holding all their toys.  Now when someone comes over we don’t have all their toys cluttering up the front room.  Best of all, when it is time for bed each night they are able to independently clean up after themselves.  This method also teaches the boys personal responsibility as the rule is the items in your cabinet are off limits to your brother.  If you choose to leave your items out, they are fair game for your brother to play with.

Moving on to some other home organization features, the boys’ bedrooms also have specific places and locations for toys.  Each of them has a nine square Closetmaid shelf that you can get at Home Depot or Target.  They truly are my favorite organization solution.  Payton’s has different colored fabric boxes in it. EJ’s has the same colored boxes with little writing labels. 

Again making the boys responsible for their belongings and making their rooms easy to manage.  

Note: One more rule in our house is that their rooms are picked up each night before they go to bed. Now, the playroom is a different story!  We don’t pick it up daily. But depending on the train wreck that is the playroom and who will be coming over to the house, it is either picked up weekly or even biweekly.  However, everything does have its space in there too. Making picking up easy and manageable when the time comes.  

Our home has really evolved as the boys grow and their interests change.  For example, in our office space right now we have a small child’s sized table with Legos beside it. It's been an extreme interest of our two year old.  This gives him a place to play while mommy or daddy are doing school work on the computer.  

The Lego box was a gift from Aunt Christie.  It is so clever. It stores Legos by size.    He is also interested in playdoh so I have several playdoh tools and kits stored behind the lounge chair in the office.  It's easy access for me and Doug to get out for him but not visually available to him.  

Our six year old is very into making projects right now with everything from duct tape, to Velcro, to markers, paints, and scissors. Therefore, in the office space I have also added a chest that stores all sorts of art supplies.  

And more recently we have added a space that holds his finished projects or projects he would like to continue working on.  My OCD would often kick in and I would throw his projects away or put them away before he was done so now I have cleaned out a drawer in our coffee table for him to store them. 

Before moving out of the office, I want to share with you a mommy space.  Under my computer desk, I have two fabric boxes one for future blog posts & presentation items and one for future classroom projects.  I also store my school bag under there so I have it at easy access when I get a chance to work.  

Now moving into the entertainment room where there are two more features to share. Under our wet bar, I have three cabinets.  One stores extra blankets and pillows while the other two hold puzzles and game boards.  Organized like a true teacher, one cabinet has lower level games like Candy Land and Memory and the other one has higher level games like Monopoly, Pay Day, and Yahtzee.   

Lastly, I would like to share an extreme interest for both boys.  They both love to watch cartoons and movies.  But they always do it in McDaniel boy fashion...they dress up like the characters they are watching whether it be Spiderman, Captain America or the bunny from HOP.  I store all their costumes in a large fabric Thomas Chest that my mom picked up at Toys R Us last year for Christmas.  

I used to have all their costumes in the playroom. But to save myself time, I put them in this tub by the TV so they can independently find what they want and clean up after themselves when they are finished.  They tend to want to dress up like the superhero or any other character they are watching on TV so this really helps!

Ohhh...I geek out when I think of all the amazing things you can do to structure your home!! Yes, I am a little anal but it saves me a lot of time and teaches the boys some great life skills along the way.  It all relates back to the theories of Structured Teaching...building independence and success for all.  

To learn more about this technique, check out the presentation I created for TASN regarding Structured Teaching in the home.  Unfortunately, I don’t have clearance to share the video footage but hopefully you will gather ideas from the text and pictures. 

Join me next week as I'll be sharing how we structured up the home of a little girl who has significant needs to make a world of difference for her, her family and her care providers.

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