Tidy Kids – Is this an Oxymoron?

The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 44 – 23rd August 2007

Welcome to Kidz Newz especially to all new subscribers.  Kidz Newz is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children.  You are receiving this because you have attended one of my workshops, purchased a book, or you have requested to be on the mailing list.  Thank you.  Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to.

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New Book

The much anticipated second book in the Kidz-Fiz-Biz series has finally arrived!  It is called Kidz-Fiz-Biz MULTICULTURAL.  Subtitle is ‘learning about other cultures through drama, dance and song’.  All the rhymes, fingerplays and music are in foreign languages with translation into English.  It contains loads of activities and is fully illustrated.  The music is fantastic and I’m sure teachers and children alike will find it great fun. 

For details of this and other products, please go to www.kidzfizbiz.com.

Tidy Kids ‘ Is this an Oxymoron?

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, since most of the readers of Kidz Newz are teachers or those in the childcare industry with lots of practices in place to ensure that tidying up is never an issue. On the off-chance, however, that you still struggle in this area and would like a few more tips, here is my take on the whole issue.

Firstly, it is certainly not difficult for a child or even a group of children, to put things away after they’ve used them, so no, the concept of tidy kids is not an oxymoron.  It all depends on the expectation that is made of the children and consequently what they expect of themselves. In teaching them to be responsible for packing away their things you are teaching them about responsibility in general.

Have a designated time for outdoor play, for indoor play, for music time, for reading time and so on.  The younger the child, the more they thrive on routine. Allow the child or children to participate in the preparation of the activity (depending on what it is, of course, and on the setting). Even a toddler can understand that when you’ve finished with an activity that you pack away. The toys don’t simply disappear afterwards as if by magic. Be involved in the process of packing away by making the exercise fun and a natural part of playing.  If the child is very young (a toddler, for example), then only have one or two integrated activities available at any one time. If you put out any more than that it’s unreasonable to expect the child to feel anything other than confusion and overwhelm when it comes to packing away. Sing a simple song such as ‘This is the way we pack away, pack away, pack away, this is the way we pack away, early in the morning/late on Tuesday morning/the toys go in the toybox/the books go in the bookcase” etc. to the tune of ‘Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush’. A toddler loves the repetition, the rhyme, the melody and the rhythm of the song. Older children (pre-schoolers) will love joining in the singing and will enjoy the activity for the same reason as the toddlers. They will recognize that that’s the expectation. Praise them afterwards for being so willingly involved in this packing away activity. A toddler with no verbal language can understand the praise involved in your enthusiastic smile, tone of voice and clapping of hands as you say ‘Good boy!/Good girl!’. For a classroom situation, similar appropriate praise must apply. The reason for the packing away has to be because an equally exciting activity is about to follow so the sooner we pack away the better. When any activity is fun and enjoyable you have a far greater chance of co-operation than when you use threats, a harsh tone of voice or words such as ‘because I say so’.

Where most problems occur is at home when children are expected to keep their rooms tidy. The cartoon strip ‘Zits’ illustrates the frustration of the parents, especially the mother, with Jeremy’s general untidiness. Even with teenagers, problems don’t have to arise if you use the same principles as outlined above. Give the child only as much responsibility as he or she is capable of handling. Be involved in helping until the child has the satisfaction of being able to do it ‘all by myself’ and with great pride. In time, more toys, books and ‘stuff’ can go in the room for the child to keep tidy. Have a dirty clothes basket in the room so the child learns the routine of putting soiled clothes there instead of on the floor. At the end of the week the child can bring the basket into the laundry. It doesn’t really matter where the clothes basket is so long as they understand that the clothes don’t get washed and back in the cupboard by magic ‘ someone washes them because they’re in the clothes basket. Habit is a wonderful teacher where children are concerned.

As they get into upper primary and secondary school age, allow them to choose how their room is to be decorated. This way they are far more likely to want to keep it tidy. A five-year-old will have just as much thrill at choosing a themed bedroom.

Finally, keep it in perspective. Often teenagers go through a rebellious stage. Isn’t it better that their form of rebellion is a slightly untidy room than a more serious form of expression? If their room is their only place to feel the freedom of expression and to feel in total control, then is it really necessary to insist on 100% perfection in the tidiness stakes? They need to understand the consequences of their mess impinging on the rest of the household, but inside the privacy of their room, is their mess a huge problem or a minor one in the overall scheme of things? After all, they leave home in the blink of an eye and lo and behold, they set up their own homes which, after a while, become places you’d be proud to bring your friends!

Quotes of the Week

When you praise a child, focus on an accomplishment rather than on the small person.  Thus you encourage good works instead of mere egotism.  George W. Crane

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I’ll remember, involve me and I’ll understand.  source unknown

People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be ‘ not what you nag them to be.  source unknown


CLINTON  (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, “I don’t know what’ll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in?”


It was fantastic.  I enjoyed the music and dances from other countries.                                
Doris Key – attended ECCPA session

I have workshopped “nephew’s wedding” in all of 6 prep classes and 6 year 1 classes and they have all loved it. I have further developed the grandfather’s role in the dance, so that he can display his disgust at watching his wife flash her knickers. We have had lots of fun.     
Leonnie Marchment

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

57 Henry Lawson Walk, East Perth WA 6004
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: 0410 64 2781 E: info@kidzfizbiz.com

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Until next time – continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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