toddler talk Society

That self-regenerating mess

The worst-affected surface, of course, is the floor. On the really, really bad days, when your kid has had friends over to play, even picking a path through the junk can be difficult.  

Confession — I buy too many toys for my daughter. I buy far too much of everything for her — toys, books, puzzles, stickers, crayons and paints. It’s strange; I was never much into shopping in my pre-parenting days, but have turned into a regular shopper-zilla post motherhood.

So, as I clean up the mega mess in my drawing room at the end of the day, I’m painfully aware that I’m largely responsible for it myself. “Who the heck asked you to buy her that doll house with a million tiny pieces of furniture?” I mutter, as I crawl under the sofa to retrieve a mini lampshade.

Yes, I talk to myself. Also, I curse. Because you don’t know the true meaning of the word ‘mess’ until there’s a child in your house. Some days, I don't even recognise the flat I so lovingly decorated after marriage, under all the brightly-coloured debris. It’s like a toy shop threw up in there, all over my jute-finish sofa with its matching raw silk cushions and artsy lampshades.

There is no surface that’s safe from clutter when there’s a toddler on the loose. Sitting down on the sofa is fraught with peril because you could be impaled by anything ranging from a toy fork to a trumpet.

Setting the dining table for dinner involves first shoving aside crayons, hairclips and doll accessories to make room for the plates. And you always have to make allowances for sleeping teddy bears and Teletubbies in your bed when you crawl into it at night, half-asleep.

The worst-affected surface, of course, is the floor. On the really, really bad days, when your kid has had friends over to play, even picking a path through the junk can be difficult. No matter how hard you try, you will slip on a Dora book or trip over a tower of blocks, which will then come crashing down and make the mess worse.

Add to the toy clutter the general kid clutter of biscuit crumbs, discarded sippy cups, and abandoned shoes, and you have a disaster zone that could make Rambo cry.

A friend with small kids once suggested designing a motorised shovel to scoop and dump the worst of the mess into toy boxes. I think it’s a brilliant idea, and she should patent it. The only problem with that technique of toy clearing, however, is that the mess has simply been moved, and now lies lurking within the toy boxes. When morning comes around, your toddler will be tearfully searching for that one little missing Hello Kitty doll (part of an entire set of Hello Kitty’s extended family members and friends) and you won’t be able to find it anywhere. You’ll look under the bed and in the shoe cupboard, in the magazine rack, the laundry basket, and even the dustbin (because, based on toddler logic, these are the places where favourite toys are typically stashed). Finally, in desperation, you’ll turn the toy boxes inside out and there you’ll find Ms. Kitty, tucked into one corner, hidden under the malfunctioning Angry Bird. Voila! Your room is now back to being in exactly the same state as it was the previous night, before the toy scooper-upper went into action.

And so, I sort. I sit on my stool, surrounded by chaos, and I sort the toys by type and put them into baskets of different sizes. I painstakingly collect and put together pieces of picnic sets and doll families. Now that my daughter’s a little older, she plays the role of helper, picking up and putting away along with me (rewarded by copious amounts of praise). The only problem is that she’s prone to distraction, and instead of the mini dining table set going into the doll house, it becomes part of a pretend game involving the Hello Kitty family. I don’t have the heart to break up the fun, and so the mess grows, as one by one all the toys we just put away come right back out again...

Oh well. At least I tried.


- Brightly coloured plastic boxes and baskets are great for sorting toys.

- Putting toys away with your toddler can be a good joint activity for both.

- When it all gets too much, you could try taking a solemn vow to not buy any more toys for the next year or so (let me know how that works out).

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 11:40:05 PM |

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