Teaching with Legos! How to Look Beyond the Mess February 22, 2017 By Bekki Leave a Comment This content may contain affiliate links.Sometimes going up the stairs is enough to ruin your day. I haven’t been upstairs in a long time. I couldn’t. A stubborn foot surgery made it too painful. Thankfully, my boys are all older than 10-years-old and fully capable of taking care of the upper floor. These boys of mine are so perfectly obedient and orderly. They’ve been doing their chores with a smile for months now. No complaints. (Sure, Bekki) Every single time I ask them if the upstairs is clean, I receive the same, “Yes, mom.” Well, this morning, there was a need. I had to go up. One of my kids was sick; really sick. So I went upstairs to bring him medicine, fluids, and make sure he was comfortable. Imagine the shock. Exhibit #1 Exhibit #2 Oh, dear Lord. Exhibit #3 Does this look clean to you? Nope. Not to me either. I gracefully flipped out. (Yes, that’s possible.) Simply whisper and reprimand your children with a scary smile. I stomped downstairs on my hurting foot and whispered my “scariest whisper” to my youngest sons. “In 24-hours, I am going upstairs with a black garbage bag and I will clean everything myself. Consider yourself warned.” The color drained from my kids’ faces. “What about the Legos?” I could see the very real panic on their faces. They should panic. I meant business. Does this ever happen to you? You think everything is fine and dandy and then you see it. The area in your home, your homeschool, or your life that appears to have been hit by a nuclear bomb. How did this happen? Where have you been? Recovering from something physical: Surgery, sickness, childbirth? Blindsided by life: a death, a divorce, the loss of a job? Stuck in an unexplainable mental fog? I want to encourage you to take a deep breath. Step back and take a really close look at the chaos, the aftermath, the clutter. You might be surprised. I was. When I returned upstairs to medicate my sick son again, I stood there shaking my head at the mess. I couldn’t believe how terrible it was. And then I saw it. Is that the beginning of organization? Maybe the boys spread the Legos out for a reason… I took an even deeper breath and looked around. The entire upstairs wasn’t a disaster. There were simply Legos spread out all over the floor. Maybe I was over-reacting? Related: Teaching Better Organization Having a nasty flu run through the house is enough to make me a “super grumpy mom”. I decided to dish out some grace. I walked back downstairs and hugged the boys. I smiled and said, “I over-reacted to the Lego mess. You may keep them out for a few days while your brother is getting better.” Big smiles came from ‘sons that are growing up entirely too fast’. The next time I looked at the Lego pile, my breath was taken away. Is that order rising from chaos? I didn’t have too long to linger- my sick son had a 103 fever and needed more attention. The next day, my son was still sick. But look what was happening. I suddenly felt like I was living in the children’s story The Elves and the Shoemaker. Every time I went upstairs, the kids were nowhere to be seen. The Legos were sitting there alone. But things had changed. My heart changed. My heart melted. I felt like the Grinch when “his heart grew three sizes” in one day. I saw order. Careful planning. And hours and hours of focus, concentration, order and design. Suddenly, the mess no longer mattered. At. All. My kids were hard at work creating order from chaos. I began to look forward to getting a sneak peek into their minds. It was beautiful. Challenge: Take a look at your own chaos with new eyes. Mama, I’m not promising that all disasters will suddenly turn into something wonderful. That would be like me expecting my kids to keep 1000 square feet clean without my supervision for a few months. Ridiculous. Does your brain short-circuit when there’s too much clutter? Yeah, mine does too. I firmly believe in organization, cleanliness, and order. Teaching kids to organize is a valuable life-skill. As a homeschooler, this is vitally important. Your kids need to be able to sort, classify, divide, separate, and organize. This ability will spread into all areas of their lives and help them be more and more successful. But it takes practice. And Patience. And yes, sometimes it begins with a mess. Steps to Teaching Kids to Organize If they can dump it out, they can put it back. From the time your kids dump out their basket of toys, teach them to put those same toys back in the basket. Sing the clean-up song, hold their little hand and “help them”. Require that they help clean up their messes, but make it fun. Sort. Teach kids to look at a big mess and sort it into piles. Books in this pile, clothes in another. Dolls in one pile (not in my house) and cars in another. Start with big categories. Organize. Once they have separated their mess into piles, they can be instructed on the next step. Clean laundry-away. Dirty laundry-into a hamper. Books-on the shelf. Until the room or area is clean. Practice. Learning to organize takes practice. I didn’t learn this skill as a child. I had to have a professional organizer help me. I still have to practice the art of organization. Teamwork. While your kids are learning how to clean and organize, it’s best to either work with them side-by-side or be nearby. A kid’s brain can easily short-circuit while doing a large task. Even older kids. I’ve found that when I’m nearby coaching (or simply talking with them) they are more successful. Consequences. If your kids continually create disasters or have attitudes about having to clean up, you will want to have natural consequences ready to dish out. My kids lose their “stuff” if they leave it out. If I say I will take it away, I follow through. I have given toys away, confiscated toys for long periods of time. And yes, even “black bagged” a few things for the trash. Grace. I try to use grace whenever possible. This is undeserved, unearned, favor. Sometimes, your kids just need a break- a second chance. Life Skills are learned Best from Play Many people believe children need to play less and study more. I am not one of those people. I believe children need: a childhood a lot of time outside to be bored access to building materials like Legos, sticks, sofas and blankets, and pop cycle sticks When kids have the ability to play, pretend, manipulate toys and building materials and they are taught how to care for their things and their environment, they are better prepared for life and learning. Our Favorite Lego Sets and Organizational Tools Lay-n-Go 2-in-1 Portable Drawstring Lego Storage Organizer LEGO Park Playmat ALL the Star Wars. Yes. ALL LEGO Flower Bouquet Mini Figure display case Order Can Rise from Disorder The same child who helped dump all the Legos, sort them, organize and create an army created this reference sheet for math. He decided that math had a chaotic amount of vocabulary, rules, and tricks to remember so he created a guide for himself. I didn’t tell him to do this. I didn’t teach him this skill. He learned this while dumping, sorting, and organizing his Legos. I am so glad I didn’t grab that Black garbage bag!