I remember when I was a young mom of 4. It was pretty overwhelming at times! I felt I was drowning in toys and laundry and kitchen mess! I struggled with clutter and chaos. I read books and would do better for a while but would slip back into overwhelm. Overall, we had so much fun as a family and I feel I did a good job as a parent; and I want to pass on some things I wish I knew then!
CLUTTER-You can't organize clutter. All the plastic tubs and baskets in the world won't help if there is just too much stuff! (Or too much stuff out.) Purging regularly is the only way to have peace. Think of who you will bless by giving it away. If nothing else, realize that if it is not bringing your family joy regularly, it is bringing stress. Nothing is neutral. Too many choices is overwhelming.
CHAOS-Chaos isn't fun! It's NO fun to have to dig through a huge toy box trying to find the pieces to play with a toy, And you definitely can't using learning toys for what they are designed for if the pieces are missing. In order to teach toddlers independence, things need to be organized and easy for them to pull out and play independently with, as well as to learn to put them back.
ROTATE-Rotate the toys and books! Make the space visually sparse so that it is fun to choose a toy, book or learning activity. Pull out a few books and put them in a book basket that the child can reach. Organize 2 or 3 toys on a shelf at their eye level and put the rest up high, out of sight and out of mind- to be pulled out another day and rotated in. It's like having all new toys and books every week! Imagine how much faster clean up time will be!
ROUTINE-Start establishing routines for everything. Routines free us and the child from having to exert the moral effort of decision! When your days runs on the rails of routine, there is room in the mind for creativity, patience and joy.
SING IT!-Using songs works well for establishing routines. For example, sing and show them you are having fun cleaning up. I did this with my 2 year old granddaughter the other day-I sang, (making it up as I go-don't be a perfectionist!) "Clean up! Clean up! Everybody clean up! When we pick our toys up, everything is tidy!" I sang it only a few times that day, but the next day her parents said, "oh that's what she was singing when she put all her tub toys away!"
The peace and joy that comes with order instead of chaos is worth building some routines. Don't try to build more than one at a time though. Just pick one routine a week and reinforce it well. I hope these tips will help you optimize your environment for happy play and effective learning!