The One with the Label Maker

What is your fondest childhood memory?

I’m sure some of you would recall playing on the streets with your neighbors after (escaping) the dreaded siesta, watching a cartoon in one of the local channels, riding the bicycle, playing patintero and piko, or collecting and exchanging teks or pogs. We all have that memory that makes us smile or laugh, and on stressful days, we look back and think of how amazing our childhood has been… we learned a lot through bruising our knees and losing some games, right?

As parents, we try to recreate that feeling of childhood fun and play with our children. As much as we want them to do well in school, we also want to develop in them a sense of balance by allowing them to be just kids. “The days are long but the years are short,” so they say. Before we know it, our kids are already teenagers, (something I am so not ready for yet!) so we want to give them the experience of playing only children their age can enjoy.   

Many parents nowadays give their children their own space in the house, a space where they can be just kids: to explore, learn, and discover on their own while having a lot of fun. Allow me to share with you one of the biggest playrooms we ever did as a #NeatProject, and the things I was reminded of while we were in it.

Before #NeatProject

This huge room is a feast to the eyes of children and adults alike. For a child, this room gives a feeling of overjoy, very similar to that of a feeling created by a toy store: the child would want to play with everything at once, but would want to scrutinize the toys one at a time, too. For an adult, this room triggers precious memories, back to those good old days when #adulting is not a thing yet.

With two girls sharing this playroom with their only brother, one would notice the collection of dolls and the number of dollhouses and play kitchen dominating the space. The boy on the other hand had legos and toy cars, and both had their musical instruments and art materials.

While we were planning for the new layout of the playroom, something caught our attention…

Look closely at the bins seated on top of the shelf on the left side of this photo. They are already labelled.

Those labelled bins are for the American Girl Dolls. Each of the accessories that came with the dolls had a separate bin – comb, clothes, shoes, tights, socks, bloomers! While sorting, we somehow felt like we were organizing a real-life closet.

On a side note, we also organized the kitchen (the real one!) after we worked on 1 ½ days in the playroom. Before we even worked on anything in the kitchen, everything was already neatly labelled in there too! Upon seeing the kitchen, I realized that since labelling is the system that works for the parents, this is the same system they want to instill in their children. No wonder there were labelled bins for the American Girls Dolls, and there were colorful bins for the other toys in the playroom.

Here’s my take on placing labels in the kids’ rooms, especially in the playroom:

When we place labels in our kids’ rooms, we don’t want to make stiff and rigid robots out of them. We don’t impose perfection and a hundred percent squeaky clean room through labels, and make them reasons to punish our children one day for not following rules and instructions.

Instead, we develop in them a sense of responsibility, so that they grow up knowing where to put things back where they found them, and ultimately, to not take things which are not theirs or without permission, in the case of toys being labelled with names of their siblings.

In addition, we also subtly teach them the value of taking care of what is given to them. By putting things back where they should be, the kids are trained to read, to be aware, and to take care of everything they are entrusted with, because in reality, they will not be given toys every single day of their lives… when they grow up, they will not be able to buy everything they want from the store. It is important that at a young age, they understand how taking care of what they have is much more valuable than wanting to have more.

Because of this, we can also teach our children to share.

With all these taken into consideration, we now transform a play area into a learning area: it’s not just a place where kids can be just kids, but a place where kids can be responsible kids.

Things take toll on us parents. At times, we get crazy with the idea of a messy playroom or living room. While it can be overwhelming, we can introduce small steps that our children can manage so that while we put our attention to more important things such as ironing their uniform and polishing their shoes for the next school day, someone else in the house would take care of putting the dolls’ clothes and shoes back where they should be. More beautifully, when our house help is doing something else for our kids, we can count on our kids to do this small task for themselves.

This post is not just for parents whose houses have huge playrooms. It doesn’t really matter how huge your playroom is. In truth, it doesn’t really matter whether you have a playroom or none. What is important is that we parents provide an area, a space, or an environment where our children do not just express their creativity and skills. It is important that the space we give them brings out their responsibility towards their own space and the things in it without making them feel that they are punished.

When we start them young, cleaning up and organizing, as well as being trustworthy and responsible, will not be foreign ideas to them as they grow up.

After #NeatProject

In time, they will tell about stories of how their childhood taught them to be nice and kind to themselves and to others too, because they learned these through taking care of what toys they have, no matter how little they are…

Stay Neat Everyone!