How do you get your child to tidy their room? Or more importantly, how do you get your children not to habitually wreck the room in the first place? I've been a parent for twelve years and I still haven't found the a solution to this quandary. I am not even sure there is one. I have heard of mythical children who are clean, neat and tidy, but I'm not entirely sure I believe in them. Even my autistic kids, who should be anal clean-freaks, aren't capable of being in a room for more than ten minutes without destroying it. I have tried bribery, guilt, corruption and death threats but it seems there is no force greater in the universe than the compulsion of a child to live in cuddly-toy induced squalor.
I do try to keep particularly messy activities like painting, playdough etc, away from the kids' bedrooms. Craft-type things are done at the dining table, but my kids have are very practiced at spreading the devastation throughout the house. The glueing and sticking phase was enlightening. Who knew the ingenuity of two-year-olds when it comes to finding interesting places to stick random pieces of Argos catalogue? I was mildly freaked out when, months later, I was finding tiny pictures of remote control cars behind furniture and Charlie's effigies of Iggle Piggle, glued to the inside of my knicker drawer.
Then there were the glitter trials. With hindsight, providing a fairy-obsessed six-year-old (Nicki) with a brand new glitter sprinkler wand wasn't the best plan. I left her at the table in her pink tutu, happily sprinkling 'fairy dust' on her magical castle picture with her magic wand. When I returned, the fairy princess was gone, but the dining room was very... er...shiny. As was the rest of the house. She had managed to cover the dining room, living room, three flights of stairs and her bedroom carpet before being intercepted by the wicked hoover monster (me). She tried to appeal that the carpets were much prettier this way and was not a happy fairy when I didn't agree with her. It didn't matter though, because glitter is one of the hardest things to successfully hoover up, and so along with the interesting Argos catalogue decor, we also had sparkly carpets, shoes and feet for months. Stig and I are Noddy and and Big Ears, welcome to Toyland.
If you had asked me years ago, what the single worse thing in my house was, I'd have said Playdough, in a heartbeat. But I'd have been wrong. You survive the playdough nightmare once or twice, maybe even a third time you'll be foolish enough to think that they're old enough now, to be trusted not to mulsh it all together in one big shit-coloured mass and proceed to smear it over the walls / furniture / each other. But eventually, weary and battle-fatigued, you will resolve never to buy the evil material again, and that's the end of it. The beauty of Playdough is that everybody knows it's evil. Only a half-wit (or non-parent) would give playdough as a gift to someone else's children, and there-in lies our saviour.
The bain of my life, however, is beads. Yes, beads, the toy that maims. The injuries that have been caused in this house because of bloody beads. Not to mention a good few hoovers we've knackered. Our house has not been bead-free in about ten years. They're everywhere! Multicoloured and all shapes and sizes. Square ones, SQUARE ones??? They hurt the most, it's like standing on an upturned plug. The tiny round ones are impossible to pick up and get wedged between your toes. Broken glass beads are a particularly fun thing to encounter on your way to the loo in the middle of the night. The amount of unecessary bloodshed we have endured because of childrens' fashion jewellery.
From bitter experience Big Ears will no longer let me within a ten foot radius of a bead-sighting with the hoover. They're in the radiators, the sofa's are full of them, the washing has to be shaken out before I put it in the machine, it's a constant ghastly nightmare.
So for those of you who think buying a nice little jewellery-making set is a thoughtful, harmless present; a word of advice, please check with whichever parent is responsible for the hoover before inflicting this misery upon them. Perhaps try something that can't be spread all over the house, like a nice cuddly toy, preferably one that doesn't sing at ninety decibels in an american accent or cause you to shit youself everytime you walk past it by shreiking at you.