A Game Called: “Where It Goes”

     Annie is four and a half.  She leaves toys and messes wherever she goes!
     Yesterday I cleaned up all her toys, putting all the little pieces of her games in their right places all over the house.  Then I showed her my big “surprise”!  All her toys were in their right places!  Shockingly, she exclaimed, “All my lost toys!  You found them!”  That shows how big of a deal it is that a child’s things are in their right places.  They cannot even conceptualize that they have a game that is just spread out.
     Then I said, “I have a new game for you!”  She was so excited.  “What’s it called?”  she asked.
    “Where It Goes,” I responded.
     I had her sit on the floor and close her eyes, the way many fun games begin.  Then I took one toy from the toy kitchens area, one doll dress, one hanger from the closet, and one brush, and I put them in a pile in the center of her room.  “Open your eyes!”  I exclaimed.  I told her, “I know that you know where SOME of these things go.  But if you can put ALL of them away, you get a sticker.”  She put one thing up.  I cajoled, “Yeah, well that’s just one.  But I bet you can’t get the next one!”  And so forth.  The other girls were watching all this, and Leigh was giddy with excitement every time Annie put something in the right place.  They share a room, and Leigh has been constantly frustrated that Annie won’t put things away.  None of us, really, could believe it, that Annie was doing it!
     When she got the last one in its right place, we all shouted, “Hooray!!!  She won the game!!!”  I told her we could get her a sticker.  She said, “Can I earn special time instead?”  The older kids earn 10 points to get time out alone with one parent.  I said, “Are you old enough for special time??  Okay!!”  And she squealed with delight.
     The truly amazing thing is that she asked several times that afternoon, “Can we play Where It Goes again?”  She even cried, telling me that Mary would not play Where It Goes with her!
     The even more amazing thing is that this morning, she took a cup out of the drawer, handled it a bit, and then set it down and started to walk away.  I said, “Oh Annie, let’s play Where It Goes!  Where does it go?”  She put it back where it belongs.  I cheered, “Yay!!!!  You did it!!!!  You won a special time point!!”  And she ran and hugged me, and I tickled her and she laughed hard.  She is so, so proud of herself.  She also won another point when Leigh took her upstairs to get leggings to wear under her dress.  Leigh reported, “Annie took a bunch pif clothes out of her drawer, looking for the leggings.  Once she found some, she put them on.  But then, playing the game, she put all her remaining clothes back in the drawer and closed the drawer!”  Leigh was as thrilled as Annie, because now Leigh’s room is still straight.
    We all win!!  It was an all day endeavor.  It took me a long time to get the toys where they belonged in the first place.  And then, adding things like hangers and clothes made it seem “upper level” or “advanced” to Annie.  But it was a big undertaking for me.  I had to get my will in line, and push through the big effort.  But it worked!  And now we have a family game to play, instead of tears and time outs, for the next several years until Annie is as good as all the older children at keeping their belongings in the right places.  Hooray!!  Hurdle cleared!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!