These are obviously useful for storage but can also have a removable table top added as, of course, can any small chest or chest of drawers. Some kind of chipboard which is thick enough to be sturdy Q-inch plus) can be cut to size and fitted on the underside with a framework of batten just large enough to sit on top of the chest, and deep enough to make sure it stays there. This can be used foring and then lifted off when not needed. One cannot use the top drawer or open a lid while it is being used but it is a useful space-saver.
Even with enough shelf, drawer and cupboard space there is still the problem of using it properly and making it look reasonably pleasant. Nevertheless shelves discreetly closed off by doors, screens and curtains are usually expensive and not always practical. One useful answer is to have a set of containers which at least look as though they match and it also helps to keep small bits and pieces in some sort of order. These can be very beautiful or simply utilitarian. One can buy them but it is possible to collect a set over a period of time. Plastic one-gallon and half-gallon ice-cream tubs are useful. They are strong, have lids and best of all are square so that they fit together economically. Anyone in contact with a nursery group could probably beg the tins that powder paint is often bought in; the 5-lb size is particularly useful. Care is needed however as some are not as strong as others and one particular supplier uses tins with a very sharp inside lip edge. Good tins can be painted using an aluminium paint undercoat under gloss finish or they can be covered with vinyl wallpaper. Butchers sometimes have offal delivered in plastic tubs similar to those used for ice-cream. These need soaking in Milton solution before use. There must be many other possible containers – it is just a question of looking round and patiently collecting.
Having provided as much space as possible and some means of keeping toys andmaterials tidy, the next effort must be in helping a child to keep his play material in reasonable order and good condition. Probably the best way, possibly the only way, of achieving this is to set a good example. Checking separate pieces of a puzzle or making it up on a tray, packing bricks neatly into a box, folding dolls’ clothes, lining up toy cars can be just about the last straw for a mother who has other things to do especially if a child uses delaying tactics or just refuses point-blank to do it. Like so many of the other chores connected with children the benefit is a long-term one. Has the child won if his mother eventually picks up all the toys, or has she won by reinforcing the lesson that the toys must be put away properly however and whoever has to do it? The mother who can make a game of it, having a race, seeing who can put away fastest, sing a toy-putting-away song probably achieves more than if she just relies on being fierce.
There can be no doubt that mothers have to work harder on behalf of their children during the pre-school years than at any other time. Equally there can be no doubt that it is the most rewarding period for parents, the most important period for the child. For the mother who spares time to just stand and look, really watch what her young children are doing when they play, it can be anal experience for her as well as them.