How to organize a kids messy Spark Station

by Mary Ann on November 20, 2010

children reading picture
Rule 4  Keep it simple. When you add an item remove an item

When I talk with parents about their use of a learning space of any kind one thing that repeatedly pops up is the difficulty in keeping order. Boy, I sure know about that. Although I had no name for it I have used a system like The Spark Station on and off for almost forty years. Sometimes it was just wonderful and other times it was such a mess that I just wanted to throw it all out. Looking back I began to wonder what caused the mess and chaos and how could a space be kept fairly manageable all the time so that it is usable for children.

father kids playing  pictures

We  touched this when we learned about Rule 2, being present. When a parent is present they can help maintain order. However, children aren’t usually the culprits when The Spark Station is a mess. The parents are. Chaos happens when The Spark Station is too full, when we have too much stuff. I want you to remember that inspiring children isn’t about quantity; it is all about the quality of our interaction and relationships with them. That being said lets look at some specifics of rule four.

You are free to fill your Spark Station in a way that leaves everything visible and easy to reach and put away; when you have reached that point STOP. After that, if you add a new item you need to remove an item. Look at the contents. Is there any item that hasn’t been used for a while? If so remove it. You can put it back into general circulation in your children’s playroom for everyone to use or you can store it away in a box to be used again later.

Family reading together pictures

You will find it interesting that when an item is placed in The Spark Station it takes on a new vitality for children, regardless of how long the item has been around. So you can put things in, take them out and put them in again. Take books on your own library shelves for example. There are books that probably rarely get read. When you put them in The Spark Station your children will most likely read them or want you to read them. After a week or so take one or two out and replace them with one or two more.

Sometimes you’ll put some really great materials in The Spark Station that you just know your kids are going to love, and then they don’tmessy closet picture love it, they don’t even ask about it. That is OK. Get your ego out of the way. Just take it out after a week or two and save it for another time.

You want to make sure that you do not overload your Spark Station. No one will engage in chaos.

It is helpful to reevaluate the contents of your Spark Station on a regular basis, about every 6 months. Are there any toys that your smaller children have outgrown? Are there games that are not being used, curriculum that is completed, odds and ends that are taking up space, cool stuff like sewing supplies or leather working supplies that have just lost their luster for your kids? Then purge them; take them out and replace them. Nothing in The Spark Station is permanent. It is a constantly changing space. Don’t think that you can fill it all up and then leave it static for months. It just doesn’t work that way.

I recently purged my Spark Station. I took practically everything out. There is hardly anything left, in fact. There are the materials and books on rocks that my grandchildren have been studying. There are some craft supplies that are new and deal with the upcoming holiday. I left the magnets in because the children are still very interested in them. When they are here next I will add some information, books and supplies for the Lewis and Clark Expedition which we have been talking about. Remember keep it simple, colorful, and interesting.

Keeping it simple applies to life. All of our lives would work far better if when our schedule was full we would just STOP. Then if we added something new we took something out. How does your current schedule look? Do you and your children spend all day in the car moving from one commitment to another? Are you so busy serving in the community or church or your work that your family gets the leftovers of your time. Is their time for play, rest, just sitting and thinking for every member of the family? Is their time to be home as a family modeling your core values, showing your children how to work, love and have joy? Have you made the tough choices between what is good and what is best for you and your family?

Let’s review keeping it simple –baby playing with toys pictures


1. Don’t over fill your Spark Station

2. Revaluate the contents regularly

3. Have a six month purge

4. Don’t rely on Spark Station content. There is no substitute for being  present and having a good relationship with your child. I highly recommend that you visit and listen to their free class called Relationship: Job 1.

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