We have A LOT of toys and therapeutic materials at my learning house, Le Chemin ABA. We have 10 children that share materials and spend a lot of time learning, progressing and playing every week! We have a ton of fun and I am thankful for all of the learning moments that that we share at my center, however, all of this fun means that we make quite a mess sometimes! When 10 children are sharing a space, it is really important to make sure that a plan is in place to keep toys clean and to make sure that the space is in tip-top shape so that everyone can enjoy it! 🙂
Why is keeping toys clean so important in an autism home or classroom?
Cleanliness in an autism home or classroom, or any place welcoming kids with special needs, is really important for many reasons.
- Our little ones are often even more sensitive to germs and picking up viruses than other children.
- Children with autism and other special needs tend to put toys in their mouths. This makes spreading germs, and picking up viruses, even easier.
- Children with autism and other special needs sometimes put their hands in their mouths. This also contributes to spreading and picking up germs.
- Some children with special needs may try to eat things that they find lying around a space. This can be dangerous as well as unsanitary.
Steps to keeping toys clean :
- Make sure that toys are easily accessible and organized. I use pull-out bins and baskets to organize our toys and therapeutic materials. Everything is organized by activity or by toy category. For example, all the toys that are needed to play a farm sensory game are kept in one bin together. All the pieces for a specific puzzle are together. All of the small, light-up reinforcers are in one bin together. This type of organization increases functional communication and also makes it much easier when keeping toys clean.
- Create a cleaning basket filled with organic essential oils. I use essential oils to keep our toys clean as much as possible. My favorite essential oils are lavender, eucalyptus, citronella, lime, sweet orange and peppermint for keeping toys clean. Simply add 250ml of water and 15-20 drops of essential oil (or oils – you can also mix these!) to a spray bottle. You can spray directly onto toys and therapy tools and wipe with a damp sponge or paper towel. (Note : I only use organic essential oils so that I am sure that everything we are breathing in my center is natural and clean.)
- Clean toys in the dishwasher. Certain toys and therapeutic tools can also be cleaned in the dishwasher. I put our shape sorter boxes and shapes, ring stacks, all small plastic toys, farm animals and people, plastic doll accessories and oral motor tools (such as chewy tubes) directly into the dishwasher.
- Clean bins in the bathtub. We use plastic bins. I clean these about once or twice per week in the bathtub. I fill them with water and natural lavender soap (I use this Dr. Bronner’s organic lavender soap) and wash them thoroughly before rinsing them out and leaving them to dry in our garden.
- Have a toy cleaning schedule. I keep lists of each item that needs to be cleaned daily, weekly and monthly. If a child has put items in their mouth during the session that all of those items need to be cleaned at the end of the session.
- Bonus : I also use an essential oil diffuser to purify the air in our learning house. These helps keep germs at bay, gives off a lovely scent and that kids LOVE it because it lights up! 🙂 (*win – win*) An alternative, or an easy way to freshen up therapy rooms (or anywhere in the house really) quickly, is essential oil room spray. This essential oil room spray is my favorite! Everybody got sick a lot less at my center this school year thanks to this spray.
How do you keep your toys clean in your home? I would love to hear from you! Your comments make my day! ♥
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