It’s the middle of the week and my house already looks like two energetic little kids were let loose and ‘attacked’ all their toys. Actually, that’s exactly what happened and it’s the same every week!
At the end of the day I don’t have the energy to tidy up their toys, especially when I know they will all just be scattered about again the next day.
Actually, hang on just a second! Why am I cleaning up their toys in the first place? Cleaning up our things is an important life skill and my kids are old enough to learn to put their toys away, even my 15- month-old. Below are some strategies we like here at HaltonParents.
5 steps to get little kids to tidy up:
- Keep fewer toys out. Less toys means less to clean up. Also, having too many toys to choose from can be overwhelming for little kids. We donated a huge bag of toys that our kids had outgrown and now only keep a handful of toys on the main floor of our house. The rest of their toys are in the basement and we have started rotating toys to keep things interesting for them.
- Make it routine. Schedule “clean up time” before the kids go to bed. Our old routine was to play hard and then go upstairs and start bedtime. Our new bedtime routine includes the “It’s time to tidy up, tidy up, tidy up” song before we head upstairs.
- Give a 5 minute warning and help your kids wrap up their activities. It’s a good time to get involved and connect with your child (if you weren’t already playing with them). Recognize what they are doing well with language like, “I see you are working hard on that puzzle and put three pieces together!” When kids feel valued and connected with you, they are more likely to follow through with the next step.
- Be specific with your instructions: Tell, don’t ask. Saying “Time to tidy up!” can be overwhelming for a little one who doesn’t know where to start. Break the job down into smaller, more manageable parts. Try saying, “it’s time to put the puzzle back into its box.” If your child does better with choice, you can offer choice between things to tidy away first.
- Make clean up time fun! There’s no shortage of clean up time songs to sing, or you can play your own music. Maybe set a timer to play “Beat the buzzer” and see whether all the toys can be put away before the alarm goes off. Give them a helping hand and praise your kids when they put things away.
Now get ready to enjoy more relaxation time once your kids are in bed! Do you have any other suggestions for encouraging little kids to tidy up their toys? Please share with us!
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Of course, the downside of donating toys is the 2 year (and counting) follow up of “I wish I still had [toy the kid agreed to donate/suggested that get donated]” every time they’re tired and upset.
Hi Christine, thanks for your comment. That’s so sad! My kids are still pretty young so I haven’t heard that one yet. One trick I have tried though (which I learned the hard way, of course) is before I purge, I put all the toys into a garbage bag and hide it. After about 6 months, if no one’s asked for it, I donate it 🙂
~ Andrea Scott, RN
Label your bins with pictures of the toys! it’s fun to sort and so much easier to find where they all go.
That’s a great idea, Veronica! Thanks for sharing.
Andrea Scott, RN