Getting Kids To Clean Up Their Toys

Inventive ways to get your children to help clean up their toys

I posted a while ago asking for help on getting my 3 y.o. to clean up his toys.  I received a number of great suggestions (which are listed below) - thank you everyone for your responses.

 By the way, what ended up working for me was getting out 2 boxes.  I explained to him that one was His box & one was Mommy's box  ( think I borrowed this idea from SuperNanny).  He had 15 minutes to put away anything he wanted to keep in his box; whatever was left went into Mommy's box and would be stored away for a while.  I used a kitchen timer and kept having to remind him time was slipping away.  He didn't completely get the point (or maybe didn't think I'd carry through) and only put a few toys in his box but he was not happy when I carted away the rest.  The next time I had to threaten this, he was quite good at quickly putting his toys in his box.  As effective as this was, it may be a bit much for daily clean up as it is exhausting.


Other ideas include...

--Don't let them play with something new until the other game/toys/videos/etc. are put away.

--Make it a game-- he helps you clean up, you help him clean up. Throw the toys in the basket and Hi-5 after each success (Note: this takes a lot of time and patience)  Or another parent bought a shopping cart at yard sale; dad & child make a game out of running the cart around the house & picking things up.

--Have less stuff (easy for that person to say)

--Praise Praise Praise

--Sticker chart for helping them clean up.

--Set a timer as a race to see if you can both clean up toys in a certain time.  (I still use this one to motivate myself to clean the kitchen!)

--Clear places for each toy, not just bins; child finds it fun to remember where everything goes and getting it there.  One parent segregated all toys into baskets with labels (a bit like school) so she knows EXACTLY where everything goes.  Rule now is no stories at night before everything is picked up (other than serious on-going projects).

--Parents of Bob the Builder fan uses Bob's "teamwork" saying to encourage son to work with parent to clean up.

--A few bins in the living room for the most used toys. Many professional organizers suggest keeping as close to the source you are going to use them in as possible.  Nice looking toy storage furniture items at Brookstone, and, if you like colors, The Container Store has really fun stuff that is slightly see through, so easy to figure out what is in what.  Plus she puts pictures of the items on the drawers. For example, in a drawer with little cars I will put a picture of the car of the front so it is easy to remember where to find things and where to put them back.

--Put one project away before starting another during the day.

--Anything left out will go into a bag in the hallway and he won't be able to play with it for a day or so if he doesn't clean it up before he goes to bed.  He now cleans up after himself. You have to actually follow up on this threat.

--My mother had 5 kids and ended up just picking up after us once we went to bed.  I think it was easier for her to do that than to stay on us to clean.  In the end, it was a disservice to us and we didn’t learn how to pick up after ourselves.  Now I try to be diligent with my kids, but it’s still very hard as a recovering slob to pick things up.



Other PSP member comments:

Growing up my mom and I had very different level of comfort when it came to cleanliness. It sounds like I was very similar to your son, although now that I'm the mom I am probably much closer to my mom.

We had a few rules growing up that really helped keep the peace. I was required to clean up twice a week - Sunday to start the week right and Wednesday so that the cleaning lady could find the floor to vacuum. The rest of the time I was allowed to keep it however I wanted - which was pretty terrible.

The mess was not allowed to trickle out of my room into the rest of the apartment.

And I wasn't allowed to have dirty dishes in the room.

My kids are too young for that yet but we do make my 5 year old get rid of and/or donate items before holidays and birthdays.