No force on earth is as destructive and messy as a toddler on the loose in their playroom. You can spend hours cleaning and organizing their space and within minutes it will look as though a category 5 hurricane tore through the place. Rather than spending all your limited free time putting toys away, teach your young children how to clean up after themselves. It teaches responsibility and helps to value their belongings. Saying it is one thing though, getting them to do it is its own problem. Here are some helpful tips we’ve assembled to help you teach toddlers and school-aged kids how to clean up their toys.
Have A Place For Everything
Before trying to teach your kids how to put away their toys, make sure you have a logical place to put everything. You can’t expect them to clean up if the toy room is very cluttered with no storage spaces. Minimalize or declutter the room, throw out old or broken toys, donate toys in good condition that your children are no longer interested in, and only keep a manageable amount of toys at any given time. Put shelving and bins in the room. If you really want to get organized, make labels with words or pictures that remind kids where each type of toy belongs.
Set Expectations Early And Often
Decide on the rules for cleaning up and stick to them. You might even want to post them in writing if your child is old enough to read. Maybe the rule is only one toy out at a time, put that toy away before getting out another, or whatever you choose. It could be a schedule like clean up every day before lunch, or before bedtime.
Make It Fun
When teaching younger children and toddlers how to clean up, make it a game.
- “How many blocks can you pick up and put in this bucket in 1 minute?”
- “Can you find all the books on the floor and bring them to me?”
- Sing a cleanup song together
Instead of punishments and demands, frame reminders to clean up in a positive way. Let them know if they clean up their toys you can do a special activity together after. Remind them that if they put everything away they can have 15 minutes of screen time. The rules in your house may vary, but you get the idea.
Focus On Creative Play
One problem with keeping play areas clean is an overabundance of toys with lots of pieces, or having a lot of dolls, or a lot of action figures. The key here is “a lot.” Focus on providing toys that encourage them to be more creative. For example, you can buy a cardboard fort from Make-A-Fort.fun and get hours of creative play over and over again. When you are done for the day, simply folded is all up and store under a bed or in a closet. The forts you can build provide an opportunity to be creative, role play, communicate, and bond with siblings, parents, and friends.