10 Tips for Teaching Kids to Pick Up Their Toys

December 3rd, 2011 by admin

Have you ever been to a baby shower where they ask you to fill out a card with advice for the new mother?  The one thing I wish someone would have told me is to start early with having your kids pick up their own toys.  It you get the chance to pass that on to a young mother or father please do.  Try not to tell them as you are tripping over toys coming into their house, but just randomly mention it in conversation.  It may make their lives easier in the long run.  For those that did not start their kids young, fear not!  It’s not too late for you.  Check out 10 tips for teaching kids to pick up their toys.

  1. Make it a game: This works especially well for younger children.  The key is to not make it too difficult.  Younger children have toys with big pieces so that will make it easier to put their toys back together.  Sing the clean-up song or play it on the computer if you are not much of a singer.  Google it and you should be able to pull it up.  It goes, “Clean up, Clean up, everybody everywhere.  Clean up, clean up everybody do your share”.  If you are helping them and showing them how to put the blocks back into their box and to put the balls back into the bin then they will learn where things go.  Making sure that everything has a place to go is key to making this work.
  2. Set a good example: As in all things, kids learn by example.  If you come into the living room at the end of the day and kick off your shoes and sit down then your kids will grow up seeing that.  They will come home from school and kick off their shoes and they will remain wherever they kicked them off.  If you have a rule about taking off your shoes when you come into the house then you should have a place by the door to put their shoes.  If you pick up after yourself then your kids will too.
  3. Set a timer: Sometimes it’s more fun to do things fast.  Not only does it become a race and something that is fun instead of a chore it is something that is for a limited time.  Anyone can pick up for 5 minutes.  It’s amazing what you can do in 5 minutes.  The trick is to do this every day or a couple times a day if your kids are still home.  You can expand this into a weekend routine where everyone sees how much they can clean in 20 minutes.  This will include Mom and Dad and that will set a good example for the kids.
  4. Make it part of their routine: Create routines for your kids and they will be more productive and less likely to forget things.  There are routines already created online if you look hard enough, but you can do it yourself.  Start out by writing down everything your kids need to do in the morning to get ready for school.  Add in 5 minutes for them to do a quick pick up of their room.  This will make sure that the room is presentable all day.  Then create a bedtime routine and add in 5 minutes where they walk around the house and pick up all of their personal items.  They have to either put them away if they got them out (like video game controllers), or take them back to their room.  Then add on another 5 minutes for them to do another quick clean-up of their room.  That way they will have their room picked up before they go to bed and there won’t be as much to do in the morning when they are in a hurry.
  5. Enlist their help in organizing: If the child knows where everything goes than they will be more likely to put their stuff away.  If they have no clue where it goes then they will get overwhelmed when you tell them to pick up their room.  They will tell you they can’t because they don’t know how.  To avoid this argument you can label the bins with what goes where or if the child does not read you can use pictures.
  6. Clean up as they go along: Get your child into the habit of cleaning up one thing before getting out another.  This will limit the number of things they have to clean up when it’s time to go do something else.  If they get out a puzzle they have to put that away before they get out the Legos.  When they are done with the Legos they have to put those back in the box before they get out the dolls.  If they clean as they go then there should only be a couple of things to pick up when it’s time for bed or supper or whatever.
  7. Set up consequences: If you have tried many different things to get your child to keep their room clean or the house clean, then set up consequences.  Let your child know that you are going to inspect their room first thing Saturday morning and that anything you find that isn’t put away you will be putting in a time out box.  To get those toys or personal items back they will need to buy them back from you.  How they buy them back is up to you.  Do you give your child an allowance?  If you do then they can buy things back with real money.  If you don’t give them an allowance you can pay them with fake “Daddy bucks”.  If you Google that you will find a site where you can put an actual picture of Daddy or whoever on a play dollar bill.  Just as if you were paying them with real money you will pay them a wage every week for the chores they do.  They can use those bucks to trade in for toys in a treasure box (usually little trinkets from the dollar store or bargain bin) or a special outing with Mom.
  8. Break the task down: Sometimes doing a big clean up job is hard so you can break it down into manageable tasks.  This works for almost any age child from preschool on up.  Tell the child, “Let’s put all of the little people back into their bus”.  Then tell them to put all of their cars into the garage.  Now let’s put all of the books back into the bookshelf.  You can train them to break bigger tasks into smaller tasks and then they won’t feel so overwhelmed.
  9. Play fun music: Make clean-up time a fun time when you can listen to the music louder than normal.  Let them dance around a little bit as they are putting things away.  Let them shoot the stuffed animals into the toy box as if they were playing basketball.  If you make clean-up time fun then you won’t run into so much resistance when it’s time to clean-up.
  10. Give rewards for doing well: When your child has done a good make sure that you tell them that.  Maybe they can earn bonus bucks or a sticker on their chore chart.  Any little way that you want to reward them.  Maybe they get to choose what dessert gets made for supper that night.  Children don’t have to have big rewards to feel rewarded.


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