Tips for Teaching Kids to Clean Up Their Toys

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By the time children reach toddlerhood, most are able to be involved with the daily clean up routine of their play area.  

Teaching children to clean up their toys, not only assures that you have an organized play area at the end of the day, it helps instill lessons of responsibility and ownership in young children. When children feel personally responsible for their “things” they tend to take pride in caring for them.

When teaching your toddler to clean up, follow these five tips.

1. Have an easy clean up system. Colorful bins make great storage systems for young children.  Assign each bin a type of toy (like cars, animals, instruments) and affix an image of that toy to the bin. For example if you have a bin set aside for cars, cut out a photo of a car from a magazine and glue or tape it onto the front of bin. Write the word “car” on a piece of paper and glue or tape it below the photo.

2. Model clean up. If you want your child to clean up, you’re going to have to do more than tell him. During clean up time pitch in and show your child where each item goes. Ask him to bring you books for the book shelf or blocks for the bin. Praise him for a job well done.

3. Make clean up time fun.  Having a special clean up song to sing as you pick up the toys or turning clean up time into a game can make the process more fun.  Preschool children love racing against the clock when picking up their toys. 

4. Provide time to transition. Before you begin picking up the toys, be sure to give your child a five minute, three minute and one minute warning. Imagine being in line at Macy’s, ready to purchase a new pair of shoes and you hear over the loud speaker that the store is now closed. You’d have a fit. The same goes for your toddler.

5. Clean up the same time each day. Cleaning up before naptimes and bedtime can help you establish a solid clean up routine. When your child knows he is expected to clean up at the same time each day, he’s more likely to cooperate.

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