how do you get your child to clean up? — The Bump
Pre-School

how do you get your child to clean up?

The toy mess in our house is getting overwhelming. We tried having DD clean up every night before bed, with our help, but she just doesn't do it. We tried the "clean up song" and various other ways of making it fun. We tried a reward chart, which went really well until she got her first reward. Now, she has no desire to clean anymore. 

What works for you? 



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Re: how do you get your child to clean up?

  • When DS was younger I did a clean up song or I would say, you can do this (something he wanted to do) after you clean up.

    Now that he's five, it's a habit for him to clean up before we leave the house , before he goes to bed, or any other time I need him to clean up.  This habit, mind you is prompted by me telling him to clean up :-)

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  • We try the following:
    1. Cleaning up twice a day, before nap bed so the messes don't get so big.
    2. Labeling the toy bins with pictures of what goes in each one. Makes it easier for them to know where things go.
    3. Instead of saying let's clean up all the toys which may be overwhelming, we focus on one at a time. For example, let's clean up the blocks, can you help me find all the yellow ones. I think it makes it more of a game.

    One thing we didn't try, but was suggested to us is to divide up the toys into two boxes and only have one out at a time, rotating them every month or two. It helps keep the amount down and they feel like they always have new toys.

    Let me also say, with all these tricks, our toy room is still often a disaster area LOL. Good luck!
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  • There are certain things I won't let her get out if she doesn't clean up first.  For example: puzzles just because I know there would be pieces everywhere.  So, I just tell her, "You have to put this away in the box first.  Then you can take out the puzzle."  DD likes to help, so I ask her to "help" me to clean up, and that works most of the time.
  • I get a container of sorts like an empty laundry hamper, a shopping bag or shoe box. After three warnings if they are not starting to clean up then all of the toys on the floor get taken away and put up. They have to earn them back with good behavior or special chores. I have only had to do this a few times, now I threaten and they clean it up without dawdling. This works for my 2.5 year old as well as my 4.5 year old.
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  • A lot of our toys are kept out of reach. This way the kids have to ask for the toys and clean up before I'll give them another one. All art supplies, games, and puzzles are up high. Then on the low shelves are toys that aren't messy don't have a lot of parts, like books, dolls, and baby toys.
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  • We have a house rule-one toy at a time. After playing with it put it back and take out another toy.The rule is not enforced when other kids come over.

    Like pp mentioned, I have put toys in 'time out' when the kids didn't clean them up. Actually, it has only happened one time and that was enough for them to realize they have to clean up. 

    On the occasion, you can try making a game out of it. Play a song and make it a race to finish cleaning up all the toys before the song is over. You can make it an educational experience - find all the toys on the floor that begin with the letter "B". I've found if you do this too often the kids become bored and don't want to participate.

    Mommy of two girls: DD1 4/14/9 DD2 4/15/11
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  • I bought clear plastic containers for toys and keep the separated trains, cars, blocks, etc. Ds knows "one mess at a time". It does help that DCP has the same rule.
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  • I have him clean up one activity before I let him move onto another.  Sometimes he asks for help "Mommy, I'll get the letters, you get the numbers."  I don't mind that.
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  • I hope this doesn't sound snotty but we just set the expectation and that is enough. You play, then you clean up. You move onto something else, you clean up first. If I see DS or DD getting out a ton of things I will give them a reminder that they will need to clean everything up when they are done.

    I will also offer help. Sometimes it's overwhelming for them to see the task ahead. I offer to help them b/c I expect them to help me when I ask for it (with dishes, laundry, etc). We all work as a team. But it's known that I am helping, not doing it for them.

    I would suggest being firm and clear with your expectations. Maybe if things don't get put away they get taken away?

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  • The rule in our house is you can only have one toy out at a time so if you want to move onto something else, you need to clean up and put away what you are playing with.  It doesn't always work but for the most part, it does.  On days when they are being really slow with clean up, we make it a game.  For example, I will set the timer to 5 mins and tell them to see if they can beat the timer.  Bottom line is anything that is left out at bedtime gets put into a long time out.  I won't throw anything away unless its the little junky things but other items just get put away.  For the most part, we have toys in the basement in a playroom and I'm not as picky about how things are put away as long as they are not in the middle of the room on the floor - it is the kids space and no one ever goes down there unless they are playing or my parents when they stay as the guest room is downstairs.  Toys in the bedroom and the art stuff, AG doll stuff and dress up clothes that are in the living room need to be cleaned and cleaned up well.  We have had the same rules about this since they were tiny so they just know the rules but they also have rules like this at school (daycare when they were little and now in PreK and K).
    Jenni Mom to DD#1 - 6-16-06 DD#2 - 3-13-08 
  • image Jelliebean1982:
    A lot of our toys are kept out of reach. This way the kids have to ask for the toys and clean up before I'll give them another one. All art supplies, games, and puzzles are up high. Then on the low shelves are toys that aren't messy don't have a lot of parts, like books, dolls, and baby toys.

    Same here.  Even with something big that can't be put up high like DD's train tracks and accessories, we still keep the trains out of reach.  This way she has to clean up before I get anything else out for her.  

  • image June2007:
    I get a container of sorts like an empty laundry hamper, a shopping bag or shoe box. After three warnings if they are not starting to clean up then all of the toys on the floor get taken away and put up. They have to earn them back with good behavior or special chores. I have only had to do this a few times, now I threaten and they clean it up without dawdling. This works for my 2.5 year old as well as my 4.5 year old.

    My 2.5 yo is usually very good about cleaning up. My 6.5 yo got warnings like this all the time when she was younger. We had lots of toys get put in a box in the closet until she earned them back.
    Annalise Marie 05.29.06
    Charlotte Ella 07.16.10
    Emmeline Grace 03.27.13
  • Before DS can open any other toy he must clean up the previous one. It works pretty well in our house!
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    m/c 2013
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