Tired of having a melt-down every time it’s time to clean up the toys? Follow these 7 tips for clean-up success…
1. Help Children Anticipate the Clean-up… Have a specific time each day that children are expected to tidy up their toys. Creating a daily routine will help children to anticipate what’s expected, and it will cut-down on the push back and whining. Giving children a five minute warning also helps children mentally prepare for what’s coming next and finish up the task they’re currently working on.
2. Give Brief, Specific Directions… Saying, “Clean up your toys,” is too obscure for young children. Instead, give them a specific direction like, “Put all your trucks back in this bin.” For the youngest children, it may even be appropriate to hand toys to them before giving a direction.
3. Make Sure Everything Has an Easily Identified Place… If children are expected to clean up their toys, every toy needs a space to go. Use bins to designate areas for specific toys and label them with both words and pictures. Children who aren’t fully proficient at reading need a visual cue to tell them where to put things back in their place.
4. Create Boundaries… Create a designated space for toys that’s comfortable and inviting to children. If children enjoy their space, they’re more likely to stay there during play times. Having a playspace such as a desk that’s sized appropriately, or a small rug will define their play area and keep clutter to a minimum.
5. Make it Fun… There are several methods for turning clean-up time into a continuation of the fun. Play “Beat the Clock” as you work together to get the room tidy before the timer expires or a favorite song is over. Play basketball as you throw toys into their coordinating bins. Sing the Clean Up Song. See who can find the most of one color or shape of toy. Put the toys to sleep before bed. If you have fun, while reiterating to children the importance of taking care of their toys and their space, children will be more likely to want to participate in the clean-up experience.
6. Be Clear, Yet Flexible… Make sure your expectations for your family’s toys are clear. Each family has a different rule of thumb. For some families, there may be a restriction on how many toys are allowed out at a time. For others, it may be what room(s) toys are allowed. Making sure your children understand what’s expected will help control the toy chaos. However, when children are midway through a challenging puzzle or building a complex model out of Legos, be flexible. Allow these toys to stay out until children finish their accomplishment.
7. In One, Out One Policy… A lot of cluttered spaces simply have too much stuff. And too much toy clutter can overstimulate children and stifle their creativity. If your toy area seems overwhelming to you, it probably is to your children as well. Pare down the amount of toys and then have an “in one, out one” policy as new toys arrive.