I’ll be honest – I’m a terrible housekeeper.
I hate cleaning. I hate tidying up. So it’s no wonder that my kids are the same way. My son in particular throws extremely emotional tantrums when I ask him to pick up toys. “I can’t do it! There’s too many toys! I’m too tired to pick up!” (I was trying to quote my son there, but those sound like things I would say too!) Over the years I’ve figured out a couple of strategies to use to get my kids to clean. Here are my top 3 tricks to get your child to pick up toys.
3 Tricks to Get Your Toddler to Pick Up Toys
1. Use bedtime to your advantage
Our kids usually go to bed between 7 and 7:30pm. About a half hour before bedtime, we’ll tell them that they can either clean up the living room and get 15 more minutes to play, or they can go to bed immediately if they choose not to clean. This strategy works fairly well, except for when the kids are really exhausted. If they’re so tired that they whine and carry on about cleaning, they probably need to go to bed anyway. One time, Graham decided he truly was too tired to clean, so he went upstairs and got into bed all by himself! He’s always been one to fight bedtime, so that was a complete shock to us. This tactic can be a win-win for parents. You either get a clean living room or you get an early night. Score!
2. Threaten to throw away toys that are left out
This is a tricky one because you have to follow through for it to work. You’ve got to be careful when you use this tactic – don’t throw away their favorite stuffed animal or that brand new $50 toy that Santa brought. As long as you can be aware of which toys are laying around that need to be cleaned up, this trick can work wonders! Try it with cheap, worthless toys that you don’t care about. And go ahead and prepare yourself for the tantrum that will result after throwing the toys away. You would’ve thought I’d gotten rid of the beloved family dog as much as my son cried about the dinky, worthless Chick-fil-A toy I had to toss when he didn’t clean up. But he learned his lesson!
3. Tell them to just clean up 5 toys
This is my #1 way to get my strong-willed, stubborn son to clean up. He’s like me and gets super overwhelmed when there are a ton of toys on the floor, especially things with lots of pieces like Legos. If he starts whining and complaining that “he can’t” or “there’s too many” I tell him to just pick up 5 toys. I guess it makes the task seem manageable so he won’t give up before he’s even tried. And for some wonderful, unexplained reason, once he starts picking up 5 toys, he keeps picking up the rest until he’s done. It’s almost like beginning the task is the hardest part, but once he starts, he gets into the groove and just keeps cleaning. I can’t think of a time when this tactic has failed me – it works that well!
Try these tricks with your kids and let me know if they work for you. Do you have any other sure-fire way to get your kids to clean?