How to Get Kids to Clean up Their Toys

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The designer furniture and perfectly matched décor of old is probably now cluttered with the environmental chaos that screams “Child in the house.” If you can still see the couch or at least half of it still unstained than you can count yourself as one of the lucky ones in life. That being said, you have a long way to go and it probably won’t last.

Of all the things that can be said about a messy house that is littered with toys in every room -causing people to high step and leap to get from room to room; I think I am still overwhelmingly more suspicious of a home with children that is spotless. Perhaps this is because I grew up with a meticulous and anal mother who didn’t allow our toys to be out for any length of time whether we were playing with them or not. Even in our rooms, everything had a place and the buckets and shelves were meant to hold the toys which meant putting them on the floor to actually play with them was seldom allowed. Hmmm, kind of mixed up thinking. As soon as I moved out I lived in a pigsty just so that I could and I rarely if ever put anything up. Now with children of my own, I endure the messy distractions and we clean up once a day at the end of every day and yes, they all help!

So how do we get kids to clean up their toys? First we should remember as we buy all these toys for our kids that they are going to end up laying around our house. If we don’t have room for the blow up jumper with 500 balls than probably we shouldn’t buy it on a whim. Most households nowadays have way too many toys and one or two kids could never play with them all. If toys are spilling out of your child’s room or play room than chances are the task of cleaning them up is daunting to us and doubly so for our children. Be realistic! When you take on the task of setting up a child’s room much attention should be paid to storage that will make it easy for kids to clean up. Buckets, bins, shelves, drawers and baskets are great. Kids can easily figure out how to put things in and out and labeling them will make it even more organized. If you have very young kids play the Barney clean up song or other rendition and they will willingly put things away as they dance.

Another option to getting kids to clean up their room is to deplore a little friendly competition. See who can do it the fastest or who can do it the best and kids of all ages will play along. If you are concerned about your own sanity when there are toys all over the house than establish one room as a toy free zone. I choose my bedroom. No books, talking dolls, lizards, blocks, legos or horses are allowed in my room. This way when I become over stimulated from the colorful array of plastic and inanimate objects, I have an escape and it keeps me from harping on the kids too much.

When the build up of toys becomes excessive we implement a house cleaning day and each child is given a large trash bag with which they can fill up for a yard sale or donation. The thought of making $2 off a Barbie with no hair will stimulate any child to minimize. This can eliminate a lot of the junk that we accumulate and make cleaning rooms on a day to day basis easier. If we are overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ lying around than our children probably are too and it can be exhilarating to get rid of things. At some point parents also need to understand that as their kids grow, they are assured to grow out of certain items and there is no crime in either packing them up or letting them go.

When the kids get bigger offering allowance is always a great incentive to getting them to clean their rooms. Keeping a schedule set of chores that each person is expected to accomplish teaches the fine art of responsibility. If they don’t do it, they don’t get paid. That’s when you might have to resort to the policy of keeping doors closed. I feel that children, especially the older they get need to have a sense of their own space in a home and have the ability to decide for themselves what’s working. Obviously if moldy pizza and soda cans are stowed under the bed than there is a problem - but chances are it is much more than just a mess issue. Parents need to clearly set limitations and expectations about what goes and what doesn’t and expect and trust that children will abide by them. Getting a kid to clean their room in this age group is just like getting them to do their homework. If it is a house rule; than there must be a consequence if they fail to do it.

Probably one of the worst ways to get a child to clean their room is to do it for them. If they realize early on that the mess and chaos bothers you extensively they will wait until you just can’t take it anymore knowing you will do it while they are at school. It is fair to pause and consider whether cleaning our kid’s room is more about us than it is them. Certainly we don’t want any room to be dangerous or toxic for that matter but there is some truth to the ‘reap what you sow’ adage. When they can no longer find clean underwear, socks or clothes they will have no choice but to do the responsible thing and tidy up a bit!

Getting a kid to clean their room will be a much easier task if you start them out in life with a bit of order. If each day from the time they can walk they realize that clean up time is right before dinner than they accustom themselves to this ritual and end up participating. Cleaning their room does not have to be one of the larger issues of parenting causing strife between mother and child and unnecessary stress. There will come a day when the harmless toys lying around the house will be replaced with vacancies and this can make any parent sad. That is when the trash bags in the attic filled with unwanted toys of old can be pulled down for memories sake and perhaps for an hour or two you can revisit the environmental chaos that certainly means offspring. In the meantime remember that if all you are worried about is how to get your child to clean their room, than you are perhaps one of the very lucky ones…count your blessings!

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