Last week, I gave you some tips for organizing a child’s toy collection in their bedroom or playroom. This week, I want to talk to you about how to maintain that beautifully organized playroom. How do you get kids to put their toys away and keep it at least moderately organized?
Over the years, this is what I have found works for both our family and other people’s families:
Set aside about 10-15 minutes each evening after dinner to clean up the toys. I have found that right after dinner is best, because if you try to get the kids to clean up before dinner, they are cranky because they are too hungry. And if you wait until close to bedtime, the kids are overly tired. So right after dinner seems to be the sweet spot.
During clean-up, you or another adult will need to work alongside the kids if you have really young kids or easily distracted kids. Your job is to remind them of where things go, demonstrate what cleaning up looks like, and keep them on task. Older neurotypical kids should be able to clean up on their own after a few weeks of cleaning up alongside you.
If your child seems overwhelmed at the size of the mess, hand her one of the bins, for example the toy animal bin, and tell her to look around on the floor for all the toy animals and put them in the bin. This way, it becomes a treasure hunt for the kids, which makes it a bit more fun for them.
You could also make clean-up time more fun by having the family make their own Pandora or Spotify “clean-up music” channel. Or play “beat the clock” and give a reward if everyone can get clean-up done in under 10 minutes (maybe the prize is you read an extra story to them at bedtime?)
If clean-up is routinely taking you more than 10-15 minutes each night, then you probably have too many toys available for the kids to play with. You might want to consider putting some toys in rotation. To do this, get a big box, pack up a selection of toys, and put the box of toys out in the garage or somewhere out of the way. Enter an “appointment” in your phone’s calendar to remind you to open the box up in one month’s time and box up a different selection of toys. Plan to do this monthly. This way, you don’t have to get rid of the toys, but you also don’t have to live with quite so many in the playroom.
Hopefully these tips will make it easier to start a daily clean-up routine in your own home. It’s so great when the day finally comes when your kids can clean up their own toys after you put in all of the hard work teaching them those skills!
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