34 answers

Toy Mess!

i was just getting frustrated about our playroom that has a train set, astronaut guys and peek a blocks and puzzle pieces and wheels all mixed together on the floor etc etc etc.......... all of these pieces of sets of toys are getting mixed together and will eventually get lost so none of the toys will be as fun because they can't find thomas the train because he's with the missing puzzle pieces and legos.......

now that the kids are sleeping i could pick up all the pieces and sort them and put them away and it would be clean for a fresh start tomorrow... but that would not solve the problem because my kids need to learn to pick up and put away toys by themselves... tomorrow night would be the same toy jumbalaya again! so i have a few questions:

what kinds of things you do to encourage your kids to put away one set of toys before playing with another?

what kind of incentives/punishments do you use to enforce toy clean up? (do you use a gunny bag, or give away toys that are left out? etc?)

do you have a clean up time where everyone puts toys away together?

any other solutions that work for you?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

thanks for all your great ideas! yesterday i told my 4 year old about the "gunny bag" and he was totally fascinated and motivated-- he cleaned up every single toy in the whole house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he's been awesome today too, putting away everything when he finishes playing with it. hopefully it will last... and i think it will because as soon as he forgets the gunny bag really will come eat his toys! yay!

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I have a 3 year old and a 4 year old boys. If they do not help clean up when requested, they go to time out. I don't make them clean up the whole thing. I help out a little to get them started and remind them to keep picking up until everything is put away. When there are like 100 pieces, I don't expect their attention span to stick that long. I help out a little (maybe I should be more strict?). If they don't help put away the toy, the next day it's not available to play with.

As they get older, like 6 years old, they can deduct where toys go and why they are taken away. I plan on putting toys left out into a large box or barrell. If I have to pick it up, then it's going "away". Anything left in the box or barrell is getting sold. Either way, I don't plan on putting away all their shoes, clothes, toys, etc for the rest of their lives. So... if they want to know where it's at then they better put it away for themselves. It works great for teenagers and husbands too! My girlfriend uses this method and it gives her piece of mind to know she hasn't coddled the situation by doing their chores and it's off her floor.

I used to have a daycare and had a similar problem. I paid attention to what was really getting played with and what was getting thrown aside. All toys played with I kept out. Anything that was pushed aside trying to find what they wanted got put up. Most things were never even missed! They went on a yard sale. When the kids got tired of the toys we did activities together but not before picking up stuff. Most kids like to help with cookie decorations, fingerpainting (even us big kids!), making cards for friends and family, going for walks even if just to the store. We even read books together. Flub and playdoh (the homemade kind) and so are rice "sand" boxes. There are many things you can do WITH kids and they really do love that much more than playing on their own with toys. TV was very limited. I didn't want kids to just watch tv and do nothing. Variety is great. Kids will always look for fun and different things to learn and occupy them. Good luck!
mddhf

T.,
I have two-two year old girls. Their play room usually migrates to every other room of the house... but we put toys away together. They have one "rubbermaid" tub (a shorter one) with all of their little toys and kitchen stuff, a basket for their dress-up stuff, a toy box for the big toys and stuffed toys and a taller rubbermaid tub for the mega blocks. Then the book shelf and baby strollers etc line the rest of the room. It has been about 6 months since we did this, and all of the toys usually end up in their appropriate location and each day we start off new. Its also not very hard to find a missing toy by the way they are seperated. Before nap and bedtime daily, we put the toys away together - they aren't both always willing but its better to start early with asking them to help then never.

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Hi T.,

It's rough when they are young like this. It seems they have more toys that you could ever figure out what to do with. We are just getting to that stage with our two youngest ones. I know for me that the first thing I am going to have to do is a big sort. I am going to go through all of the toys and take out any ones that are little happy meal toys that they don't play with or toys that they have outgrown and give them to Goodwill. Then I am going to take out the ones that are broken or missing pieces and throw them away. Of what's left I am going to sort them into categories (i.e. train set, toy cars, megablocks, balls, etc.). Then I will put them in clear bins (like the giant gladware with lids), take a photo of the toys in each bin, and tape one copy to the bin and one to the lid. This way the kids know what goes in each bin. Then I will only put out maybe a third of the bins and a couple of big toys, like their zebra bouncing toy, or their riding toys or car mat. I will rotate them out every two weeks to a month that way the kids won't get bored with all of their toys or be overwhelmed with clean-up.

I am also considering making a scrapbook or catalog of pictures of their toys so that when they get bored that can "shop" in the catalog for what they would like that maybe isn't out and trade a toy they are tired of with something in the catalog.

Maybe some of these ideas would work for you.

1 mom found this helpful

We don't put toys away during the day until it's pretty crowded. I found that my sons imagination flrushes when he has multiple toys out together. Example: He builds a garage with his blocks for his trains to park in when they aren't making their rounds on the track. His construction equipment is always in the mist of building a new playground for his little people to play on.
We clean up if it gets too crowded, if we are getting ready to leave the house for a long time, or if we are going to bed. He can leave out buildings that are built and tracks that are fully assembled with cars and trains in/on them. Everything else goes away. I help him clean up. We work together because it's best that way (There's no saying it a million times, it gets done faster, and I know where the toys are going). He does a great job. Occassionally I'll find that I need to straighten up a little bit because he can't get everything put away or there are too many loose pieces; but it's more like once a week to every other week, not every day. We actually do all our household chorus this way. We both unload the dishwasher together, put clothes into the washer together, he vaccums while I straighten. Chorus are more of fun games than a problem to deal with. It's fun time we get to spend together! The house stays clean and we still have time to do all the fun stuff we want to do. :)

1 mom found this helpful

This is kind of harsh but it worked wonders.

I have 6 and 4 yr old boys. They would not pick-up their toys and I was getting sick of always picking up after them and them not listening to me. One day, I had told them to pick up there toys like 10 times with no results so I finally said if you did not get your toys picked up within 5 minutes, I am going to throw all the toys away that do not get picked up. They did not pick up so I started throwing toys away. They got up real quick and started picking up toys. I had to throw away about 10-15 toys. But the next time, I said I was going to throw toys away, they picked up real fast.

I have only had to throw toys away twice. The first time and about 6 months after the first time. I just have to say it and they pick every toy up, no complaints, no whining.

I have a 4 YO and sp. needs 7 YO..Their room is copletely trashed right after an hour of play in it. I take away pool time, screen time, everything til it's put away. Usually they get the hint and put them away, and wrere they belon, before leaving the room, but then again some "lazy days" it's a fight to the finish.
I started them out with individual plastic storage boxes with a pic. of animals on one for their toy animals, pic of a lego block o another, pic. of dolls and doll accessories, etc.. I painted it god and big and bright on the lid of each box. This helped... a LOT. Good luck.
A.

One thing I haven't noticed anyone saying yet...

I would complain about the kids not cleaning up after themselves but my husband and I realized they were only imitating us. I can't expect my kids to do something we weren't doing either. Flylady.com has been a Godsend. She teaches everyone how to break big chores down into smaller ones so that they don't become overwhelming. Also check out TheHouseFairy.com

This is sooo frustrating. I use the bags that comforters and sheets and stuff come in that zip back up. I put toys in them that have all of the little pieces. I have posted rules around the house with consequences to the actions. The one about toys says that if you get a toy out and don't pick it up it gets taken away for a week. My kids hate that so they have started picking things up. I have a friend who does this and she puts them on the top shelf in the closet so they can still see it and it reminds them that they have to pick up the toys or they will lose them. The clear bags make it easier to see what is inside so they don't go digging around and pulling everything out to find what they are looking for. I have also labeled everything in the bedroom. The shelves have the names of what goes there and I have planned on putting pictures on them but haven't gotten there yet. My 5 year old can read, but my 3 year old can't so I thought this would help her get started. I also have the kids clean their room every night before story time.
Good luck!

my husband & i are in the same predicament! a friend told us that his wife had had enough one night and simply took a trash bag out and put all of the toys that were on the floor in the trash bag and threw everything away. that stopped their daughter from leaving her toys on the floor! it was hard, but it helped. we've told our daughter that we would throw away her toys if she leaves them all over, and it helps sometimes. we haven't been as consistent with her as we should be, but she certainly doesn't like us to tell her that her toys will be thrown away. we do help her put things away, but we always make sure she starts doing it first. we also take our time, so the majority of the work is done by her! good luck!

I have found that zip lock baggies are the best thing for puzzles and small items that go with larger toys. We also have the colored storage boxes. They are little and are on the slanted shelf.

My kids love the idea of putting things where they belong because I have a rule around my house that if they are not playing with it and it is out and if I can step on it OR if I do step on it it goes "Bye-Bye" I mean it to. I throw it away. Call me mean but I have stepped on to many barbie shoes and all the little Ben 10 toys.

They will learn just get in your own little grove of how you want the kids to pick up and let them know that rules are rules and they need to be followed.

1. They are old enough to help clean up
2. What is left out, you take away for a certain period of time or give away
3. Do not allow them to get out other toys until the ones they're playing with are put away. If they refuse, they don't play. You have NO idea what kinds of bad habits this creates down the road. They need to learn to finish what they start and that THEY NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY to help clean up their own messes. Spoiled brats expect things to be picked up by someone else.
4. Don't stop there. Clothes, etc need to have the same rules. BE CONSISTENT. When I coached, if a kid left something, they had to pay 50 cents to the fund to get it back or I gave it to someone who needed it. They learned to be responsible for their own belongings. Obviously, at 4 they aren't going to pay you, but you get the idea. THEY need to be responsible for the care of their own toys, clothes, etc. THEY ARE NOT TOO YOUNG TO START THIS!

We are in the midst of conquering our own "toy monsters". I can tell you what we did and it seems to be working. My husband built a whole wall of cubbies in our playroom. There are 2 shelves worth and each cubby holds 2 laundrybaskets (wanted to get totes but laundrybaskets were cheaper and you could see through the sides better). Then I sorted all of the toys into a basket so all their little parts were contained into 1 basket each. Each basket is labeled with what goes in it. The kids are each allowed to have 1 basket out at a time and before they can get out another one they have to put all the pieces back and put the basket away. My kids are 3 and 1 and the system even worked when we hosted another couples children that are also 3 and 1. It has seriously cut down on the amount of pickup that I have to do at night!

SAME PROBLEM DIFFERENT HOUSE AND DIFFERENT KIDS. I had a home daycare for a while and did the same method with my kids...it really works....no punishment needed after they learn the system. Get clear plastic tubs with LIDS. Be sure to get appropriate sizes so all the toys fit for each grouping. Label with a picture of the toy on the side (this is for little kids), the name of the toy (dont' do all caps b/c kids don't learn to read this way) and I did the Spanish word (if I could find it). I had to REALLY be in the playroom with the kids for the 1st week or so. I told them 1 set of toys at a time and explained how we would pick up and they could get stars. Now sometimes the dinosaurs have to play with the trains...that is ok if they are playing with them together but both had to be cleaned up when they were finished and put int he correct tubs. I would make a game of finding the tub, reading the letters and saying it in Spanish while they were putting the toys away. I would help and sometimes have to motivate but generally they got it all picked up. I would then give them a foil star sticker on a star chart that was hanging up in the playroom. They got a star for EVERY tub they cleaned up. The cart was ONLY for cleaning up, some days they would get 15 stars. When each child had 25 stars they were rewarded with me reading a book of their choice to them. The other kids could sit on the floor and listen to the book or keep playing but the "winner" got to sit in the bean bag chair with me. They all wanted their chance to sit and read so they did a great job of cleaning up when they were ready to move onto the next toy. No need to reward with food or shopping. Kids already get too many sweets and have so much stuff. Within 2 weeks the kids were playing nicely and cleaning up (even when I wasn't in there). I would go in and give stars as they told me about every box they put away!!! It wasn't perfect but they really did a good job. My kids are GREAT readers and read about 4 grades above normal. They also are good at cleaning up (most of the time). My daughter loves to organize and has tubs in her room!!!

I used to have a daycare and had a similar problem. I paid attention to what was really getting played with and what was getting thrown aside. All toys played with I kept out. Anything that was pushed aside trying to find what they wanted got put up. Most things were never even missed! They went on a yard sale. When the kids got tired of the toys we did activities together but not before picking up stuff. Most kids like to help with cookie decorations, fingerpainting (even us big kids!), making cards for friends and family, going for walks even if just to the store. We even read books together. Flub and playdoh (the homemade kind) and so are rice "sand" boxes. There are many things you can do WITH kids and they really do love that much more than playing on their own with toys. TV was very limited. I didn't want kids to just watch tv and do nothing. Variety is great. Kids will always look for fun and different things to learn and occupy them. Good luck!
mddhf

T.,
our daughter is 2 and we were also having the same problem. We got a grat idea from our speech therapist, she keeps all of her toys in plastic bags(well the peices). Our daughter always puts her toys back so we did the same thing at home and she keeps everything put away in its right bag, we also encourage one toy to be put away before we get another one out. We also have a clean up song, it actually comes from barney i believe. It goes clean up clean up everybody everywhere, clean up clean up everybody do your share. We just sing that over and over again and she will pick up everything. That is what has been working for us for about the last 4 months. Good luck :)

Hi T.,
I used to get really annoyed about the toys getting mixed up. We had bought a animal train set for my 2year old last year for christmas and it came with a little bag to keep all the parts to it, so we keep them in that. The big old blocks comes in a barrel type box with a shape sorter and we keep them in that. We have tons of shapes and shape sorters and we decide to keep certain toys in certain totes or wagons, some go outdoors, some for the tub, some for the playroom and some for the car. We always keep the toys that come in certain things in their original boxes or even the neat little travel bags, we also keep shoe boxes lying around and put even some toy cars or action figures or what ever fits in those. Its like treasure hunting for the kids, they love it. My two year old (daughter) has a bunch of different types of toys, from baby dolls to trucks and cars, we take the brushes, play diapers, play food and all that goes near her kitchenette and stroller but all the small things or things that can be bagged up we put in her little purses, extra diaper bags and what not and all them go in her doll box, her stuffed animals we put some on shelves, put some on her little toy hammock, leave some for around her bed and some in the livingroom for her to play with, along with a few for the car rides, anything extra like her play guitar that sits in her little chair so she can play with it when ever. I try to stay organized and I try to keep my kids that way. My older two are harder to keep organized then my 2 year old. Good Luck and I hope that this helps out a little. The toys I give away are the ones I feel are no longer for their age group. The toys I toss out are broken or no longer can be used for anything. Some small toys are kind of nice to keep incase you lose a piece to a game like monopoly or something. That works. LOL..good luck once again.

First of all your children are very young, I admit they have to learn early so make cleaning up the toys a game with a prize at the end. It should never be another toy, game, etc.!!! You will have to supervise the activity. Set a time, probably 1/2 an hour before you want the toys put away for the day, and then go with them to the playroom. You can have a contest for them with the winner getting to pick out a favorite story that will be read to them before they go to sleep, a special bedtime snack, or they get to pick out a special show/movie they really like to watch.
You can use the old if "mommy has to pick it up it won't be here tomorrow" and then extend tomorrow to a week. Then you can pick the stuff up, store it in a box and put it away under your bed, in a closet, the garage, whatever and they don't get it back for a day, then for a week, etc. Then it is, the toys will be given away to a child who has no toys and take them with you when you cart it off to a shelter, goodwill, or a resale shop depending on what it is.
This is an ongoing battle that will last forever, I assure you. I am still fighting with the 10 year old in my home about the same thing, but I admit we have less stuff than we used to have which is good. Wait until they disect all of the bionocles and you have thousands of pieces all over with no idea how to put them back together, and by the way, neither do they!!! This has turned into a very interesting problem as we have two drawers full of pieces now!!! All I can say is at least the pieces are in the drawers!!

Hi
We used to have this toy mess as well. I have three kids. My oldest used to have like 10 toy boxes. We couldn't move in her room. The toys was always out. Then one day while she was at grandma's. I decluttered her toys. I brought her slowly down from 10 to eventually 2. Now with 2 toyboxes. She has no problems with keeping them up. One is nothing but stuffed dogs. The other one is just toys.

My 2, 4 yr olds used to have an entire room full of toys. I had a box for each. Stuffed animals, cars, balls, outside toys and so forth.

Well I got tired of being the only one that cleaned up. So I decluttered their stuff. Now we are down to 1 toybox in their room and one in the dining room.

They can find Thomas, all the cars for Cars. I tell them it is time to clean up. Sure they are sad. But within say 10 minutes. My kids have all the toys put away. We have only had 1 car damaged in all the time we went to less toys. That was Flo she got stepped on. But Thomas and all the cars are very happy. My daughter can find her dolls and we don't have missing puzzle pieces. I went and numbered the puzzle piece 1 or 6 for an example. We know how many we need to find.

We have 3 sets of grandparents and a lot of aunts/uncles and then friends who gave us toys. So this was our way of dealing with it.

We have a rule you haven't played with it in 2 months. Then you don't love it. It is gone. I have given away like 6 van loads of toys over the last 3 yrs. My oldest one has thanked me for this. She says she can think clearer now.

Hi T.,

I feel your frustration! I had the same problem with my son who just turned a year old. I got some big, clear, plastic tupperware type tubs and divided the different types of toys. We now have five tubs of toys. (one for his train and the animals that go with it, one for cars, one for blocks and stacking/nesting toys, one for soft toys, and one for balls and gadget-like toys) I only let my son play with one tub at a time. If he finishes playing with a tub and wants to play with a different tub, he has to put all the toys away before he can play with the next tub. (I am doing most of the putting away now, but I have made a song up to go along with putting the toys in the box. My son loves it. If he insists on playing with a new tub without cleaning up, I just say "Yes, yes let's play with that next. Look at the carpet. It's full of toys. Let's clean up first. And then I sing a song." I know that you can't really reason with a toddler, but if you keep it light and fun this kind of reasoning sort of works. He started to put the last couple of toys in the tubs a few days ago and today he started the putting away process on his own.) We have three or four play times throughout the day and always end with the song and me giving lots of praise to him for putting his toys away. My son has adjusted well to the idea, but then he is still only a year old. I read an article in my church magazine written by a mother of 5 kids. She said that she tried to keep things light and fun and to say "yes" more often than "no" to things. She said that her kids would listen better when they heard "no" if they had heard "yes" more often throughout the day. So maybe you should stress the positive things your kids do with cleaning up and don't let them see the negative so much. I wouldn't do any punishing unless it is absolutely necessary. An example would be if your kids leave their toys on the stairs where someone could get hurt. I hope that helps a little. Good luck and enjoy your kids.
D.

I had this problem with 14 preschoolers at a time...

Use transition times to pick toys up; get them excited about, say, lunch, and let them know that if they want lunch they have to show you a clean room. Put pictures of the toys on shelves/boxes to show where they go - and if you write down the names of the toys they'll be exposed to reading while they're putting toys away. This way (hopefully) they will have fewer toys out at a time, since there will be less time for them to pick a toy, play with it, and forget about it.

Limiting and rotating the amount of toys available might help as well (in addition to saving you money since the newly set out toys feel like new, so you don't have to buy more toys to keep them from getting bored with the older ones). The less they have to leave on the floor, the less that actually gets on the floor.

First and foremost-YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

One thing I would say is to evaluate the kids toy room. Do they honestly have tooo many toys??
As parents we want to give our children everything we didn't have, and when kids have too much toys it can be overwhelming for them to clean up.

I would weed out toys that your children no longer play with.
A quick way to get rid of them would be on freecycle. (www.freecycle.com)

Then I would with the children go in there and get the toy room all cleaned up-again-and final time...

Then, even tho, you will get the "mean mommy award" only allow them to have out one toy at a time...or set of toys..blocks..trains..farm...etc...

You at first will have to stay on top of that at first. Continue to check the toy room...ok there are trains blocks and farm stuff out...someone needs to get them picked up...etc...

And I have found what works for me is to work clean up time into your bedtime routines and all other routines.

A timer is my best friend...when it's almost time for lunch I take the timer into the room and say Ok I'm setting the timer for 15 minutes, it's almost time for lunch time to clean up...let's see if you can beat the timer. Reminding them that things must be put where they belong...

And continue to do this throughout the day...ok..dinner time...ok time to start our bedtime routines...let's beat the timer...

Consistancy is really the key here.

I hope this helps, as I know too how frustrating it can be!!

S.-Michigan

I also have a 4 and 2 year old at home and I can completely picture your house, as it used to be the norm here. What we did is we all cleaned up together one morning. My 4year old is better that my 2 year old as the younger one gets distracted. It helped to give everything it's own place too. Once it was all clean we incorporated clean up through out the day. Before lunch we all cleaned up together and before dinner, etc.

I also started a "Saturday box" which is a clear plastic tub that the children can see through. If at any time I ask them to pick up a toy they forgot to put away after using and after I've asked, I will put it in the Saturday box. They cannot get the toy back until Saturday. Both of these things seem to work. Once we cleaned it all together the first time my 4 year old took ownership of the toys and my 2 year old tries to follow her big brother.

It is a start, though sometimes it is forgotten and I am left with a mess, though not the huge one as before. Maybe this will help you a bit.

Hi T., When my kids were little, I "supervised" their play in that they did not have acces to all their toys. In order to play with toy B thye had to put away toy A. When there was a mess we prepared for bed 1/2 hour early by cleaning up together. They need to be taught not just told how to clean up and then supervised in the doing of it. It takes time though. I do remember one time when the girls were older though (like 6, 8 and 11) and I took all they had left out and put them in trash bags in the basement for a week. this included shoes, clothes, etc so they had trouble finding things for school but it worked (for a while).

Good luck dear. That age is joyful so play with them if you have time. it will soon be gone.

my kids have learned that if they dont clean up after themselves that they can't go outside to play. and for a while i had to put the toys on "time-out". if they misbehaved like not listening, being mean to their sibling, etc, i would put the toy(s) that were their favorite at the time into the closet for a time out. i would determine the length of time out based on what they did. sometimes it would be a week before they got their toy back. it has helped alot. i havent had to put the toy on time-out in several months...they still make quite a mess with their toys, but they know they have to clean it up. they may whine, but they at least clean it up....i have a bookshelf in both the toy room and the living room and several bins that they keep their toys organized in....many of the toys like legos, letters, etc have their own clear tote with lid...this makes it easy for them to carry it around.

You're getting lots of good ideas already, but I just wanted to encourage you by telling you what I tell myself daily. They're still children, and they're in training! My kids are 10, 7 and 3 now, and it's a lot better than it was when they were your kids' ages. I use a combination of things the others have mentioned, yet we still have struggles with this. The difference is, once they get a bit older you can expect them to get it done before they get lunch, etc. Our rule is that they're not allowed to do anything of their choice until all the rooms they've been in are straightened up. We also do a family "evening clean-up" a bit before bedtime (which daddy seems to need as much as the kids). I've tried to see the big picture in this instead of being chronically frustrated. I shouldn't expect them to do this naturally or even to be very good at it, and it's not really even about having a clean house. It's about teaching a strong work ethic and taking responsibility. With those goals in mind it's easier for me to keep a lid on my temper and focus on teaching them instead of on how I'm inconvenienced.

I worked at a daycare center and onething you could do is put pictures of the toys on the containers so they know where they go. Are the toys on sheleves??? Children at that age do picture association. Then if they don't pick up give some type of punshiment, like taking those toys away for a day or two and if they do pick them up do a reward chat so that if it continues at the end of the week you give them a reward. The reward could be going to the $ store, going for an ice cream, little things like that. Also, if you children have lots of toys you might try rotating them. Let some out for a montha nd then the next month take those away and out the other half out.
Just some ideas.....
Good Luck,
Becky

Hi T.,
There is a game my older brother used to play with us growing up that I have used for my children over and over when it's time to clean up. It as simple as taking a few cards out of a deck (like the number cards a few lower #'s and a few higher)or you could use them all. Lay them face down and as your child picks a card, what ever number is on it that's how many toys they need to pick up. One can take his turn and you all help count, then the next opne can go. Or I made it like a race, both kids going at the same time But you must have rules. Some could be like "everything goes in the right tub or box, or you'll have to fix it and that turn doesn't count", "all checker to Connect Four count as one turn" That's if there are all in the same general area and one or two scoops will do it. Just make up a few rules and announce them before you start. It amazingly works everytime. We've done it when friends are over, at church when the room is out of control etc. That should help with the picking stuff up. As far as putting one toy away before a new one comes out, you may just have to sit in there while they play and repeat yourself over and over. We stressed it enough that they finally got it at some point. When my boys were younger we had an extra bedroom as the "toy room". The rule was no toys outside of the toy room and the floor was to be picked up when you leave it. Both boys eventually just started doing it. That rule helped with not getting toys strung all over the house.
Best wishes for whatever you decide to do.
:-) T.

This is one of my most frustrating things. I have each different type of toy in a plastic box and all the boxes stack neatly together. We allow him to pull out a certain number of toys before pulling out more, if you can't see the floor because there are too many cars then it's time to clean up. I also do this because our little boy tends to step all over his toys and I don't want to trip over his toys either.
If he doesn't pick up the toys and we have to do it, they go into the box and the box goes on the top shelf for a week. I do this for each of the toys, the hard part is remembering when I put what toy up. We have always made him put his toys away but we just started putting his toys away if he doesn't put them up. It was a suggestion from a friend and so far so good. While the other toys are gone he tends to want to read more and play with things he normally doesn't play with.

We always made a game of it. I would help, but very little. I would tell my daughter that we would pick up her toys together and then she could have a snack. I have a friend who had 2 kids and what she use to do when she got frustrated with the toys is: Take the ones that they rarely play with or may not miss and get a storage tub and put them away. As you see that there are things they are less interested in, put them away and bring out something they may asked what happened to it. If you buy anymore toys, tell them that they have to choose (or you do it for them) 1 complete toy to put away in the tub for awhile. It sure worked for her and I know a couple other mothers who have tried it with success. As you put others away and bring out others, they feel they either missed that toy or that they have a new one because they completely forgot about it.

This may not work for you... but I used to close the door to the play room and leave the mess! I did clean up the mess with the kids when it got too bad (usually once a month). But in general, this was their room to hang out, play and feel comfi with. I did offer solutions on how to better organize stuff by designating different areas for different toys, like a shelving unit for board games, a red plastic tote for stuffed animals, etc. It helped them. I taught them about cleaning up and helping with normal household chores. You can always incorporate the play room into the household chores.

Hi,
I've tried several different kinds of organizational strategies with picking up toys and the ones that work for us (kids 14,9,4) are they have to pick up before they go outside or anywhere else and every night at 8:30 or 1/2 hour before bed. It was tough at first (nagging and griping at them) getting them into a routine but it has paid off now because they do it without being told. If at first they didn't do it, I would give them three chances and then the toys would either get taken to charity or thrown away depending on the shape the toy was in.
The other thing that helped was perging a lot of toys. I don't know about your kids but mine had way too many. More than they would play with. So we kept the favorites and got rid of the rest. Now when there is a new toy an old one goes. I hope this helps because I know your frustration. SAHM 3 kids, happily married.

T.,
I have two-two year old girls. Their play room usually migrates to every other room of the house... but we put toys away together. They have one "rubbermaid" tub (a shorter one) with all of their little toys and kitchen stuff, a basket for their dress-up stuff, a toy box for the big toys and stuffed toys and a taller rubbermaid tub for the mega blocks. Then the book shelf and baby strollers etc line the rest of the room. It has been about 6 months since we did this, and all of the toys usually end up in their appropriate location and each day we start off new. Its also not very hard to find a missing toy by the way they are seperated. Before nap and bedtime daily, we put the toys away together - they aren't both always willing but its better to start early with asking them to help then never.

I have a 3 year old and a 4 year old boys. If they do not help clean up when requested, they go to time out. I don't make them clean up the whole thing. I help out a little to get them started and remind them to keep picking up until everything is put away. When there are like 100 pieces, I don't expect their attention span to stick that long. I help out a little (maybe I should be more strict?). If they don't help put away the toy, the next day it's not available to play with.

As they get older, like 6 years old, they can deduct where toys go and why they are taken away. I plan on putting toys left out into a large box or barrell. If I have to pick it up, then it's going "away". Anything left in the box or barrell is getting sold. Either way, I don't plan on putting away all their shoes, clothes, toys, etc for the rest of their lives. So... if they want to know where it's at then they better put it away for themselves. It works great for teenagers and husbands too! My girlfriend uses this method and it gives her piece of mind to know she hasn't coddled the situation by doing their chores and it's off her floor.

T.,

I am frustrated too. Every night I scour our TV room to put the toys where they belong. It's futile. I just have to do it if I want to feel some calm.
When she's awake more often than not, I will tell my three year old to clean up one toy before opening another. Tinker Toys have to be picked up before her jiggsaw puzzle gets worked on. It was hard at first, but since I've kept up with insisting on it, she's really okay and actually learning the right thing to do. And even though everyone I know hates the Laurie Berkner music, we still love it and sing the "Clean It Up" song. Hopefully she'll be able to set a great example for her little brother and they'll both help each other.

Good luck to you!
J.

My ds will be 4 next month. Dp and I do most of the toy cleanup around here, and ds helps a lot of the time. (I do have to admit that ds doesn't seem to get as many toys out as other kids do).
I want ds to learn that we *help* each other out in this household. I don't want him to help clean up because it's helpful, and it's the right thing to do, and because it's part of living with a family. I don't want him to do it for self centered reasons (ie: "If I clean, I'll get a gummy bear." or "If I don't clean, I'll get punished.")

And you know, he definitely gets the idea. He helps me with most anything I ask him to help with- he'll get me a towel, help me get the clothes from the dryer, sweep the floor, etc. Why would I want to make a big deal out of HIM doing his own jobs by himself? I want him to help me, and to teach him that, I have to be willing to help him.

The other day he surprised dp and I by saying that he wanted to clean his room up. By the time he even asked for help, every toy was picked up and put in the right place except for a few legos and mr. potato head pieces. So...he must be learning something right. lol

I don't do rewards or punishments for anything here. Now, I do sometimes use very related consequences. For instance, there have been a few times where there was a big mess of toys and ds didn't want to help me pick them up. I told him that everything that I pick up on my own, is going in a box to be put away for later. (he was well aware that the toys wouldn't be thrown away, and that we would rotate them back, and other toys out).
The logic being that if he won't help me pick up toys when there are a lot out, then we need to only have as many toys as I am willing to pick up on my own. yk?

Hi T.,

My children are 8, 4 and 3 months and just like all the other moms, we have fought this monster forever! My sister-in-law gave me a couple of good ideas and they work great. First she put all the toys groups in individual containers and found a closet to store them in (rather than a shelf or someplace the children could see them). The closet then became a sort of toy library. The children would have to "check out" one or two toys at a time, then return them before getting another. The other suggestion was that she limits the toys they keep in the closet putting some in the attic for a period of time. Then she rotates them out every few months or so. It solves the problem of mom have to pick up all the toys and it keeps clutter to a minimum. I also find that rotating the toys keeps the kids from getting tired of them. I find that it works great if I put them in the attic (or time out) after I have to pick them up...the toys, that is, not the kids;-)

At any rate, these suggestions saved my sanity. Hope they help yours a bit. Good luck!

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