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What a mess!: Teach your preschooler to pick up


“Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody does their share.” But wait — what if your preschooler isn’t doing his share? What if he’s laughing and throwing toys at you while you’re on your hands and knees picking up his mess? Here are some tried and true tips to reform your toddler from a toy tosser into a toy tidier.

Preschooler putting away her toys

1Small tasks for small people

It would be great if your preschooler could get down and dirty with some real housekeeping duties, but at this age, kids aren’t quite ready to take on the serious housework. Set your expectations accordingly. Preschool-age children can help put toys in designated spots, take dirty clothes to the hamper, and flip up a quilt or toss a pillow on the bed. Give your child clean-up duties that are easily accomplished and won’t cause frustration. You’ll be helping to build your little one’s confidence and sense of pride by teaching him how to help out with the family chores.

Getting kids to help out >>

2Everything in its place

Make it easy for your little helpers to pick up their toys and clothes. Designate baskets, drawers or bins, and add tags or labels to indicate what goes where. If your child isn’t yet reading, use an image of a truck, Lego or doll, to show where to stash the clutter.

We love lifestyle-blogger Stephanie Brubaker’s solution of hanging Polaroid photos on each of her toy bins to show her kids right where everything goes.

10 quick tips for organizing the playroom >>

3Play the clean-up game

Make clean-up time a race. Challenge your child to pick up ten toys in one minute. Set the timer for added excitement, and watch as they race to beat the clock. Make your toy bin a target, and shout out how many points your little one is making each time he makes a basket with a soft toy from across the room. Dock your iPod and crank it up — then encourage your child to get jiggy with it while they’re picking up.

4Celebrate a job well done

Before asking your children to help with clean-up duties, tell them you’ll be doing something special right after they finish the job. It might be story time, snack time, or watching their favorite television show. The point is, they have something to look forward after they get things tidied. Some call it bribery. We call it getting things done.

How to reward your children >>

Watch: “The clean-up song”

Make clean-up fun with this song!

More activities for preschoolers

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Put down that cell phone! 5 ways to engage with your preschooler today
Indoor activities for when its cold outside

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