Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Picking Up Toys

July 27th, 2010 by Dionna | 8 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Children, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Toddlers

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This post is the fifth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love and logic to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, and picking up toys. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback; thank you to everyone who has already contributed ideas.

2010-07-25 01

Ideas to Make Picking Up Toys a Positive Experience

Slam Dunk: Get several baskets to store your toys in. When it’s time to put the toys away, turn it into a slam dunk contest and have everyone see how many toys they can “shoot” into the baskets.

Play “I Spy”: While helping your toddler pick up her toys, turn it into a game of “I Spy” to make it fun (and even educational!). “Let’s see if we can put away something yellow.” “Can you find 4 dishes to put in your play kitchen?” “I spy something round to put away.”

Tip Toe Toys: If you’re not in the mood for noise, see how quietly everyone can clean up. Make it a game of tip toeing around the room to see who can clean the quietest.

Musical Cleaning: Find a music source and get ready for some giggles! Tell your kids that any time the music is on, they should see who can put the most toys back in their places. Once the music is turned off, they have to freeze.

Organize: It’s easier to pick up when everything has a place. Try separating toys out into bins – blocks in one, dolls in another, etc. It will be easier and faster to pick up (and find toys the next time) if they are organized neatly. Let your kids help organize by drawing (or cutting out from magazines) pictures to tape on the bins or decorating the labels.

Play Pretend: It’s no fun to clean up when you’re a child, but what about when you’re a dog? How do dogs clean up? (By picking things up with their mouths, of course!) What if you were a robot? A crane? A garbage truck? Pretend with your child that you are different animals and machines, and see how each one would pick up toys.

Consider Your Toddler’s Feelings: If you interrupt the construction of a masterpiece of blocks, you will probably not get your toddler’s cooperation. If your toddler has been playing so long that he missed snack time and has low blood sugar, he will probably not be in the mood to help clean. If he is overtired, he will probably do much more whining than cleaning. Try to look at what you are asking from your toddler’s perspective. Don’t expect more than what is age appropriate, and always remember that he’ll be more willing to help if you are doing the same thing.

A Little at a Time: Rather than saving clean up for when the play area is a total wreck, have “ten minute tidy times” throughout the day. Encourage children to help you clean up one activity before moving on to the next. It’s easier to clean small piles than it is to tackle total chaos.

Act It Out: Make up a story or a song about cleaning. Many parents like the “clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere; clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.” Or pretend like you are both the little engine that could, saying “I think I can” every time you pick up a toy.

Use a Timer: Try setting a timer for a few minutes and see if everyone can clean up the toys before the time goes off.

Combine Cleaning with Something Fun: If you don’t mind snacks in the play area (and you have some that aren’t messy), try combining snack time with clean-up time. Or debut new CD’s during clean-up time, and encourage everyone to dance around while cleaning.

What ideas do you have to help make cleaning up a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

8 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Picking Up Toys"

  1. Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

    Great ideas! We are really struggling with this in our house right now & I’m definitely going to try some of your ideas. Thanks :)

  2. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    We use the old preschool stand-by “Clean-up Time” song. Even my daughter knows it and sings along as we clean. Since we do it every time we clean it seems to help put them in the cleaning mode quickly.

  3. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    Our little guy is still pretty little (22mo), so we don’t have many struggles over cleaning up yet. The fact that cleaning up is a routine helps: it’s the beginning of our routine for getting ready for bed. It also helps that we clean up WITH him. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure he understands what we’re doing (or maybe he’s just being coy!), because we’ll put away a few things and then he’ll take out something else….

  4. Great post! I use many of the same ideas & tricks, and have written about it here, in fact:

    I do find that no one approach works all the time, you really need to mix it up and keep things interesting for them.

    After SERIOUSLY injuring my foot this week on a pointy little toy (like do-I-need-stitches-or-not-and-how-do-I-do-that-with-three-kids-in-tow? bad), I have instituted the mini clean-ups throughout the day and have found that the best thing to keep things manageable and not overwhelming. I really need to remember to set aside time for them to help with clean up, too, because I often get frustrated when trying to rush them, or skip it altogether and regret that as well.

  5. kaila

    Awesome Ideas Dionna!! Thank you!

  6. Melodie   bfmom

    These posts of your are fabulous Dionna. I get so much out of them. You cover every idea I’ve ever had and then add a handful more. Thank you!!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you Melodie!! I’m lucky to have a great bunch of mamas who are willing to offer up ideas on FB – it’s not just me ;)

  7. daisy   TooTooDaisy

    Good stuff. I realized I was missing my guy’s POV when he looked at me tearfully recently after I suggested we begin picking up his room and said “i can’t — it’s too much stuff!”. So now I try to nudge in the direction of picking up in between games or projects, before it becomes just an overwhelming disaster. Once he articulated it, it seemed so obvious because I am the same way — easily cowed by a big project when I don’t even know where to start.

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