Children love routines. A sense of orderliness brings calm to them and to your home. But how do you reason with a two year-old that has moved on from the blocks and is on to the dolls? And how can you ask them to clean up without making it seem like a chore?
It's easier than you think with some clever container ideas, conversation shifts and a well-placed play area.
Here's how to do it!
Lead By Example
Narrate what you're doing. For example, if you notice your child losing interest in the blocks, get their attention before they have the chance to move on and say, "Blocks back! Help Mama put the blocks back!" As you plop each block into the basket, make a silly noise or shout "back" until you've cleaned it up. Thank them as they help you and even if they only manage to put two blocks back, continue the routine after each time you play.
Make Storage Easy to Access
A key part to putting things back is to make sure bins are accessible for little ones. Keep open baskets on the floor or on short shelves so children have access to returning items to their proper place. Don't worry about items going back into their exact spot (i.e blocks into the block bin) but instead make a grand showing of thanks in their efforts to clean up. The more positive the experience, the more likely they will want to repeat it!
Carve Out a Designated Area for Play
Keeping toys all over the house will teach a child that "all over the place" is exactly where toys belong. Instead, carve out a corner of the living room or their bedroom to house most of your child's toys. Of course they will be welcome to bring their toys into other rooms, but having a landing spot for everything will encourage things to go back from where they came from.
Limit The Amount of Toys That Are Out
Imagine that you're a toddler that has access to every toy in the house. And then you pull everything out onto the floor. Would you feel overwhelmed and want to avoid the mess? Probably! Limit the toy collection that children have access to and rotate toys in and out on a weekly basis. You can keep a tub of toys in an out-of-sight spot until it's time to rotate them again. If there's less of a chance that a huge mess will be made, then you've won half the battle already.
Never Make Cleaning a Punishment
Picking up toys is just part of the daily routine, just like brushing teeth or saying goodnight to a favorite stuffed animal. The more ritualized it becomes, the easier the task will be for your child to perform. And if they receive positive reinforcement after they clean, they'll want to hear that praise time and time again.