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Teach Your Child to Clean Up Toys

A mom in the kitchen pointing her finger up with a tip saying how to teach your children to clean up toys, Renewed Mama Podcast and coaching, positive parenting tips, confident kids who clean up after themselves

Are your children messy with toys and food dishes left everywhere? Here’s how you can teach your child to clean up their toys without constant reminding.

One mama asked this…. “I have a parenting problem.  I would love your advice for my girls.  They are messy with toys and food dishes left everywhere.  I asked them nicely many times and sometimes angrily to clean up.  I tell them to put away their toy before getting something else out.  They blame each other.  I tell them they have to clean up whatever mess they made.  They say that they didn’t make the mess and I say, “Neither did I but I still help clean up.”  Sometimes I clean it up while they are at school because it’s easier than fighting.  But they need to learn, and I’m afraid they will be like this forever.  Any suggestions?” – Erin

Watch the podcast episode to learn how you can teach your children to clean up their toys.

Remember Your Child’s Perspective on Toys

Our perspective and our children’s perspectives about toys and mess are completely different. To them, it’s, “What mess, Mom?  We are having fun here.”

To us, it’s chaos in our house added to our already busy chaotic minds as we think of everything!  Their toy mess feels like more work for me because who’s really going to clean up your mess?  Me!  Mom!

So I encourage you, whenever you walk into the messy living room or play room or their bedrooms, take a deep breath and remind yourself that children think, “What mess, Mom?  We are having fun here.”

Create a Culture in Your Home of “We are a Family”

Instill a “We are a family.  We play together.   We work together.  We clean together” culture.

Say this all the time.  You can even hang it on the fridge.  We are a family.  We play together.   We work together.  We clean together.  This is not “only mom’s job.” Say it and stick to it.  Consistency is key. 

Say something like: “Wow!  It looks like you had so much fun in here!  I’m so happy you played so well together.  Thanks for letting me get some work done.  Now it’s time to clean up.  Remember, we are a family.  We play together.  We work together.  We clean up together.  Let’s do this!”

Say it and then give lots of hugs and high fives.  Put on fun dance music while you clean up.  You can set a timer for fun.  Then get down to work.  You will need to do this with them many times to train them how you want it to be cleaned up, putting things properly back in their places and not just thrown everywhere. 

Say things like: “Clean up with excellence.  Let’s do our very best work.” 

“Let’s put things back in their proper place so that you don’t have to search for them the next time you want to play with it.  Who wants to waste their time searching for a toy that they really, really want to play with?”

“If we are faithful with taking care of these toys that we have, keeping them clean and tidy, putting them away when we are doing playing with them, we can be trusted with more.”  (based on Matthew 25:23)

Give Them Ownership in the Clean Up

Ask them how they feel or how they would like things to be when it is all tidy.  Get their involvement, not just you telling them what to do. 

Say, “It’s time to tidy.  How do you think that we should tidy up this room?  Where are you going to put your blocks and where should I put these books?”  Get them to take ownership of their things.

When the cleanup is all done, give group hug or high fives and say, “Wow!  Doesn’t this room/space look amazing!  How blessed we are to have such special toys.  And what peace and joy and calm we feel when we put them all away where they belong and the room looks tidy!  Don’t you feel peace and joy and calm, too?” 

“Seeing the room like this really blesses Mommy.  Thank you for cleaning up and making my heart so happy.”

Teach them to appreciate and value both, the fun of play and the joy of clean up’s end result.

Is the toy mess driving you crazy?  A mom is shouting at her three children in the middle of a messy toy room telling them to clean up their toys.  You can help your children to clean up their toys by listening to the Renewed Mama Podcast episode 71, positive parenting tips, parent coaching

Communicate Well When the Clean Up Task Belongs to Them

You will not always be able to help clean up, nor should you.  Your assistance is for the training period as you teach them how it should be done. Eventually they can take care of the clean up task all on their own.

So say something like: “Mommy needs to clean up in the kitchen while you clean up the living room.  Let’s put on our fun music.  How are we going to clean up?”  Let them tell you, “With excellence!  With focus, getting the job done!  As a family working together!  Putting the toys back in their right places/bins.” 

Because you communicated well, they clearly know that Mommy is cleaning up the kitchen while they clean up the living room.

All of the responses they give of how they will clean up are all ones that you’ve talked about and reminded them of consistently until it becomes their answer and their habit.  Remember that this takes time, patience, and consistency, but it will pay off for you.  You are training them and they need lots of reminders.  Don’t get frustrated with needing to remind them.  It is just how it is because remember, they don’t see it as a mess.  It is pure fun and play to them.  We need to train them to appreciate the play and the clean!  It can really happen.

You can also say, “Mommy needs a few minutes of quiet to focus on this task or project I am working on.  Can I count on you to clean up this living room well while I do my work?  Remember, we are a family.   We play together.   We work together.  We clean together.  Can I count on you to stay focused and on task to get the clean up job done?!” 

Know What Bring You Peace in Your Home

Know what standard of cleanness brings you peace in your home and then set rules around that.

Then communicate well your expectations with your children and your husband. Do not assume that they know what you are thinking or what you are expecting.  Just tell them.  That way they have clear guidelines or boundaries in which they can succeed and feel good about themselves, not “Mommy’s upset again. I didn’t do a good job.” 

Obviously, all of this takes consistency and regular reminding until it becomes a habit.  Don’t become weary in this well doing.  It will pay off.  Your consistency will pay off. 


How do you help your children clean up their toys? After hearing this podcast episode, what will you do now to help your children clean up their toys? Let me know in the comments below.

If you know another Mama who needs this encouragement because the toy chaos is driving her crazy, share the love by sending her the link to this episode. 

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