My son is 3.75, and I get him to clean up his toys before bed and usually at least once throughout the day. Some strategies that have worked are:
- Making it a race. My son loves race cars and likes to pretend he is one sometimes, so we race to see who can put away toys the quickest.
- Turning it into a searching game..."Can you find a blue car? Great; put it in the bin! Now can you find a red one? Yay!"
- Reminding him that toys left out are likely to get lost or stepped on. He's started to get the concept of misplacing items when he asks me where such-and-such toy is and I say "Hmm, I'm not sure. Where did you put it last time you played with it?"
- As a last resort, if he chooses not to put them away, I tell him that I'll put them away for him. That means, however, that because I am much taller than him that they will go up on a tall shelf (that he can't reach) instead of in the floor-level cubbies assigned for his toys. After a few experiences with this consequence, he usually chooses to put them away in their proper places. If not, they stay up there until the next day.
In the context of having a good organizational system for different types of toys and being more consistent lately about expecting him to put away toys, we are seeing some progress and more cooperation from him.