I have two girls, 3 1/2 and 21 month, and found that getting the 3 1/2 year old to clean up after herself is getting more and more challenging. She will help me do dishes, laundry, clean the bathroom, sweep whatever but ask her to pick up the toys she was playing with and its like someone is trying to kill her. A couple things that has worked:
-Having her stuffed animals help.. Minnie Mouse is a great cleaning companion.
- Having a set pick up time during the day. She knows she has to put away blocks before getting out the puppets or whatever but I don't stress over her having her stuffed animals, books, a couple cars whatever out but we have 3 clean up sessions during the day that everyone helps with. One is right after lunch, one right before DH gets home/would have gotten home and one right before bedtime. During these times everything but one or two special toys and maybe a book each can stay out. I don't ever expect them to put away their special animals (they carry them everywhere with them, it would be mean to expect them not to when they are so attached) but everything else is expected to be taken care of. This way it isn't so random, especially for the 3 1/2 year old.
- Everything is really easy to put away and they know where everything goes. The bookcases are children sized, the boxes are children sized and the stands only as big as they are. I found out that this helped a lot, before I would use these huge cases and then they couldn't do it. Now that it is sized for them they complain a lot less.
- If DD2 makes a mess I know its her and I don't really expect DD1 to help pick it up although sometimes she will see me cleaning and come help just so I get done quicker. She has made the association between mommy getting done with her work and being able to have my attention so shes started to want to help more. She doesn't like it when I'm not available to play whenever she wants.
- I always do something fun after pick up time. Like after lunch we usually go to the park.. after the second time Daddy gets home (or we make dinner together) and after the 3rd we either play a couple or board games or read books together. They know something fun is happening afterward and it seems to self motivate them to getting the cleaning done.
- If they downright refuse to pick up the items and I have to the items are taken away for a while, length of time depending on what they do. For example if they just say no and ignore me it might be a few days but if they throw something at me or their sibling it can turn into a month. Its a set consequence that my 3 1/2 year old is starting to realize that Mommy really means.
- I try to help whenever possible but sometimes that doesn't work out (for example Im getting bread out of the oven, neighbors stop by needing to borrow something, husband calls from overseas needing to talk whatever) and I do expect at least the older one to be able to clean up some of her toys while I'm busy. I don't expect much though, more like her picking up 10 items (which she can easily do) and putting them in the box they belong in.
- Another thing that helps I keep things with multiple little pieces (with exception of Mega blocks and wooden blocks) up high where they have to ask for them. So all wooden stacker, puzzles, lacing beads what have you are kept where only DH or me can get to them. If they want to do those activities they have to ask. Same with crayons, paints, glitter, glue whatever else you can thing of that is messy. This saves the heartache of going to put laundry in the dryer and coming back to my 21 month old having got into all the puzzles and now i have to spend an hour cleaning out and putting them back together.
We have a playroom in back that most all of the toys are kept. In the front room we have a small toy chest/activity cube thing and if they want toys out there they have to fit into the chest (the toys, not the kids). My oldest asked to put the Mega Blocks into the chest since both her and her sister like to build so they have them there. If they want something else they have to ask me to help them put those away (I have to find a new spot for them since the blocks took their old spot) and then they can bring something else out.
The only time toys are allowed outside of the playroom or living room is when either 1) I'm sick or 2) they are sick. Ive been having terrible trouble with morning sickness and especially my oldest doesn't like me away from her when Im not feeling well so shes allowed to bring in some toys into my bedroom and play while Im laying down. After I get up I help her take the toys back (usually she brings in toys for the 21 month old and plays with her so I can lay down for a bit) and put them away.
- For my youngest, I started encouraging her to put toys away when she started crawling. I have a few pictures of her crawling with a stuffed animal in one of her hands, she must have been like 6-7 months old. She thought it was a lot of fun "racing" mommy to see who could get the stuffed animals in the box faster (she always won of course). She still needs a LOT of guidance but if I'm cleaning up and her big sister is cleaning up I can usually get her to clean up. She can't do some things, like it frustrates her to try to put books in the actually bookcases, but I do encourage her to try with even those.
~Heather~ Mama to Miss E (1/07), Miss A (11/08), Mr.T (2/11) and Miss A (10/12) Expecting our newest blessing sometime late Sept/early Oct.. Wife to my Marine since 11/2005