At the end of my rope with cleaning up toys... - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 20 Old 09-09-2010, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Our son is 4.5 and overall a happy, easy going kid. But when it comes to cleaning up after himself, I don't know what to do. He will flat out refuse to pick up after himself. I don't feel like I'm expecting too much of him for his age...if he gets his bin of Legos out, when he's done he should put the Legos back in the bin and put the bin where it belongs. Is that an age appropriate expectation? Instead of putting the items away in a situation like that, he will sit amongst the scattered Legos and just flat out refuse. Or he'll do something like throw one piece at a time in the direction of the bin while glaring at me. I don't know what makes him go from happy to so angry when it comes to picking up but it is driving us nuts! I've asked nicely, I've been firm, I've tried to make a game out of it, I've offered to help (and when I do that, I end up cleaning up everything myself!), I've threatened ("You won't play with Legos for a whole day if you can't take care of them!"), I've begged, and nothing. I am a bit of a neat freak I'll admit and I am really big on personal responsibility when it comes to everyone in our household cleaning up after themselves, treating their belongings with respect and not being wasteful, etc.

I just don't know what to do. Last night a container of beads was knocked over by accident. Not a big deal. I asked our son to pick them up and that resulted in him running through the pile, tracking beads from the living room, down the hall, and into his own room. After about an hour, he finally helped me pick up some and I was on my hands and knees cursing in my head, picking up a (@#*(% ton of beads. It is like this with everything, not just tiny items like that!

Any suggestions so I don't ?

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#2 of 20 Old 09-09-2010, 02:25 PM
 
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I wouldn't stand for that. To me, that's blatant disobedience, esp at that age.
ETA: It's also very disrespectful.

In my house, we have a rule. "If you can't pick up your toys, then Mama picks them up. And if Mama picks them up, Mama gets to put them wherever she wants to."

They know that Mama can put them in the trash, in the donate bin, or in the closet, which I've done and kept them in the closet for over a month once. All they had to play with were books and their own imaginations.

There are days when I regret ever having brought the toys back out again - that month was amazing! They got so creative.
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#3 of 20 Old 09-09-2010, 11:48 PM
 
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In my house, we have a rule. "If you can't pick up your toys, then Mama picks them up. And if Mama picks them up, Mama gets to put them wherever she wants to."
I agree. I had the same issue with my soon-to-be-5y/o DD. She would create a complete disaster in her playroom and refuse to clean up. I literally could not walk through the room. Then she refused to help clean up. So I told her that if she didn't want to help that was fine, but then I had the right to put her toys where I wanted and she could not complain. She said fine. Then I started to gather things up and put them in a bag to go to the thrift store and she realized I was serious and she suddenly found it within herself to help.

I only have to mention the deal and she puts her stuff away now.
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#4 of 20 Old 09-10-2010, 04:48 PM
 
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How would you implement this approach when there are multiple children? I have one great cleaner and two not-so-much (though, in fairness, one is younger and I think just doesn't get it yet).
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#5 of 20 Old 09-10-2010, 06:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bananahands View Post
How would you implement this approach when there are multiple children? I have one great cleaner and two not-so-much (though, in fairness, one is younger and I think just doesn't get it yet).
Especially when they share a room?

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#6 of 20 Old 09-10-2010, 07:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Anastasiya View Post

In my house, we have a rule. "If you can't pick up your toys, then Mama picks them up. And if Mama picks them up, Mama gets to put them wherever she wants to."

Yes, this. If I have to pick up more than a couple toys, they go out in the garage. My two year old picks up after herself (with direction, if need be), I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a 4.5 year old to at least help. Wrt having multiple children, especially if they share a room (dd2 and dd3 share room), when they were not wanting to clean, I'd start to pick up and sing a clean up song (something simple), which would usually get one to help, and then I'd make a point to say thank you and compliment her on doing a good job (which would usually get the other one to help, too). That usually worked, but yeah, if they refused to pick up, then I pick up and the toys go away. I don't usually have any trouble with it now.
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#7 of 20 Old 09-10-2010, 07:41 PM
 
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I've been blogging about decluttering and cleaning up the clutter for almost two years. I've got three boys, so this is an issue that I've talked about on my blog several times. It's been a process to get to a point where my boys are helping to clean. Here's what I've found works:

Decrease the number of toys that are available. If he can't pick up all the Legos that he's dumped, then maybe there are too many Legos in that bin. I'm working right now on trying to find the right number of toys for my six year old. I put a LOT of toys away in the basement this summer because he wasn't keeping his room any where close to clean. I didn't put the toys away as a punishment. I didn't do it in the heat of the moment, but instead spent a week cleaning his room and sorting things so that the toys that remain are the toys he actually plays with. I still have more to put away, but it's a heck of a lot better than it was.

My theory is that a child shouldn't have any more toys out and available than he can manage picking up and putting away himself.

Other things that have worked (especially with small things):

Scoop Legos and beads with a dustpan. It goes much faster. Sweep them into the dustpan. My 6 year old likes to see how few scoops he can do to pick up the Legos.

I help him pick up sometimes, especially when he is very reluctant. We make it a competition.

I tie doing his chores in with computer time. If his chores aren't done, then there isn't any computer time. We've been doing this for so long that, when he wants to get on the computer, he asks what chore he can do first.
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#8 of 20 Old 09-11-2010, 10:03 AM
 
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I agree with PP that perhaps there are simply too many toys.

One trick that my mom used to help us clean up our mountain of Legos was to pour them on a blanket for play. Then, when it was time to clean up we simply picked up the corners of the blanket and easily poured them in the bin.

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#9 of 20 Old 09-11-2010, 02:39 PM
 
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Try maikg the cleaning up a game-racing a timer, "dunking" toys in a basket or bin, competition to see who picks up the most beads. Work alongside him b/c even one bin can seem overwhelming to a small child.
As for the beads, it wasn't clear in your OP to me if he knocked them over or not. I kow my son can get huffy about having to help clean up someone else's mess which I can understand.

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#10 of 20 Old 09-11-2010, 03:43 PM
 
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I can't say we have a permanent answer or anything but what helps my son is to have a routine of when the cleanup happens, rather than it feeling (to him) really random.

It's obvious to me that when he's moving on to something else he should clean up the first thing, but despite Montessori it's not obvious to him. But "we always tidy up before lunch on weekends" does. We tend to do it before each meal, then wash hands and help make whatever.

Other things that help:
- a competition or super clear directions ("you do the beads and I'll get the books")
- a cheerful attitude from me. If I walk in and sigh and say "this room is a mess" I immediately know it's not going to go down well.
- some fantasy play. We become clean-up superheroes, or do it like bunnies.
- we talk a lot about teamwork as a family and I think that consistency helps. The base expectation is that we all help each other.

In reality sometimes none of that works and I tend to let those times go and do it myself. Due to issues from my past I'm just not ready yet to make it a moral issue/power struggle.

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#11 of 20 Old 09-13-2010, 05:05 PM
 
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I love fantasy stories for helping me with the kids. We have a couple of fairy people around here, helping me a lot
One group of them are the "pick up fairies" - and they don´t clean up for you. They are poor little things that don´t own any toys. So they fly around at night looking for toys for them. there is this rule that any toy that is lying on the floor is a present for the pick-up-fairies. They take it with them to play with it.

It works like a charm! DD is cleaning on her own, telling granny that they really have to pick up all the toys.
I just had one evening where I picked up the toys and put them away, because the fairies took them. We wrote a letter to them telling them that it was a mistake and they were kind enough to bring the toys back
I don´t know what happens when dd stops believing in fairies, though

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#12 of 20 Old 09-16-2010, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My theory is that a child shouldn't have any more toys out and available than he can manage picking up and putting away himself.
I think this has been at least part of the problem and we've been pretty strict the past few days about the number of toys pulled out, and it seems to have made a big difference. We've been very firm with the "Take one item/set out and it must be put away before the next is taken out" and it is helping a lot. I've also allowed only half the amount of Legos out at a time which seems to be helping.

Triniity, that is a funny idea! LOL

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#13 of 20 Old 09-16-2010, 10:53 AM
 
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When we move into our apt next weekend (we just moved and are staying with my sis for now while our things sit in storage) i am going to implement the less toys solution. My 6yo dd has always had to clean up after herself and she is very good at helping, but sometimes she will whine about it being too much to clean up and she needs help-I dont mind helping sometimes but i also have things to do. Ds (3.5) is pretty good about cleaning his room on his own. But he has less toys in there and usually only drags out his cars. DD2 (2) is not quite grasping the cleaning up thing yet. She will pick something up that I point out and put it where i ask her to. Especially if she sees dd1 is doing the same thing with other toys.
DD1 likes to play a game with cleaning up the legos where we clean up all of the red ones, then all of the yellow ones, and so on. i did it one time in an effort to get her to clean them (it worked) adn that is how she does it now and she gets her brother and sister involved too (which helps them learn and practice their colors).
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#14 of 20 Old 09-16-2010, 06:38 PM
 
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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.

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#15 of 20 Old 09-16-2010, 07:37 PM
 
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i read this whole thread and

THANK YOU ALL SOO MUCH

i told my kids today that if they dont pick up the toys i will take them away, and well my 2yr old said ok here momma and then runs away to play, my 4 yr old says momma i didnt make the mess but take them

so now they have no toys and i have a clean house oooo yeah baby

Amanda mom to Mahmoud 7-20-06, Kareem 8-23-08, and Baby #3 due May 19th 2011
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#16 of 20 Old 09-16-2010, 10:38 PM
 
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Uhm Mahmoud-- hehehe-- funny!

The basis for our clean up theory is any child who is old enough to lift a toy out of a toy box (or bin, or off of a shelf) is also old enough to return it when asked.

My boys have accompanied me to the thrift store to drop off their things. I told them they were welcome to use their pocket money to buy them back if they like. The lady taking the donation thwarted my plan; however, and took each item out of the bag, and assigned it a ridiculously low price (way lower than normal thrift-- like 2 cents!), and rebagged it while patiently waiting for them to count their money and looking at me like I was a kook!

Anyway... we go in spurts ~shrug~ such is life, I guess.

I like the pickup faeries! Brilliant. But my DC informed my mother before age 2, that, pssst! (whispered so as not to embarrass Grammy) faeries aren't REALLY real. I guess they would still get the point-- it's a nice way to tell them your things live in the carport if they don't get put up.

IME my DC loved to help before they were really old enough to do much good, and not so much once they were big enough to help a great deal.
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#17 of 20 Old 09-17-2010, 12:18 AM
 
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I agree with the limited amount of toys, make it easy to put away, & make it disappear if the child doesn't care for his/her belongings. Reasons are always good - we don't leave things out because people could trip over them & be hurt, the toys could be stepped on & broken, the dog could chew them up; I admit to telling my kids that we'll be vacuuming the floor after they go to bed, & any toys left out will be "sucked up". I do usually vacuum & do other housework late, but my girls do move quickly & put things up if I need to clean during the day (ages 3 & 4).

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#18 of 20 Old 09-17-2010, 03:13 AM
 
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We have fairies here that go around looking for toys that need to be better taken care of. So far only candy land has gone, but it has made an affect on her. She will ask to write the fairies a note when she wants to keep something out that she is working on. Sometimes i feel guilty "lying" to her but sometimes I don't' care!!!

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#19 of 20 Old 09-17-2010, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Everything is really easy to put away and they know where everything goes.
This is an issue for us. For another month-ish, we're stuck in a TINY apartment. When we move there will be more space for another set of bookshelves, but honestly I'm considering buying one after work today and just making it fit in DS's room so there are places for everything. The clutter is just driving me nuts. And that part isn't necessarily anyone's fault...I just haven't had the money for the nice set of shelves/cubbies that I wanted. But I think I'm going to suck it up this weekend and spend money I don't have just to get the stuff into a space.

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#20 of 20 Old 09-18-2010, 09:09 PM
 
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Lots of good ideas on here. As far as the attitude goes, around here if you give me attitude when I ask you to do something it shows me that you need practice in being nice to Mama and helping.

So...when that job is done there is another one waiting...to practice having a good attitude. It took a few days of a lot of jobs, but it's rare we have issue now. My dd is 5.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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