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Getting Children To Pick Up Their Toys

At times it may seem that your child has a million toys scattered throughout the house. It's easy to get frustrated over the never- ending battle of who will pick up the toys -- you or your child. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Have a place to store the toys that your child can reach.
  • Work with your child. Start when your child is young and get into the habit of storing toys every night.
  • Make picking up toys a family project. This is a good time for parents to check the toys for needed repairs or discard items beyond repair. A minor repair can keep a toy lasting for a long time.
  • Keep expectations reasonable. Your child may not be able to do things just the way you want them done. This is a time for your child to learn.
  • Your child may need help in understanding just what needs to be done. Try breaking down "pick up your toys" into small steps -- For example try: Put all blocks in the bag and hang it up on the peg, or pick up the cars on the floor and put them on the "car" shelf.
  • Reward good behavior. When your child picks up his toys, spend extra time with him as a reward.
  • Plan in advance. Before playing with toys that have small parts lay a sheet down on the floor. When playtime is over, pick the sheet up by the corners and "pour" the pieces into the storage container.
  • Make a game out of toy pickup time -- "I see something that is a green square" -- your child identifies the item and puts it away.
  • Keep a basket or box in the room for small toys and parts that you find. At the end of the day, you and your child can sort out the items. Your child will also know where to look for missing items.
  • Set a timer. How many toys can you and your child pick up before it rings?
  • Have everyone in the family pick up five items at the end of the day and put each thing away.
  • Help your child learn where things belong. Cut a picture of the toy out of a magazine and glue it onto the container where you want the item stored.

Prepared by Nancy Gartner, Extension Educator, Family Life.