Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We Are That Family is hosting "Works-For-Me Wednesday!" This is my first time participating.
You ever notice that kids usually make a mess when they play? They go into a clean room, play in it with their toys until the room is trashed, then they move on to the next clean room and trash that one. Then it's on to the next room.

You ever step on a toy when you're barefoot? Yowza! Ever practically break your neck because you tripped over a toy? Been there. Done that.

When our oldest was a baby/toddler, we put all his toys in a milk crate on the floor in the living room. That was "his" spot. As a toddler I used to take his hand and gently encourage him to pick up his toys at cleanup time and we sang a little cleanup song. As he got older, the toys multiplied. They do that. It's an evil plot. Trust me.

When he was verbal and able to ask for something I began toy training. First I put most of the toys up where he couldn't reach them. That way he couldn't just dump all the toys out and make a mess. He had to ask me for the one he wanted.

The reason I wanted him to ask is that I was teaching him to manage his toys. He would have to play with one toy at a time, and when he was done with that toy he had to put it away (bring it to me) before he could have another one. This keeps the mess to a minimum and teaches them the pick-up habit.

Of course, some toys are meant to go together. For instance, if he was playing with his plastic zoo animals, I did not give him one animal at a time. I gave him the whole plastic lidded container that held all his zoo animals. Some toys come in sets. So I gave him the whole set.

But I did not give him the zoo animal, and the legos, and the blocks, and all of his toys for him to play with all at once. That would have defeated my purpose. Of course, I did allow him to use his imagination and play with whatever toys he wanted together (like zoo animals and blocks for "building" a barn, etc.).

When you are training them, you will need to get the toys down for them at first, as well as put them back. It may seem like more work, but remember you are training them and training takes time. Once the child learns the pick-up habit, you can put all the toys back down again within their reach. Then they can get them (and put them back) themselves.

I also selected three rooms that they could play with toys in. The living room, their bedroom, and the dining room (the "room of choice" for my youngest). As they got older they were allowed to play with toys downstairs as well.

This kept some of the rooms (such as the kitchen or our bedroom) a toy-free zone. For the rest of the toy-playing rooms we had three toy pick-ups a day: before lunch, before dinner, and before bed.

This will not work for some people as they may not like being this fussy about toys. Training like this did not prevent the kids from playing with toys. It simply taught them that they could enjoy their toys without having to make a huge mess of their room or the entire house in the process.

I felt that it taught them to be more responsible and respectful with their toys and with our home. It worked for me, anyway! For more "Works-For-Me Wednesday" go here!


  1. great idea! thanks for sharing. im trying to make sure my little one picks up his toys before he leaves the room now...

  2. WE have rooms for toys too...they just forget and bring them in every room. Ugh. That is the hardest thing to get them to do is pick up when they are done before they go onto the next thing. I spend all day chasing toys in different rooms. So, I will do what you do...three pick up times, it will be hard at first but it will make me less stressed...I can feel it.
    Great post!

  3. Great idea. Our daughter is 3 and she has access to all of her toys. And yes, she would trash each room in 5 minutes flat!

    We stay on top of her to pick her things out of the floor. Once she plays with something, she must put it back in it's place. She is doing a pretty good job.

    Today (hallelujah) she is distracted by a new Leapster 2 -- no mess! It has her full attention. lol


  4. yeah toys were mud grass sticks and stones!!lol, my toddler likes for me to play the clean up song for him and after the song he shouts "yay ,we did it!give me pies mommy!(he means high five) , mommy says "no high "pies" because you didn't clean all!!"lol at least he likes the song..

  5. Teaching and being consistent with it is sometimes hard, but the rewards definitely are beneficial. ;D

  6. Thanks for these great tips! I have two "trash-a-room-in-a-flash" kids and I think these ideas will work for us!

  7. Great ideas my friend! I wish I had done a better job in this area. But I am trying now. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Happy Wednesday!

  8. Laryssa: I couldn't post a comment on your blog so I'll post it here. I love the "trash a room in a flash" comment because that is what it felt like, lol!

  9. Oooooh, thank you thank you thank you!!! I've been pulling my hair out for months over the toy situation in my house. This is an absolutely wonderful idea - thank you so much for sharing. I spoke to my husband about it, and next week he's going to build me a "toy shelf!"

  10. I did this similiarly with my boys when they were young and we are now teaching our 19 month old grandbaby to pick up her toys. These are valuable lessons for our kids.

  11. We've been trying to teach our boys the same thing. They do pretty well with picking up!

  12. I too, enforce the "clean up what you just played with before you get out something new" rule. My husband, however, does not so when he is on kid-duty the playroom is a disaster!! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  13. Thanks for the advice, I wish I had been more consistent in the one toy/toy set at a time thing. Often its been laziness on my behalf. But I am inspired to get on top of my kids again, I took all their colouring books away the other day and just left them with 1 each, they can't get another one until that one is completely finshed, I was getting tired of them leaving so many books unfinished!

  14. Great ideas, we have done many of the same things. We have a few designated toy spots too, the most successful has been the toy rug. As long as they keep the toys on the rug they can play, but they cannot drag toys all over the house.

  15. Lots of great ideas here! Our girls have labeled baskets in the living room, and we pitch any of their stuff that we find laying around at night into them. They have to put all the stuff away before they go to bed. It really helps keep the chaos under control.


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