Hassle-Free Ways to Get Your Kids to Clean Up Their Toys


clean up toys

I am the first to admit that toy clean-up is not always the battle I choose to pick with my two kids. Often, especially before bedtime, I’d rather have them sit quietly watching a show than trying to clean up their toys—because, if left to their own devices, toy clean up somehow leads them to make even more of a mess or at the very least induces a choir of whines and whimpers. “I’m tiiiiiiirred.” “It’s hard to clean up.” 

Still, it’s important for them to learn how to treat their toys with respect and how to be considerate members of our household, so I do require them to occasionally join the clean-up crew, and I’ve even discovered how to get them to pitch in without me having to yell or nag:

Turn clean up into a game.

My older child is five-years-old and these tricks have worked in some form or fashion throughout toddlerhood and now into the school years. You’ll still need to oversee the games (sorry, no sitting on the couch with your feet up just yet), and it might still take longer than if you did it yourself (hence why I don’t do this every time), but that’s a pretty fair tradeoff for the chance to kill two birds with one stone:  connect with my kids and put the house back in order.

Roll the Dice

Each child takes turns rolling a pair of dice. The total of the dice is the number of items they have to clean up. Bonus points: summing up the dots on the dice requires them to practice counting and addition. If you don’t have a pair of dice handy, use a deck of cards. 

Use New Tools

Novelty goes a long way in turning clean up into a game. Hand your kids a pair of tongs and see how much more excited they are to pick up their toys. The Dustbuster is another hit. My kids also love using Melissa & Doug’s child-size cleaning tools to “sweep” their toys, and this new toy vacuum that actually works seems to be all the rage, according to my Facebook Newsfeed. 

Race the Clock

Set a timer to see how much your kids can clean up in 90 seconds. They’re usually excited to go for Round 2 if they don’t get everything cleaned up the first time. 

Play Musical Clean Up

Similar to the timer idea, play music while the kids clean. When the music stops the child without a toy in his or her hand wins that round. This encourages the kids to move quickly in putting their toys away. 

Hire the Help

Have you ever role-played Restaurant or Store with your kids? Now you can play Clean Up Crew. Give them a hat or some sort of costume to wear and hire them to do certain clean-up tasks. Your role in the game is to be the customer who desperately needs their help and is every so grateful for it once they’re done. Kids truly love to feel helpful. 

Mix in Some Fun

My children love jumping on the couch and, for the most part, we let them (Battles, people. Pick your battles.). When it comes to clean up, they like to create their own order of operations. Put away a toy, jump on the couch, take a sip of water, and repeat. Fine with me, as long as the cleaning gets done. 

I collected even more hassle-free clean up ideas from our contributing writers. Here’s what they shared. 

Clean for a Cause

Allowances are fine and dandy but actually tying clean up to a charitable cause can be a wonderful motivator for kids. Set your family’s clean up goals, pick your charitable cause, and then track your family’s progress to making a donation.

Make It a Competition

What’s a little healthy competition among siblings? See which one of your kids can clean up the most toys or do it in the fastest amount of time. If you’re dealing with one child, you can join in as his or her competitor. 

Sing a Song

Introduce the Clean Up Song early enough, and your kids will become conditioned to start helping when they hear it.

Make It Easy

For kids to take ownership in cleaning up, they need to know where their toys belong. Make toy bins accessible, add pictures to the front, and get creative in the way toys are stored. I’ve shared toy storage ideas in the past, but I absolutely love this one: turn a shelf into a “parking lot” for toy cars. Paint it gray with white lines and then say, “Go park your cars,” so that putting away toys feels like a continuation of playing. 

Clean as You Go

I saw a funny meme once that said something like, “You can have a clean house or you can have kids playing independently. You can’t have both.” And it’s so true. When children are deep into their play, it’s easy for them to jump from activity to activity without stopping to clean up. Channel your inner preschool teacher and find opportunities to remind them to put away their toys. “No snack until you clean up.” “I will help you get the blocks out as soon you put away this game.” That sort of thing. It makes end-of-day clean up much easier. 

How do you tackle toy clean up in your house? Share your tips in the comments below! 



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