Having a toddler and having toys everywhere is kind of a given. Where do they even come from?! Is it even possible to teach your toddler to pick the toys up?
Believe it or not, all good habits are easiest to learn when your child is young, even at the toddler age.
And that includes cleaning up their own toys.
Once my toddler turned one, we started intentionally working with him to teach him to clean up his own toys. He doesn’t have it down perfect just yet, but he’s made a lot of progress already.
For not being able to say more than five words yet, I’d say we’re doing pretty good when he helps us pick up the toys when we ask him to. Sometimes he even picks all of the toys up without any help at all. Not bad for a fifteen month old!
In this post, I’m going to cover the five things we did to help him learn to clean up his own toys regularly.
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How To Teach Your Toddler To Pick Up Toys
Lead by example
All children learn by observing. In fact, a lot of behaviors and habits they develop they learn from us, for better or for worse.
So, if you want to teach your toddler to pick up his toys, be sure to lead by example. Don’t expect him to clean up his toys if you’re always dumping your stuff everywhere. No, “but I’m the parent” excuses.
Make it a habit to regularly tidy up the house and put away your own things. This practice will help your toddler to see that things should be put away when they aren’t being used.
When you first start teaching your toddler to clean up toys, you can begin by picking them up yourself and putting them away. Don’t worry about pointing it out or making a big deal of it. Your little one will observe–even if you don’t think he’s watching–and start to get the picture all his own.
After he’s seen you doing it, he very well may want to join in and try to help you. Then you can help guide him as he learns where to put things.
If not, you can invite him to help you. Don’t get frustrated if he doesn’t take the bait just yet. Teaching new behaviors takes time and patience.
Make it part of your routine
One thing that I think really helped us to teach our toddler to clean up his toys is that we made it part of our routine.
Before every nap, and before bed, we make a point to clean up all the toys. (This also made it less of a project, since it was only the toys he pulled out between naps/bedtime.)
It didn’t take long before he started to catch on that after his snack it was time to pick up his toys.
And yes, occasionally he picks up half of them and then tries to dump the toy bucket again. But for the most part, he understands his routine and is content to go with it.
Not only do solid routines instill safety and security in children, they make it much easier to introduce new behavior and habits.
Show him how
If you want your toddler to learn to pick up his toys, you’ll have to start by showing him how.
This ties back to leading by example. At first, showing him how can be as simple as doing it yourself while he watches. Pretty soon, he’ll probably start trying to imitate your actions.
If not, you can try gently taking his hands in yours and helping him to pick up a toy and put it away.
Depending on how old your child is and his personality, you may get some resistance from this. My toddler is not a fan of having us try to help guide his movements. Instead, he prefers to watch us and then try himself.
Don’t get discouraged if it takes a little while before your little one wants to join in. All kids develop and grow at their own rate, and your little one may not be quite ready to step up to the plate. If this is the case, keep leading by example, keep it in your routine. Pretty soon they catch on!
Make toy organization easy
One trick to helping your toddler learn to pick up his own toys is to make sure your toy organization system is easy.
If you don’t have a lot of toys, a simple bin or tub might be all you need to store the toys.
Once your little one has more toys, you might try other organizing techniques. We recently got our toddler a cube storage unit to keep books and toys, and it has helped organize his toys a lot! Plus, we keep a plastic tub in the living room to round up any toys he takes out of his room.
Another thing you can do to make it easy for your toddler to pick up his toys is to label shelves and bins. For example, attach a picture of a ball for a bin that contains all the balls. Or a picture of food for a bin that has all the play food. You get the idea.
Labeling shelves and toy containers helps toddlers to remember where things go, making it easier and more fun for them to clean up their own toys.
The biggest key to teaching your toddler to pick up his toys is to be consistent.
Consistently show him what to do.
Make it part of your routine, and stick to it.
Consistently invite him to join in, and keep at it even if he doesn’t.
If you stay consistent, it won’t take long to teach your toddler this great habit.
Before long, all you’ll have to do is ask and your toddler will do the rest!
Are you teaching or have you taught your toddler to clean up his/her toys? Let me know in the comments below–I’d love to hear how it’s going for you!