Teaching Toddlers to Clean Up Their Toys

It’s amazing how quickly toddlers can turn a once clean area of the home into a complete mess like a tornado just touched down! They aren’t making messes to annoy their parents (though it may seem that way), but because it’s fun to them and it also allows them to have everything close by and in view.

As much fun as toddlers have fun making messes, it’s also important that they learn to clean up at some point during the day, with the parents’ or caregiver’s help, so that items don’t get lost, broken, stepped on, or even hurt somebody (from tripping on an item for example). You can learn to make it somewhat easier for your little one to learn to put his or her things away because let’s be honest, who wants to ever clean up? We’ve compiled some easy tips to follow to help teach your toddler to clean up.

  1. Help Your Child – And Make It Fun! It’s unrealistic to expect your little one to be able to clean up all his or her toys without your help. Children learn from example so lending a helping hand by working as a team will make the job easier on you both while allowing you two to bond. You as the parent can tackle the harder clean up tasks while allowing your child the opportunity to clean up other items. Make it fun while singing a “clean up” song too. Some days, your child may have no desire to help you clean up but don’t get discouraged or shame your child. Over time, he or she will learn from your help cleaning up and follow suit.

  2. Minimize Cleanups During the Day. Don’t try to clean up every little (or big mess) during the day. You and your child will go loopy trying to constantly keep everything cleaned up perfectly. If you have a younger toddler, limit cleanups to 1-3 times a day, for example, before each meal, and make it part of your daily routine when home. For toddlers over 3 years old, it’s more reasonable to ask your child to clean up each activity or project before starting a new one.

  3. Be Accommodating. If your child is in the middle of a project, but doesn’t have time to complete it before naptime or the day’s end, leave it (if it’s not in the way of living), or set it aside for your child to continue the following day.

  4. One Task at a Time. Cleaning up a whole room can be daunting to little children. Break up the cleaning by helping your child clean up one thing at a time. For example, start with the pile of books, then arts and crafts, then stuffed animals, blocks, etc.

  5. Make A Designated Place and Space for Everything. Having cute storage boxes or shelving will help keep everything in its place and well-organized. Only use a toy chest if it has air holes, rounded/padded corners, and a lid that is lightweight or hinged to stay open when opened.

We hope these tips help you teach your child to clean up after him or herself. Remember that children learn more from our actions than our words so be loving and proactive when helping them!