Play Time & Clean Up

I want the space to WELCOME PLAY while remaining orderly. I do not want to move into an area where kids cannot be kids!

My main goal with children is to help them become responsible, independent adults who are confidant in their abilities.  I feel that realistic expectations and attainable goals are one great way to facilitate this process. It is imperative to define and clarify these expectations before you enforce them.  Children need to know what the boundaries are and to thoroughly understand your expectations. Remember to always clearly define what you would like them to do. (It’s ok if you don’t put the bin on the shelf, as long as the toys are inside an the lid is on, I’ll put it back onto the shelf for you”)  Be specific with children, they will rise to the expectations you set.  The more you expect the more they’ll do, the less you expect the less they’ll do!  Realize that expectations will need to change as time goes on.  Just remember to be clear with them.

Some rules and compromises that may work

*       One bin out and about at a time – “if you want the dinosaurs you have to clean up the tea party”

*       Establish and stick to consistent clean-up times- before/after dinner, before bed, or whatever works for your family –kids will come to know what is expected and eventually you will not need to remind them to do it.  It is never too early to teach responsibility for one’s own possessions and environment.

*       Children need to be able to create a temporary mess

ü  A temporary mess is just that –temporary, and children need to know what that means, “you can leave them out till after dinner but I want them cleaned up before bed” once they are done playing with it –away it goes

*       Establish a system where toys can stay out  beyond a temporary mess

Examples of some systems

  •  Puzzles can stay set up on a table or safe area-no more than three out at a time
  •   The race track that takes 30mins to set up- can stay out until you want to build a new track
  •   The train set that spans the living room can stay till after dinner or until next Friday when we have company coming
  •   In the middle of Monopoly when bedtime rolls round – it can stay set up till someone goes bankrupt or forfeits

*       Sanity savers can be used for items left randomly about the house.

Decide when they will be emptied based on what works for your household.  Be it every night before bed, once they are full, or before any screen time.  Once a system for emptying them has been decided, stick to it or they’ll never get emptied and will become clutter themselves.

*       Every now and then help them clean up!! Think of how great it feels to have someone spontaneously help you with one of you chores!

  •   Make a game out of it
  •   Reassure kids that you are not taking their toys away. Let them know that you just wanted to help them out!  They may shock you and spontaneously help you with something in the future!! Imagine that!!!!
Clean up Issues and Ideas for dealing with them


*        Some toys can NEVER be put away and I get that! A favorite toy that gets a lot of play?  Store these items precisely where they will be played with, so they are always “put-away” without ever having to be “cleaned up”.


  1. Consider finding a specific area on the carpet for  that Hot Wheels race track, or Lightning wrestling ring to live
  2.  Place item on a low shelf where your child can always play with it while maintaining the orderly feel of the room
  3. Create a “place mat” for the toy- it can stay set up but needs to be put back onto its placemat before bed
  4.  Is it a nightmare to move?  Purchase a tray that is large enough for the whole setup and make moving it in one step no big deal


*       Adults consistently cleaning up after children


If I clean it up because you didn’t…I keep it! They can “earn it back” later, or choose it out of a treat bin another day; real "meanies" can donate items to Goodwill.

  •   Set clear expectations of when you want things tidied and FOLLOW THROUGH
  •  Following through on this is harder for the parents than it is the child- but stick it out for the first few times and you will not be cleaning up toys for long
  •  For real softies…develop your own consequence for when the kids do not clean up




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