Does Your Child Have a Hard Time Cleaning Up His/Her Toys?

Try to Prevent the Behavior

  • Be sure the child understands the clean-up routine and expectations.
  • Use a “warning” – Give your child a warning for when it will be time to clean-up (e.g., 2 more times, 5 more minutes, or 3 more turns; then time to clean-up for next activity).
  • Use a fun cue – Cue to clean-up with song, bells, or lights off. Then, go over to your child and provide the direction to clean-up.
  • Use a book! Find a children’s book on this topic or make your own using photos. Read the book to your child prior to cleaning up and point out the steps in cleaning up.
  • Play a turn-taking game – Take turns cleaning up with your child. Say, “First I put away a train; then you put away a train.” Also visually cue where to put the train by pointing to the container or shelf.
  • Point out who’s cleaning – Praise sibling(s) or friend(s) who are cleaning up (e.g., “Look how Tim put the car in the bin.”, “Sammy is helping and putting away blocks.”).
  • Turn clean-up into play – Use a toy scoop truck or small sand shovel to scoop up the small pieces and dump into the truck or bucket, and then transport to the toy bin. Sing or dance while you clean-up.
  • Modify your expectations – Start with asking your child to clean-up a limited number of items (e.g., “You put the books in the basket”) and then praise. The next day have the child select two items or more to clean-up; gradually increase your expectations.
  • Use verbal first-then cue – Say, “First, clean-up; then (choice of preferred activity or item).”

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