How I quit tidying up all day and how you can too

This morning my girls decided to empty their entire soft toy collection over the living room floor and within minutes had moved onto play with something else. Not long after, the doctor’s set was opened up and all the bits were scattered around our spare room and the bathroom.

It’s like they don’t realise they have a playroom. We spent ages decorating and organising a fun space for them but their favourite game is to move toys OUT of the playroom to any other room in the house. Sometimes they can be entertained for half an hour relocating the whole box of plastic food to have a ‘picnic’.

Only a few months back this was causing me some serious anxiety. I’d follow them around picking up after them. Sometimes without even realising, I’d end up moving from room to room putting things back. Before I knew it, the day was gone and I’d achieved absolutely nothing.

What’s Changed?

I decided enough was enough. At three years old, I felt they were old enough to take at least some responsibility for the mess they’d caused and so I began tidy up time. It sounds simple right. Just get them to tidy up. It was anything but simple.

The plan was that at 6:30 we’d all stop and tidy up together. To start with they found it a novelty and helped quite happily but after a few days this quickly wore off. The speed a three year old puts teddies into a box can be glacial. It takes all I have to not just do it myself. I’m training myself as much as them.

Working as a Team

At first you will need to micro manage. We often sweep around the downstairs sending them back and forth to the playroom with the various toys. When the rest of the house is toy free, we all tackle the playroom together. Emily might be in charge of the soft toys while Jessica puts away the dressing up clothes.

Slowly but surely they have accepted this is now the deal. Toy mess is their responsibility. Mummy and Daddy will help a little but they have to do most. One thing that has made a real difference is that we have clear places for everything. This means they know exactly what goes where.

I’m hoping that in a few more months, I won’t need to sit right next to them to constantly prompt and encourage. As they get a little older, hopefully tidying up toys is something they will be able to do on their own and I can do something else.

What about the Mess?

You’d think this strategy would mean living in chaos all day but in fact my house is tidier now than it was when I spent all day tidying up. Instead of eating away at my day, we all pitch in to do one big tidy everyday. It takes 15min max to put everything back.

Of course my house isn’t pristine but just coming down, after they are in bed, to a house clear of jigsaw pieces, toy cars and stuffed toys is lovely. It also sets you off on the right foot for the following day. Instead of shutting the door on the mess and facing it the next day, you come downstairs to a tidy space, ready for it to be all messed up again.

Who does the tidying up the toys in your house?

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