Parent Tips: Cleaning Up the Toys

When you have young kids, it's impossible to keep the house clean all day long. Here are the strategies we've adopted to keep our sanity and avoid breaking our ankles on stray toys:

girl legos mess.jpg
  1. When our kids are ready to move on to "the next thing," they need to clean up the activity they've just finished first. As I type this, our 3yo has every art item out on her office table - markers, paper, hole punch, scissors, tape, glue, old business cards, stamps, stamp pads, gift boxes and a bucket (not sure what the bucket is for?). When she's ready for Legos or puzzles or to jump outside on the trampoline, everything needs to go back in its place first. Using the Love and Logic enforceable statements, we say, "You can [go outside] as soon as you've cleaned up the [art supplies that are out on the table]."
  2. Clean up time is at 5pm every day. We sing, "It's time to put the toys away, toys away, toys away. It's time to put the toys away. Where are all my helpers?" (a song we learned at Sydney's first preschool). Everyone helps get the house in order and then we head to the kitchen to make dinner. If the kids complain that they don't want to clean up, that's fine! I reply, "I only charge $1 to clean up the mess for you." Every once in a while I actually get a taker, but usually that spurs them into action.
  3. Once all the kids are in bed, I go back through the house and put away anything else that's been left out (sippy cups, books, etc.) so that we end and start the day with a relatively clean house. Unless I'm totally out of energy. Then I just close my eyes, imagine what it would look like clean, and head to bed.

What tricks do you have to keep your house tidy?