What is the appropriate age for children to start tidying their toys away?

It's easier to teach values like being tidy when kids are still young, but when is it too early? What is the right age to start having your child clean up after themselves by putting their toys away?

40  Answers

2 11

Small children do get overwhelmed easily by a seemingly-big task. I try to be specific. It's "Put all your books back on their shelf" or "Put all the dirty clothes in the basket" not "CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!"
That being said, it's never too early for them to start learning! Don't be too critical if they don't get every speck, positive encouragement works wonders.

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13 11

agreed however if you turn it into a game and do it before every meal or outing then you dont have a problem. miss 5 year old started when she understood, about 15months (put this toy away before starting with something else) that simple.

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2 0

I agree with Cassie, it's never too young to teach kids to clean up. I started teaching my son to clean ubefore he was 2 yo. When he got a little older, I taught him which toys go in the right bins. He's 3 yo now and starting to read so now his toy bins are labeled. He still needs to be reminded to clean up but he knows how. He throws things away for us, he puts his dirty clothes in the hamper, hangs up his hat and jacket when we get home, and eveb he throws away his little brothers diapers. He might do more than a few adults I know. Lol.

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13 0

I have three children (18, 7 and 2). They all starting picking after themselves as soon as they could walk. We always had a ton of bins and buckets for organizing things. We like to use those plastic drawers and we have rows of them in the closets. My 7-year old can make her bed and clean her room by herself but only recently has she been able to. Obviously, it took a long time for her to get to that point. It would have been easier for me to pick up their rooms for them. But, then I would still be doing it when they were older and they would never learn how. When they were little, we would clean up together and I would give them specific tasks such as "Put all the stuffed animals in this bucket". The older they got, the more they did it themselves. I would just come in the room periodically and give them suggestions of what things to put away next.

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80 10

I'm of a mind that, if they're big enough to get it out on their own, they're big enough to put it back on their own, LOL....I think the question is more about when they're old enough to expect them to do it without reminding, or how to avoid the dreaded refusal phase. Seems to me I remember spending most of my childhood with my mom cranky because my room was always a mess.

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7 19

I say as soon as they start walking. Once they're walking you know that they're becoming more coordinated & lets face are starting to make bigger messes! I watch kids & have a child of my own and I started simple, a little basket for them to put the toys in. I would sit with them, encourage picking up & praise every time a toy went into the basket. It takes time & patience and most importantly, consistency. You can't give it a try once a week, it needs to be every day, several times a day. It helps to not give them too many toys to begin with. I do this with all the kids I watch & by the time they're 18mos they're starting to pick up without my constantly following & by 2 years of age they're pros! Patience, kindness, & consistency...

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3 11

u are absolutely positively correct. i did the same with my lil girl. from the time she started walking. we pick up together, then i started letting her pick up by herself. now shez 21 months...i have no real hassles when i tell her put the blocks back in its bag...after shez finished she claps for herself even when am not the the room. she says to herself "clap for Mode" and claps. its fun!

29 0

My 2 yr old know that when it's time to clean up then it's time to stop playing and pick up the toys. He empties the bathtub toys himself without being told. I know he's ready to get out when the toys are gone. All of the kids in daycare are expected to help pick up, I'm told my son is the best, but I'm not there so I don't know for sure.

It's tougher for my 6 yr old, she has issues, but I think that's a control thing. We do make her pick up her room and make her bed. It's not perfect but it's done, perfection will come later. (She does a ton of other chores as well).

Bottom line, if they are mobile and can play they can help, even if it's pick it up and hand it to their parent/caregiver. It's a start and will help in years to come.

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1 0

I started my daughter at 1 1/2 years old by starting with one toy. I would say "ok if we are finished or done with the toy we put it back where we got it and get something else". It takes a lot of repetition and patience but she is now 4 and I can tell her "Go clean up your toys so we can get ready for _________(whatever like bed or leaving for the store)". I noticed being very positive and upbeat as well as singing with her "A Clean Up Song" from Sprout's The Good Night Show helps. She feels like she has accomplished something and she asks can she help with other things. Don't discourage them from folding clothes or helping "cook" (i.e wash fruits and veggies). Every moment is a learning and training opportunity.

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53 22

As soon as they can follow simple instructions. For my kids, around 10-11 months.

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13 20

I'm glad to hear all you others moms saying your little ones already do. Everyone was saying I shouldn't make my little one pick up after herself but now that's she's 3 1/2 when she takes off her shoes she goes and puts them up, when she gets done with a bottle of water she puts it in the trash, when she takes off dirty clothes she puts them in the laundry room. My 18 mo old is already doing this as well. Now having them put back toys when they're done with them all the time is still a hit or miss, but I'll take what I can get.
I agree about the games. I started out with my daughter playing the counting game where I would count every toy she picked up. Sometimes we would do the can you find this (can you find something green, etc) and doing this got her into the habit of picking up. We also have a pick up time where they're not allowed to play with anything or bring any new toys out so we can pick up what we've messed up and they're both very good about it. I think it's just all a part of instilling good habits and teaching them.

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2 0

Never too early, but you need to be reasonable and start small. Young children under 5 have a hard time with too many instructions at once. If you tell them to put their shoes away and put plate in sink that is a good start. If you ask them to clean up the play room that is way too overwhelming. 1-2 tasks at a time. I think that the earlier you start the better and you can build off that. My older daughter is 8 and she can clean up the play room and her room no problem. She may not like the task, but she understands where everything goes and can do it without assistance. My 5 year old will follow the lead and instructions given. I think as parents we owe it to our children to teach them responsibility early and not do everything for them. It took me awhile with my older daughter to not be critical of how she does things. I praise the effort and encourage her independence no matter how hard. She makes her bed every morning and I had to resist not making it perfect. I encourage my kids to be kids, but want them to have skills for the future. Would freeze them at this age if I could!

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9 56

There is no such thing as too early to show children that "everything has a place." Not that you expect them to understand or participate at young ages, but I think that being a clean person is a habit - something that needs to be instilled at the earliest of age! When our children were 6 months old and crawling around on the floor with their blocks & balls, we would have them "help" clean up while singing a little cleaning song. As soon as they could participate, they did (about 8-10 months old) - it was fun! Like a game for them, but teaching an extremely important skill. By 2 years old all of my kids could put a pretty good dent in cleaning up the toys on their own - and now at 6, my daughter can organize her closet better than I can! ;)

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6 21

um, when they start playing with them? Singsong the event: cleanup, cleanup, everybody, everywhere... cleanup, cleanup, everybody do their share..." and model the behavior while singing.

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30 1

I know that when it comes to teaching our children, we need to start early so that they are able to learn and have it stick with them. I don't really think its a matter of when so much as it is how we teach them. Our children learn by our example. If they are 12mo old and they are finished playing with their toys, its a good time to help them understand that their things need to be put back in their place. Make it fun, that way they see it as a definite good thing, instead of a thing they will dread doing. Let them see what good can come from it..and always follow it with an "I love you! You did a great job picking your things up so you will know where to find them when you want to play again. I am so proud of you!" That will help them feel good about what they are doing. It starts with picking up their things..then it makes it easier when its time to give them chores and other responsibilities as they get older. I love how receptive kids are to positive reinforcement =)

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3 0

My 18mth old is cleaning up after himself. As long as they can walk, make a mess and understand instructions they can start cleaning up too. Its good to be specific "Put the blocks in the bag" "Put the cars in the toy box" those are easy instructions to carry out. Cleaning up with them helps so they can follow your lead, and a song always makes clean up easier :)

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0 23

My daughter is 20 months and she has been putting her toys away for quite a long time now. We praise her for being a good girl and taking care of her toys and she smiles with pride. Sometimes she asks for help and we clean up together. We make it a game and she loves it!

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146 7

It is never too early. If you do it as a game it will stick. If the toys have their own place (boxes, shelves, all cars togther, etc) is good for them, instead of having 20 toys they just chuck in a box. Also it is easier if you envision for them what is next instead of focussing on what they HAVE TO DO, like 'when we tidy up we'll go and have dinner', it is clear we won't have dinner till then, but rather than a negative ' you are not having dinner unless...' it becomes a natural sequence of events.

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1

I do not know if my daughter is normal but she always put things away starting well before 1 year. We started having her bring in the mail at 4 months and giving her coins for the feat for her piggy jar. At probably 6 -8 months we noticed that she always put her toys away when she was done with them. We started having her do little chores around the house for coins. She liked that even before she understood money. She has never stopped putting things away. She will now at 22 months pick up anything that is out of place around the house if she is physically able. If she is not she will come get me or her mom to pick up whatever it is that is out of place. We don't have to tell her to pick up her toys very often. When we do tell her to she will unless she doesn't want to. It is never a problem of her not understanding what we want or how she could accomplish it if she wanted to. Most of the time she does do it but sometimes there is a stand off. At daycare she guides all of the other tots to do the things that they are supposed to do too. As far as I can tell she always cleans up at daycare.

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1 0

My daughter is only 14 months, but I encourage her to clean up after she makes a mess, and she knows how to throw things into the trash if I ask her. She's definitely on the young side, but not too young to understand the concept of putting things from one place to another- especially if I am participating WITH her, as opposed to doing it FOR her.

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0 0

I had both my daughters start helping me when they were around a year old...we turned it into a game !

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46 15

i would say 2 or 3 years old that way when you send them off to pre- school or kindergarten they would be at least one step ahead of others but when you have them put their toys away show them that it can be fun as well as learning to be tidy and help them too they would eventually understand also it would be easier for you & they would know exactly where to find their toys later. dont forget to praise them when the job is done , but dont expect to get immediate results & it will give them a sense of accomplishment & you will be more proud / happy for them too

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10 9

Any age! Really, any age they can understand you.

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2 0

I started my kids off around 2 by gently reminding them to put their work/toys away before getting something else out.
They attend Montessori school so this method is taught in school as well, which just helps re-enforce.

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2 0

I would like to hear what other parents have done when their children routinely have difficulty cleaning up the messes they make playing, even when specifically and clearly directed in the steps. I feel like those people who have really struggled with this aren't posting. I doubt if anyone would disagree with the ideas behind these posts, or say that you should wait to start teaching children how to clean up after themselves, but I suspect I am not the only one who finds the frustration mounting as over and over again the process is left incomplete even after sometimes hours of specific prompts. My 4 year old twins also feed off of each other as built-in distractions and we live in a small home where the playroom is also the living room and dining room. There are specific places for all the toys but it can take them 2 hours to put away what they can get out in 15 minutes.

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4 21

Doris, you have to remember you are coming from an "adult" mind set. You have come from many years of experience trying to figure out how to get tasks completed more efficiently. I use to teach preschool & as a teacher the class could not move on to another task until the room was back in order. Funny how our kids know EXACTLY the rules to follow while @ school but conveniently forget when @ home. Some tricks of the trade: Make it fun, set a timer & see if they can beat the clock, assign certain toys to each ie, find all the trucks while the other kid finds the balls, how many toys can they find for the age they are. Everything takes double the time when dealing with kids! Your kids are still very young & will appreciate your guidance & patience while teaching them how to work more efficiently so they can move on to the next EXCITING event. An important idea to remember..... Practice makes PROGRESSION NOT PERFECTION!

3 78

Similar to my standard thoughts related to children and parenting, I am not sure if there really is an age that is appropriate or not. Every child responds differently. I can say that from experience as I have two girls, 16 months apart that are very similar, yet, VERY different. With my eldest daughter who just turned 6, at 14 months, she was helping me clean up after playing with each toy. She always liked things tidy. That made for an easy transition when it was time for her to start cleaning up after herself without my help. By 21/2 years of age, I rarely had to ask her to clean up her playroom. My second daughter, now 4, was a different story. She was not interested in anything being tidy. In fact, the more of a mess she made, the happier she seemed. Like my first, I began by helping her clean up as soon as she was able to walk (just about a year old). She, on the other hand, still gets upset when I tell her to clean up after herself. Her typical reaction is filled with drama... "oh... but... but... I am just soooo tired!" End result, my eldest does most of the cleaning up while my baby walks around the room pretending to work hard. Once in a while, she puts in a lot of effort. When she does, she feels pleased with herself. Due to this, I have to constantly remind her how good she will feel once things are clean and how happy she and her sister will be with a clean room... When that doesn't work, I use another approach... "Do you know what will happen if you don't clean your room? Bugs will start crawling around... Some that bite, others that are black and furry... Next thing you know, they will be in your hair and your clothes! You really don't want that do you?" That usually helps a lot. :)

http://www.trendingmom.com/parenting/

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13 22

I tend to get my children to tidy together, and will sometimes stand with them and help them tidy (very slowly!) to encourage them. My 5 year old is very into it, she loves the idea of tidying and being praised and possibly even treated for it, but my 3 year old doesn't like it as much. He sees it as a large task that he doesn't want to do, and sees no reason why he should or even would sometimes. I find breaking down tasks makes it easier for my daughter, telling her to tidy one type of thing, then tidy the next, sometimes asking her younger brother to do smaller tasks such as "make sure there's no rubbish on the floor" for example. Don't rush it, if they don't want to tidy pushing them won't help. If they seem like they want to but need a little encouragement, get in and tidy with them, and offer them an incentive like a small amount of money to spend on sweets from the local shop.
Good luck ^-^

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71 28

I think it's never too young. When they're first sitting up and old enough to play with toys (before their first birthday), I make it a point to clean up their toys in front of them. Then one day, they decide to join in the "fun," because children love to do what mommy & daddy are doing. At some point, I start singing the clean up song, which really makes it seem like tons of fun. Before you know it, they decide to make a game of cleaning up their duplo blocks...and this is all before their first birthday.

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64 73

I think that as soon as they are able to walk and/or get their toys out, they should be helping pick them up. I failed to make my kiddos help this young, and I still struggle to get them to clean up after themselves. Hindsight is always 20/20, and if I could go back, I'd make it a game with them.

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4 18

one, one and a half years old but make it fun.

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23 11

Simple: if they can take it out, they can put it back! That said they can only play with one thing at a time, don't let them go crazy and take a ton of stuff out and they won't be overwhelmed trying to clean up.

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4 21

At birth! Joking aside, it is VERY IMPORTANT to start instilling a sense of self worth in children at a very young age. Self worth is the BEST gift any parent can give to their kids! I am a mom to three boys (12, 10 & 6) & very early on my husband & I (both working) A) could NOT keep up with EVERYTHING & B) were not giving our kids enough credit in their capabilities as contributors to our family.
It starts out simple, "Help Mama put the toys in this basket, please." To now, " Is your baseball bag ready?" Or "Whose turn is it to empty the dishwasher?"
When children gain a positive sense of worthiness they become a part of something MUCH bigger; they become a contributor to family life & their community!

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6 11

To keep younger kids from getting overwhelmed, and to begin teaching them to tidy up, begin with small things, "Done with that toy? Put it away." Make chores fun by making a song & dance routine to go along with it. The older the child gets, the more responsibility he/she can handle. The key is to start young with small things. Even having them bring things to you to put away is teaching them how to help tidy up so they can do it when they are old enough. Soon they will be doing it on their own out of habit.

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2 7

My sons both started not long after they could walk. At that young age we sing the Barney clean up song to make it fun. If anyone starts singing it my 2 year old automatically starts picking up toys and placing in the toybox.

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29 12

When my dauhter was 18 months, we started with "Let's pick up your blocks" Of course at 18 months it would only be one or two tasks and I would do the rest. As she got older I give her more and more of the tasks to complete. I still give her one very specific task at a time, until we were finished. (First blocks, then barbie stuff, then beads) (She's now 4)
While we're working, the positive reinforcement is to earn one show before bedtime & lot's of praise. It seems to have done some good. There have been a few days where she has gone into her playroom and picked up the whole room without being asked. You can tell she's so proud by my reaction.
Good luck!

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1 22

My son is five and has been cleaning up since he could walk. He took a natural interest in it - I think a lot of kids do, they see us put things away and they love to copy Mummy and Daddy. At a certain point he wanted to make his own bed - I encouraged that and he does that every morning. He puts all his toys away upon request, and often at his own behest - I can see the habits working :) He will also clean up messes and spills that he makes - he cleans up after the pet bird too (that's the condition of carrying the bird all over the house).

I believe that the younger you can give them responsibility the better, these are easy responsibilities and help them to learn self discipline. I agree with many answers here - in that we can't expect our kids to be perfect at cleaning up, they get better with practise.

I also encourage my son to get his breakfast organised up to the point where he needs help, clear his dirty dishes and stack the dishwasher. He finds all this easy and is proud that he can do it. Anything that they are tall enough to help with, they should have a go at.

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26 98

It's never too early to start teaching children to help put things away. I agree with Sandi - be as specific as possible. Complete one task before asking them to do another. If they can talk back and refuse, then they are definitely old enough! Good luck!

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210 39

My 16 month old son helps to tidy up already. Ok, so he doesn't do a great job - often taking more toys out of the box than he puts in, but it's a start!
His 3 1/2 year old brother does more tiding, but also creates more fuss about it!

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1 2

I believe it truly depends on the child . Children are all different and have all different personalities and they also function at different levels. One child may be able to clean his/ her room at 5-6 years no problem where as an 8 year old that may have troubles focusing and gets overwhelmed easily may still need alot of guidance. What i have learned is that in raising a spirited child ,girl 8 yrs , spirited children are very difficult to please and to try and set any rules for them is like asking them to give youthere whole life. Its trying and takes incredible patience ,im running short of, so i have to stay very consistent with structure and when i give her chores i need to get her started to show her she is able to to handle it ,otherwise its meltdown time . My biggest mistake was becagse of her tantrums ,i allowed her to get way with way to much and now i have to put my foot down and stay firm. I strongly believe that setting boundries and structure ,giving them chores ,this is what makes a child thrive. Its just making sure you set the appropriate amount of chores so that your child doesnt get overwhelmed. Without setting structure and giving chores kids will take the power in the hoyse and then a real struggle begins.

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23 16

As soon as mine were able to take the toy out of the bin/box then they were old enough to put it back. We have boxes and bins all over for the express purpose of keeping toys off the floor. The toys don't have any specific place they go just in a bin or box. It may not be a totally organized system but it works for us and keeps the house lived in but not a total disaster.

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5 0

My almost 3 year old will clean up her messes when told to, but I don't have her do it alone. We clean it together. She is still young and sometimes fights me on it, but we are making progress. My one year old boy will put everything away, but then he likes to dump the box out again when it's full :) It's all part of growing up. I guess the sooner the better, just don't expect them to be good at it. My daughter even washes her dishes in the bathroom sink because she can't reach the kitchen sink.

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0 0

When your child understands what "clean up" means! They learn by example; when they see you picking up, and you make it fun by singing a song, the youngest of toddlers begin to learn.

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