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Ever had problems getting your kids to keep their toys? I used to think that to get children to keep their toys after play is as hard as asking them to climb up a ladder hands-free.

My mindset was completely changed after working at the child care centre. It is a matter of making it into a habit, a routine, a die-die-must-do task. The key of the game – never do it like a chore.

Tip 1: Get 1 or 2 big storage boxes or containers just for their toys. When the toys can no longer stay in the box, even after trying their balancing skills in plying them up above the edge of the box, its time to throw.

Make it a practice to throw away toys that they hardly play with just before their birthdays. All parents know how easily toys pile up after each birthday celebration.

Be careful when it comes to throwing toys away. Never ever throw away a toy the child insists on keeping. Always ask, “Shall we throw this away?” Some may say, “Children want to keep All their toys.” That is not true.

Once the guideline is set and the children understand the reason for throwing some toys away; they willingly pick out toys they are not interested in playing with anymore. When there are fewer toys around to keep, it looks less tedious to the kids.

Tip 2: Get them to sing the Barney Clean Up Song. This less than 10 seconds song somehow has a magical touch. The more times the children sing, the faster their hands move. Who knows? Maybe this 20 year old Purple Dinosaur (just got to know that Barney is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) does create songs that stimulate the kids’ mind.

Tip 3: Do the countdown. This is best when you need them to speed up and when the mess spreads across the ENTIRE HOUSE! Usually a 10-count should do the job, but if there are small pieces like jigsaw puzzles and Lego, then (to be fair) give a 20 or even a 30-count.

Tip 4: Never help your children. Always guide them, “Ok, after you have kept the cars, pick up the race-tracks.” Helping your kids will either cause them to slacken and/or create a mindset of “Mommy will keep it herself or for me, anyway.”

Tip 5: Never say, “I’ll come back and check on you.” Though not helping with your hands, it is important that you sit through the whole process with them. To the kids, they are doing it because you told them to and simply because they love you. So if you disappear to do your laundry or read the newspapers, they would feel that their effort is not appreciated.

Keeping toys by themselves, indirectly teaches them a very important virtue – responsibility. You play, you keep. You mess up, you clean up. Being accountable for your actions is one very valuable lesson.

Tip 6: Be generous with your compliments.

When your kids do what was instructed, say “Good Boy or Girl!”

When they choose to use both hands to pick up more than just 1 toy at a time, praise them, “That’s clever, you pick up so many toys at a time.”

When you can tell that they are feeling the strain or not motivated, encourage them, “You are doing very well.”

When they start to throw a tantrum in the middle of it, encourage them, “You are doing great, I am so proud of you, it is almost done. Just a few more pieces over here.”

Try not to keep saying the same words like, “Good boy or girl” throughout the whole process. Kids like to hear new stuff, so be creative with your compliments.

Tip 7 When the children have completed the whole process, praise them “Good Job. Look at the whole place now, it is so clean and neat. You kept them so fast. Now everyone can walk around without the fear of stepping on the toys, damaging them and hurting their feet. I am so proud of you.”

It is very important to point to the kids the significant difference before and after. Keywords like ‘clean’, ‘neat’ and ‘fast’ will stay in the children’s brain as the basic criteria they should maintain for the next round.

It is also a must to let your children know that what they did, do not only pleases you alone, it makes everyone else happy. This trains their mind to think of others in their actions.

Toys being the main part of their daily enjoyment, by saying the above sentence, you make known to them that their favourite toy is in danger of getting ‘hurt’ too, if the toy is left lying around. They would want to ‘protect’ their toys from harm and hence remember to keep them after play.

Tip 8: When all the toys are kept, always say, “I am so proud of you.” It is often good to give a small reward. Be it a hug, a kiss, a tiny M&M chocolate, a drink that they like or whatever that pleases the little ones. Rule of the thumb – never promise to give the reward before the task is assigned. This will give them the wrong motivational factor.

Tip 9: Never request your children to do it when they are in a bad mood, feeling tired or are in the mist of throwing a tantrum. You think they will cooperate? Not a chance!

Tip 10: Make if fun. Find a big cardboard. You can help by holding the cardboard and tilting it to create a slide where the landing area is the toy box. Now your kids can put all the toys which they picked up from the floor and slide them down into the toy box. Now it has became a game and they will love it!

Tip 11: As for the next playtime, suggest that your kids keep whatever they are playing at that moment first, before they bring out another toy from the toy box. This is not a must because such rule limits the children’s creativity in playing in a different way by combining different toys together.

To sum up the pointers, get your children to keep their toys at a time when they are in a relax mood, stick through it with them with lots of praises and make them feel their effort is worthwhile by giving a reward at the end.

Different people uses different ways to make their children keep their toys. The question is are they willing to do it? My MIL uses the cane and lots of other threats to get the toys off the floor. What’s your method?