You don’t know claustrophobia until you’ve had kids.
The toys, the artwork, the trash that has become a treasure.
With kids, comes STUFF and lots of it!
The job of picking up is too big for one person. And you’ll be doing your kids a disservice in the long run if they don’t learn how to stay organized.
But have you ever seen a three year old stay focused on a task like picking up their toys???
It wasn’t always this way. It used to take an insane amount of time to get a Lego off the ground and into a bin. But things have changed around our house.
Here’s how we get our kids to pick up their toys quickly…
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The Basic Concept:
Have a crate or box that is designated the “Toy Jail”. Warn your children when the toy jail is coming. Tell them they have a set amount of time to pick everything up and put it where it belongs. When the “toy jailer” comes through the room, any forgotten belongings will be place in the toy jail overnight.
Wow. Wow. Wow. I can’t believe how much I like this system!
My oldest boys are 5 and almost 3. They both spring into action when they hear toy jail is coming. My oldest tries his very best to get everything and I mean EVERYTHING off the ground and safe from the big mean jailer. I don’t have to remind him to pick up the next thing and the next thing and the next. He’s totally self directed compared to a typical clean up session.
Adaptations, Tips and Tricks:
- Only do one or two rooms at a time. This keeps it from being an overwhelming cleaning session and it also makes a ten minute deadline doable.
- Have “Toy Jail” go through the house regularly. I try for every room once a day, or the high traffic rooms twice a day.
- Make toy storage SIMPLE! Kids will probably cause an even bigger mess if they don’t know where to put their toys once they get them off the floor. Nobody wants to find an old sippy cup under the bed! So make it obvious and make it simple. We love cubby shelving and storage bins. (This one is a Reading Nook with Cubbies that just looks SO inviting!) I label their bins with adorable chalkboard signs.
- Enforce the consequences. My three year old is not quite as impressed with the toy jail. Or at least, he’s figured out ways to avoid the work. He and his brother share a room and so when toy jail comes through, he stalls and lets his brother do all of the work. To remedy this, I asked my oldest to purposefully leave out a toy that clearly belongs to the three year old. When it inevitably was confiscated by the toy jail, he was shocked that I meant business. He takes more seriously now, but he still needs reminders.
- Make the “punishment” fit the age. I know that eventually my oldest won’t be too distraught about having a toy spend the night in jail. When that day comes, I plan on requiring the boys to “post bail” by doing a small chore around the house in order to win back their wayward toy.
Want MORE simple parenting hacks and advice?
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- Crippling Parenting Insecurities
- Helping Kids Stay Connected to their Out-of-Town Grandparents
- How to Spend Quality Time with Kids AND Get Stuff Done