How do you get your children to clean up their toys?   Do you bribe? Scream? Threaten? Take away privileges? I have definitely done all of those.   But it still hasn’t solved my age old problem of how to get my kids to clean up their toys.   Now I have a serious dilemma. Not only does my playroom get trashed everyday, it is the first room you see when you walk into my house.   When my playroom is a mess I go into panic mode when my doorbell rings.   So I needed to find a system that worked to get my children to clean up their playroom.

clean up playroom game

I have tried to organize it.   I have tried systems and different tricks.   It is just very overwhelming for a 4 1/2 year old boy and a 2 year old girl to clean up when it is a wreck.   So I racked my brain.   Then it came to me!   My son is my mini me. He looks like me, acts like me, and in general favors me completely! What would motivate me to clean up my toys?   A COMPETITION!

Now this system took me a while to complete.   However, I think in the end it will be well worth it.   Already it is working like a CHARM!

1.   First I took pictures of all the toys in his room in the different categories. This one below is the “musical instruments.”

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2.   Using Picnik I edited it and then added the words above.   I just used a Times New Roman font to keep it readable for them.

musicalinstruments

3.   Then using Microsoft Word I printed them out two to a sheet.   Using my paper cutter I cut off the excess paper.   These were sized a bit smaller than 4” x 6”.

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4.   Using my trusty little laminator I laminated them and then used rings to attach them to the front of some bins that I got from Target.

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Okay yes that is a good idea in and of itself.   But this is where it gets good.   I also resized all the images again to a smaller size and laminated those making them 2 1/2” x 3 1/2” laminated cards.   So now we have a place for everything and we have coordinating picture cards to go with it.

clean up toys

Here is where the fun begins!

We have a set of about 40 cards.   I included some that say “Choose a Card,” “Free Card,” or “Switch a Card With Someone Else” .   I also have some blank cards for the times that random things make their way into the playroom. Then the rest are pictures of his toys.   Here are a few variations of our “Clean Up” game.

clean up playroom game

1.   Pick out the cards which coordinate with the mess.   Each person is responsible to clean up the cards they received.   They can not get a new card until the one they have is cleaned. A card is taken away if you didn’t clean up the card correctly. The person who is done first gets a special privilege.

2.   Pick out the cards which coordinate with the mess. For every card they finish they get a special privilege or treat.   8 cards = 8 minutes of staying up later, or 8 M&M’s, etc.

3. Pass out all the cards (some of which are already cleaned up) and give them a time limit (say 20 minutes).   Set the timer for 20 minutes.   Anytime they have left over goes into a pot.   For example, they cleaned up in 13 minutes so they get 7 minutes.   At the end of the week add that time up.   If it is 42 minutes they get to pick the family game activity for 42 minutes.

Even our 2 year old can do this!   Finally a system that works for me.   You have no idea how wonderful this idea has been.   It definitely took me hours to set the system up.   But so far it is paying off!

Do you have an idea of how to clean up toys?   I would love to hear how you tame the toy monster!

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52 Comments

  1. We fixed that pretty well by giving them time (10 year old with mild autism and 2 year old) and then trashing what was left over….literally…in the trash. They learned quick that they don't want ME to clean up after the time is up….

  2. I LOVE this idea!! I think it would make cleaning up more fun for everyone!! A laminator is next on my list of supplies!! Any suggestions on a good one?? 😛

  3. You're a genius! What a fun idea! My girls have learned that if they don't clean things up then I'll clean it up "Mommy style" and that often means things they love and want to keep will get thrown away (like what Cryssy talked about above). They're learning that when I ask, "Is it Mommy clean?" they better go take a 2nd or 3rd look at things before I come up to take a look to see if their jobs are done! They don't want their stuff thrown away so for the most part this has worked — especially as they have gotten older.

  4. I bet the kiddos love that! My older son (4) loves it anytime I turn clean up time into some kind of game. I usually announce what he needs to clean up next ("three trains and two tracks").

  5. I bet the kiddos love that! My older son (4) loves it anytime I turn clean up time into some kind of game. I usually announce what he needs to clean up next ("three trains and two tracks").

  6. I bet the kiddos love that! My older son (4) loves it anytime I turn clean up time into some kind of game. I usually announce what he needs to clean up next ("three trains and two tracks").

  7. I bet the kiddos love that! My older son (4) loves it anytime I turn clean up time into some kind of game. I usually announce what he needs to clean up next ("three trains and two tracks").

  8. I love this idea Beckie as in Becky. 😉 Super smart to turn it into a game! Perfect for my week of organizing that I'm in the middle of….xoxo

  9. What a great idea!!! I am reading a book right now called "The Children you want with the children you have" and it is all about teaching your kids to work. It has some great ideas in it!

  10. This is a FANTASTIC IDEA! But it has also given me another inspiration! My son is hearing impaired and speech delayed. He struggles with putting names to objects and it causes mucho chaos in my house. I'm going to use your idea and make him a picture chart of the things around him that me may need or want and put them into those rings by category. IE, I'll take a picture of me, dad, grandparents, etc and name them for one book, and pictures of his fave toys and books for another binder, and one for food, and one for activites like going outside, to bed, a bath, etc..

    Sorry for such a long comment, but the inspiration you have given me has given me so much excitement! THANK YOU!

    Angel

  11. Brilliant! I resort to threats all too often. And it doesn't get me too far. :s I do better with incentives like "once you've cleaned up all of these toys, we can play Candyland." :s

  12. We always picked up by color. The two kids would each try to find something BLUE or BROWN and honestly, I didn't really care if they were close, just if it was done in the end. 🙂

  13. Great Idea! My kids are 11,9, and 5 so we do the mommy clean thing. They only get tv and video games on the weekends so if they don't clean it up they get time taken away from those things amd they sure don't want that 🙂 We also have set a rule in place a few years ago clean it up when you are finished with it put it away when you're done then it won't be such a mess later. That comes from me being ocd and totally uptight about the house being orderly. I'm learning to relax.

  14. Freaky! I just finished organizing the playroom, and already have the pictures of where things go uploaded onto the computer! I am just going to post the pictures of the toys in the spot where they belong. I am going to tuck your game idea in my brain so that I can use it when my kids are a little older. I think I will adapt it to use in my classroom as well!
    Also, as a teacher I LOVE the labels on the photos. It's amazing how much kids learn by all of the print in their environment.

  15. This is genius! I usually threathen my kids with "if you don't pick up your toys, I'm going to pick them up for you!" They know that translates into "if you don't pick up your toys, I'm going to pick them up and take them to the goodwill where some other children will love them and play with them!" Maybe I will try using these cards instead. It seems a little less cranky! haha!

  16. I love this idea. I have an 11, 9 and 6 year old. I usually take away time for fun things if they do not do clean up, so it usually gets done (although there is often some complaining). Fortunately for us, we store "stuff" in our awesome closet under our stairs so it doesn't get seen when it is messy. But I do plan on using this udea in my after school program. I am a little OCD as someone else said and it drives me crazy when our studnets don't take care of their books, puzzles, etc in our classroom. When we get back next week guess who will be taking pictures?
    Thanks again

  17. Great idea! I had bins for a while and moved to one big toy box b/c I was tired of them never putting them away right. Maybe I will attempt it again. =)

  18. That's a great idea. My friend does something similar. She has a stack of cards, and she lets her kids each pick two of the cards out at a time. If they want a new toy, they have to put away at least one of the other toy containers before they can get a new card. She hangs the cards on little hooks by their name so she knows who was responsible for the toy.

    We have a one toy at a time rule in our house. It works really well. You only get one thing out at a time, and you can't get something new until that is put away. My husband and I both grew up with that rule, so it just came naturally to us. . .

  19. My son's room is tied to his allowance. He has to have his room cleaned and bed made before we start our homeschooling everyday or he gets docked in pay. (he also gets points deducted from his lifeskills class if he doesn't do his chores) This seems to work really well for us…he likes his allowance money AND good grades! :0)
    Your plan is brilliant, wish I'd thought of this myself when my boys were smaller! 🙂
    Hugs
    Missy

  20. Great idea. I am in the middle of redoing our playroom and was going to implement the pictures of toys on the containers for easier clean up. There are tons of good ideas in the comments too. Luckily our playroom is on the third floor…so I don't have to worry about visitors seeing it. However it means its easier to let it go.

  21. Wow, what a great idea! Looks like something you could market, too! I'm sure there are lots of busy moms who would rather buy the "kit" than put one together themselves. You could add lots of possible generalized categories so each family could choose the ones that work for them.

  22. Great idea Beckie! when my now almost 5yr old was around 2, i started with the clean up clean up barney song, and obviously got nowhere. So out came my vacuum and i vacuumed a couple of teeny toys that came from McD or so. When he saw that his toys were dissssappppearing, never to be seen again, all i have to do is mention or bring out the vacuum. Its now working on his little sister too!!! heehee. good luck with the cleanups
    becky

  23. Love that idea! So fun for the little ones! We also like to get out our Taboo beeper thing that makes an awful noise. EVERY TIME they put something away, they get to run to me and buzz it. Loud for me, but fun for them, AND they get everything cleaned up!!

  24. You are awesome! Over the summer I labeled/ laminated some of those fabric totes like you but attatched them using yarn or something. It lasted about a week. Maybe I'll give it another shot using metal rings and pick up cards.

  25. Great idea! I certainly must come up with something. My kids mostly play in the living room, and I am tired of it being destroyed.

  26. Wow what a great idea!

    I awarded you with A Most Sylish Blogger Award…please feel free to stop by and see the post!

  27. Wow, this is just a fantastic idea!!! I could have used this when my girls were young. Do you think it will work with a 26 year old who moved back home & won't pick her things up?

  28. I really love this idea and I am getting to work on it ASAP. I had started on the pics for where things go, but this takes it one step further and makes it fun. Now to get a laminator…

  29. That's funny, when I saw you post about the ping pong balls, I thought laminated picture cards would work better at this age (I have a 2.5 and 5yo). Ahh, great minds 😉
    -Stefanie
    2ndChanceCreations.etsy.com

  30. I have one child and we always raced each other to clean but nothing as creative or effective as this. He's 8 now and has grown out of a lot of toys that create a lot of clutter all he wants now is Wii and Legos. I sort of miss musical instrument toys.

  31. I have one child and we always raced each other to clean but nothing as creative or effective as this. He's 8 now and has grown out of a lot of toys that create a lot of clutter all he wants now is Wii and Legos. I sort of miss musical instrument toys.

  32. I have one child and we always raced each other to clean but nothing as creative or effective as this. He's 8 now and has grown out of a lot of toys that create a lot of clutter all he wants now is Wii and Legos. I sort of miss musical instrument toys.

  33. I have one child and we always raced each other to clean but nothing as creative or effective as this. He's 8 now and has grown out of a lot of toys that create a lot of clutter all he wants now is Wii and Legos. I sort of miss musical instrument toys.

  34. What a great idea. I hope that I can remember this in a few years when my son is old enough to participate.

  35. This is BRILLIANT! Have you considered also using the cards as boredom busters, like "Go pick a card and that's a toy you could play with right now." I hope I can find time to do this for our toys this year. Love it!

  36. I let my kids (4 yrs and 2 yrs) get out one or two toys (or toy sets) at a time and they have to put one back before they can drag anything else out. I like Katie's idea. It could be like checking the toy out from the toy library. Also, if you take pictures of all the pieces that go along to a set you know what should go back. I have a pet peeve of toys with missing pieces. Maybe write on the back of the picture a list of all the pieces to the set.

  37. I love this method…great idea

    I have a piece of advice…use comic sans font instead of times new roman so that the kids can read ‘a’s and ‘g’s the way they will learn to print them;)

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