Cleaning up toys at the end of the day can drive any sane parent crazy.
When my son was 2.5 years old, my husband and I were getting so frustrated with my son’s great ability to dawdle while cleaning.
We’d watch him “clean” and get so angry that he played, got distracted, or just went slower than we’d like.
Since clean up time is at the end of the day, our patience was already running thin, so we’d end the day being frustrated and angry at our son. Neither one of us wanted that and we knew something had to change.
So, I got thinking. What if we could find a way to clean, give him a natural consequence if he took forever, and still end the day on a good note?
A plan was made.
We set a timer and when the timer goes off he runs upstairs to put on pajamas.
After that, he has 45 minutes to clean up his toys before the next timer goes off.
If he finishes with time left over, he gets to do something fun that he chooses (puzzles, board games, tablet time, horseplay, read books).
If he doesn’t finish, it’s just bedtime. (We do still spend time with him reading books for our normal bedtime routine.)
We give him the responsibility of cleaning as well as the understanding that if he chooses not to, than he loses something. It’s all up to him.
A few notes:
Clean during the day: Our evening time mess is not too bad because we clean up a little bit throughout the day. If he’s done with playdough, it gets put away. Not playing with those blocks anymore, get those up too. We also do a big clean up (with a timer, lots of time, and a reward) before naptime. This way, when it’s bedtime, the mess isn’t too big for him to handle.
Give lots of time: 45 minutes is a TON of time for cleaning up, and we do that intentionally. We want to set him up for success. We know that he is still young and get distracted easily, especially when interacting with his toys. So, we give him a lot of time to be successful.
I can’t watch: I try very hard not to watch him clean. It drives me crazy to see how slow he can be and to watch him play with every single toy that he touches. I just want to scream “JUST PUT IT AWAY!!”. So, I stay out of it most of the time.
Lend a hand: There are some days when his younger brother makes a huge mess, or we are running late for whatever reason, and he needs a helping hand, we will gladly jump in and help. We do not help if he’s just playing around and running out of time.
Let them fail: We don’t jump in and rescue just because he is running out of time. There is a consequence in place already for that. I do find myself reminding my son that he’s running out of time, but I don’t help.
Since implementing this 2 years ago, he now cleans up without any fights, and the majority of the time he gets his special time.
We don’t fight with him and we don’t end our day angry.
It’s pretty wonderful.
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