Unfortunately, we have to be realistic about how important tidying up actually is to children (not very) and how much of it they can do.
As always, this goes best in the future if you can establish a routine now – for example always putting toys away after playing
You will have to do most of this at first, but gradually, your toddler can help you. Try these ideas to help your child understand what to do:
- Give lots of notice that it is soon time to stop and tidy up – this does not deal with all resistance, but can reduce it.
- Don’t expect “tidy” tidying – placing items in an area, or near the toy box is okay for now
- Putting loved toys away can be tricky for children – perhaps he or she can bring the toy to you, and you can put away
- Give them a small and easy job to do first. “Can you help me?” “Let’s do it together!”
- Make tidying up a game in itself – “Let’s see who can collect the most … bricks, books, lego …”
- Expect your toddler to get distracted during the process, or even start getting toys out again it is not usually defiance, just that playing is more natural to a child than tidying
- Sometimes it helps to have a tidy up song, story, or music – to help your child understand and remember what you are now doing
- tidy up time is a good opportunity to use language to describe things and what you are doing – keep this the same each time and your child will learn the words, and eventually the sequence. “Here’s your red car – time to go in the box – into the box goes the red car!” etc.
For next time, try limiting the number of toys your little one can choose from – rotate which toys are out to provide interest – otherwise they might pull everything out.
Lastly, a little mess is to be expected in a house with children – it really doesn’t matter as long as you are all safe and nothing gets broken!