General Question

sleepdoc's avatar

How to get kids to pick up after themselves?

Asked by sleepdoc (4690points) April 29th, 2010

So it seems that our kids spend most of their time leaving clutter around the house. They look for a toy and leave all the toys the had to move to find it out. Sometimes the wrapper from their snack gets left where they were last, etc. Does this go on forever? Any hints on helping them leave it as they found it?

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39 Answers

slick44's avatar

Yes it gos forever, they will never pick up after themselves.:)

sleepdoc's avatar

@slick44… How depressing :(

slick44's avatar

@sleepdoc… how many little ones do you have?

DrBill's avatar

Kids have to be taught to pick up/clean up after themselves. They never will if you don’t teach them to.

sleepdoc's avatar

@DrBill Do you have any tips on teaching that principle cause what we are trying sure doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

Arp's avatar

Just as with other groups, it is wrong to generalise people based on one physical or mental trait. Not ALL kids pick up after themselves, but some do. My brother is a clean freak, but me on the other hand :P

slick44's avatar

How old are they? if they dont pick them up tell them you will throw them away. Then do it.

sleepdoc's avatar

They are young still that is why I want to get some habits formed now.

JLeslie's avatar

One of my girlfriend’s children do pick up after themselves. She credits the Montessori school they attend, of course she reinforces the behavior.

whitenoise's avatar

The littering phase doesn’t last. The way to teach them is patience. Reminding them over and over again.

Don’t become angry… they genuinely forget. Don’t allow them to get away with it either, by picking up after them.

Explain and remind. And yes… it will pass then.

(I have two boys, age 7. They are willing to pick up, but still often forget.)

Trillian's avatar

@sleepdoc Give them fair warninig. Then throw away everything that you find out of place. Do not replace any of it.

BoBo1946's avatar

well, they do what you train them to do!

Trillian's avatar

Allow me to add to that. I have also put all the stuff away and allowed my kids to earn things back. I made the mistake of giving them too much, too easily. I hated to take stuff away because then the little darlings would be without, and I had spent so much money! But I cared about the money, they didn’t. All they wanted was the next thing. It was a hard lesson to learn and I had to get a hard nose about it.
Bottom line, if they get too much, they just take it for granted. And they have no respect. To be taught respect is a hard lesson. Some parents never manage it.
I have faith in you.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Trillian like that!!!!!!!!!!!

itscomplicated's avatar

When my kids were little, I made clean up time a ritual between new activities. I would play a favorite kids’ song. The first couple of times I showed them how I want them to pick up and put away their stuff. Then, the next couple of times, I asked them to show me how to do it and I would help them put away stuff. Then, I let them do it on their own. They always put away their stuff before the song (approx 2–3 min long) ended. Then, we would celebrate by doing the next activity. I made doing the next activity the reward for their hard work, and I always thanked them for picking up after themselves.

As teenagers, they were very clean and I never had to ask them to keep their bedrooms in order. Their current spouses thank me!

wundayatta's avatar

Expect them to. Do not allow them to go on to the next activity until they have completed the chore. You can help them if they are naturally disorganized (and who isn’t). Encourage them over and over to do it, but don’t expect them to change overnight. It’s a long process.

iphigeneia's avatar

I agree with most of the suggestions here. A lot of children don’t just grow up and become responsible for the messes they make, it’s something that needs to be taught. Depending on what they leave out, confiscating toys, relocating all the rubbish they leave on the floor to their bedroom doorway, giving them dishwashing duty every time they leave dirty dishes on the table, etc., will teach them that it’s easier to keep things tidy than to leave it for someone else.

SundayKittens's avatar

I’m with @wundayatta. Repetition and expectations.

JLeslie's avatar

Great ideas. Now I need to apply them to my own habits. LOL.

CMaz's avatar

It should always be the first and last responsibility of the day. Before they get to do anything.

slick44's avatar

@whitenoise… I beg to differ, I have 3 boys 23, 16 and 13 none of them can do crap. Prob. my own fault, i tend to mother to much.

partyparty's avatar

Teach them unless they tidy up what they have been using, then they will be unable to do anything else, ie playing outside, watching TV etc.
Keep reinforcing this rule and it will eventually become the norm for them.

BoBo1946's avatar

ummm..a lot of people here were taught the right way to do things…

GladysMensch's avatar

This one is easy. They keep the toys that they put away, and I keep the toys that I put away. They get their toys back at Xmas or birthdays… wrapped and all. I save money on presents, and they learn to pick up after themselves.

janbb's avatar

With little kids, you can make a game out of it. Put a big toy chest in the middle of the room and play, “Let’s see how many toys yu can pick up in 4 minutes?” Eventually, if all goes well, you can transition to it being part of the routine.

I had one messy and one neat kid; they are 27 and 29 now and still the same! (Although not my problem any more.)

Jill_E's avatar

They love for me to sing the song “Clean up…clean up…won’t you help me clean up”

And if they want to do something, I would say happy to after they pick up their garbage or something.

Keep it light. We don’t want battles. It is their choice.

ShanEnri's avatar

All I can say is “good luck with that”! My kids are 18 and 15 and they still seem to forget who left that trash there, where the trash can is and other such reasons for being lazy! They have gotten better, but I am still almost constantly going behind them and/or fussing with them about it!

whitenoise's avatar


Oh well… the good thing being that in the end they’ll mess up their own place. ;-)

LaAmp's avatar

Im eleven and i was a huge slob. But the idea of things being thrown away was bad. my mom said if i kept my room clean shed get me a gecko

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie – my youngest started in Montessorri at 2 and has always picked up after himself (okay well not always but I’ll let you know how we do it in a bit) and with @wundayatta – we simply expect that garbage or wrappers will be thrown away, he knows where all the 4 garbage cans are (garbage, paper, plastic, compost) and uses them and as far as toys, if he plays with something, he has to clean it up before going on to the next activity. period. especially if the room is a real mess – sometimes we let it go because we have the infant as well and there is no hope with him still awake that the toys will stay in bins. Sometimes I say ‘I’ll help you clean up so we can start xyz faster!’ and sometimes I just say ‘if you don’t clean up, we’re not doing xyz’ – I try to reason everything out for him, always have and he listens most of the time. (he’s almost 4 now)

thriftymaid's avatar

Just like anything else, this takes patience and consistent parenting. Don’t clean up after them; make them clean up after themselves. Pretty simple, huh?

YARNLADY's avatar

By example – start early – I use the same methods as @wundayatta and @GladysMensch

faye's avatar

Get a puppy who eats their toys at night if left out. This was just magic!

Seaofclouds's avatar

With my son, it was just a matter of reminding him at first. If he tried to leave a wrapper from a snack on the table or worse yet the floor, instead of picking it up myself, I would stop him from whatever he was doing and ask him where his trash goes. He would say the trash can and then pick up his trash and throw it away. As far as toys, if I catch him stop playing with one thing and start to play with another I remind him that he needs to put away his old toys first. He is 8 now and pretty good about both of those things. Occasionally when he has company over he’ll “forget”, but 99% of the time he’s really good about it. I started making him clean up after himself as soon as he started walking.

andreaxjean's avatar

My daughter is 18 months… and if I tell her to put something down/away she does it. I don’t know how she knows where to put it but she does. It amazes me how smart she is. Maybe she witnesses me or her daddy/grams putting her toys away and then she realizes where they’re supposed to go when she’s done using them.

Taciturnu's avatar

Make it a game- see who can get all their toys cleaned up the fastest. (If they’re young enough, it’ll work!) Sing a particular song as you’re cleaning up, and help them for a little while until they are in the swing of things. Alternatively, you could try an incentive chart- let each one put a sticker on a poster for every time they clean up after themselves, and give them 15 minutes or a half hour of “Alone Time” with you or Mom. It helps to build a closer bond with your kids at the same time it reinforces picking up after yourself.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Great Ceasar’s ghost, similar to what Trillian said if they leave toys around lock them away. If they should ask what happened to this or that tell them they left it out and did not put it back where it belonged and it got “towed” impounded and if they wanted to earn it back they can do extra chores to pay the “impound fee”. If they leave wrappers about etc. for each wrapper they lose 5 minutes of their bed time. So if their bed time was 8pm and they had 2 wrappers and such they failed to pick up they lost 10 minutes and had to go to bed at 7:50 instead of 8pm. For every day they went with out a mess left anywhere they gain 5 minutes extra to use on the weekends. Then they have a vested reason for keeping clean as oppose to being messy. Just another way of using the carrot and the stick.

amberrae's avatar

Kids will be kids… but the sooner you start explaining and enforcing with consequences, that they can’t leave behind a mess, the sooner they are going to be willing to pick up after themselves on their own. I have a 4 year old son and for some time now he has been telling his little friends that they cannot make another mess until the first one is picked up!! Its worked for me…

YARNLADY's avatar

My three and a half year old is beginning to prefer order. At the store this weekend, he saw a display and said “Look at this mess” and started rearranging the toy animals into groups.

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