Teaching Your Child to be Organized

If you feel like you spend the majority of your day picking up after your kids, you're not alone!  We asked 25 moms to share their tips for encouraging (and teaching) kids to be organized.
If you feel like you spend the majority of the day picking up after your kids, you’re not alone!  We asked 25 moms to share their tips for encouraging (and teaching) kids to be organized.

This is what they told us:

“I started when they were young. As soon as they could toddle around and pick things up/put them in a bucket, I would start them cleaning up toys. It was really hard not to get frustrated with their pace and just do it all myself, and there were many times I did just that, but I still kept at it.  Now I can pretty much just say ‘time to pick up’ and it gets done.” ~Theresa

“I store 90% of their toys in our garage. That way even if they pull out every toy in the house it’s not that much.” ~Rachel

“We watch hoarding shows with the kids (especially my daughter).” ~Fruits and Nuts

“I put labels with pictures on clear bins so my son would know where to put things.” ~Laura

“Move to a house where your bedroom is on the first floor and they are upstairs. Don’t go upstairs. Done.” ~Karen

“Huge oversized black garbage bags…my kids hear me pull them from the cabinet miles away…never saw so much stuff get picked up and I never lifted a finger!!” ~Michele

“I have this on a large tote bin ‘this was yours, it isn’t anymore, mommy found it on the floor, to get it back you must do a chore’ then I have a chore list underneath the sign. If it is still there after a week it is donated. I also have pictures on their cubbies of what belongs in each of them  (there are 9 in the room). And pictures on the back of the closet door on how the room should look ‘clean’. No toys allowed outside of the bedroom.” ~Kimberly

“I sing with my kids while cleaning up (my kids will be two and three in April). The oldest usually jumps in and starts helping when he hears me singing and the little one sometimes. I try to make it a game.” ~Christina

“I have a friend who created a check out system. The kids had to check out a box and it has to be cleaned up before they can check out another.” ~Amy

“I tell my 6-year-old that if I have to help him, it’s probably because he has too many toys and needs to give me 10 toys if he needs me to help. It’s one way for him to decide whether he’s too overwhelmed to do it on his own, or if he has toys he doesn’t play with anymore, it’s easy for him to get rid of them so he can get some help from me.” ~Monica

“I started when mine where little.  They would get overwhelmed, so I would say ‘who can pick up all the….. books!’ Then I’d praise them…’Wow I can’t believe you put all the books away’ clap, cheer etc… ‘Ok now lets see who can pick up all the blocks’ and as they were picking up I’d be like ‘wow I can’t believe how many blocks you’re finding, wow!!!’, making it a game and having fun with them.” ~Melissa

“Yelling, lots of yelling…j/k but I start with a hefty bag ‘throwing it away’…that usually motivates them to do some picking up….I’m not really tossing it but they don’t know that and it doesn’t work on teens…they call my bluff every time…that’s who I do the yelling at and they have lost some nice things pushing me too far…” ~Robin

“Chocolate, screen time, or anything else they want I save until later in the afternoon or evening. And then say if you want this, you have X amount of time to have everything picked up. And sometimes we do the ‘you can sit in the corner until you are ready to pick up your mess’. I like to change it up to avoid the ‘what do I get?'” ~Kelly

“Lots of containers at hand any time. Baskets, buckets, boxes, bins, especially ones that fit under the bed or sofas.” ~Ann

“Toys that are left out should go to toy jail. Bail is set with chores. The down side is now my son assigns me some chores if I do something wrong.” ~Tricia

“My 5-year-old is very interested in making money oddly enough. He will pick up everything in all the big rooms and vacuum every night for a dollar.” ~Christy

“They loose privileges if they do not clean up after I have asked them to. Part of their monthly allowance is also tied to how much they clean up after themselves so that is a good motivator too! It would be great to have them be proactive about picking up after themselves but I don’t see that happening – I don’t think kids are wired that way!” ~Karen

“Depends on the day how I approach cleanup, but my rules are pretty much: 1) you messed it-you clean it, 2) I ain’t screeching over it, here are the choices, pick one, 3) you make it my problem and you’re not likely to appreciate my solution. My four and five year olds have also been told, ‘Dinner is on the table. When the mess is cleaned up, you may have it.’ They’re usually hungry enough to make some progress. ” ~Bethany

“They have to put away what they finished before getting out another game/toy/activity. Works most times, then if not, I say ‘wow, I bet you can’t pick all that up before I count to 20!’ or ‘I bet I can pick up more than you’ (that requires some bending of expectations and helping out). I am prepared to bring out the sibling competition when the one-year-old is able and use the ole ‘I bet you can’t pick up faster than your sister!'” ~Christie

“For our 5-year-old we employed the ‘toy ninja’, an invisible ninja that comes twice a day…any toys that are lying around the ninja takes them away, and then he leaves a chore or list of chores that has to be done before he will return the toys.” ~Terri

“About six months ago, we cleaned together and chose some toys to go to daycare as a donation. Now they know if they don’t keep it clean then that’s what happens.” ~Elizabeth

“I cleaned my girls rooms today closed the doors and left a note on door, ‘I cleaned for you today, keep it this way or start loosing your stuff. The choice is yours’, hope it works. ~Beckie

“Playing the song Insane in The Membrane and me picking up there toys.” ~Laura

“If they want to go outside and ride their bikes…then the toys in the room needs to be picked up….I do not allow them to move from one room to another without tidying up the previous room.” ~Candice

“I keep 85% of the toys in the attic, all the rest are in bins with picture labels. We clean up at the end of the day.” ~Lesley

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About Britt Nielsen

Britt is the mother to amazing baby G, and the editor of My Life & Parenting.

4 thoughts on “Teaching Your Child to be Organized

  1. Hi, some nice ones, but what bothers me a, is that most of these moms work with negative things, like threatening their kids to take toys away or loosing preveliges, or worse?!
    Why not just keep calm, relax and let the little ones find their own organizing systems, teaching them to take care and responsibilty for their stuff – simply by doing just the maintenance stuff and not more?
    We clean up together every night before bedtime. Of course I vac the kids rooms and do the general window washing and so on, because they are too small for tis by now . If my boys (the big one is only 3) can´t find a toy or something they want during the day I don´t search for it myself, I simply comfort them to search more for it , give hints where it could be, if I can see it and then ask them to find a place, where the toy should live from now on, so that they don´t loose it again, or, if it allready has such place to put it there later.. this workes well so far and I now get into trouble, if I put a toy not on its dedicaded space 😉
    But I can say, we are mainly yelling- and tantrum free, of course with some bad days, and my big one started to create his own system: his dinos have to stay togehter with his playmobilpeople and some of his plushies live unter his table, for example – and I leave it this way, because it works for him.
    Love from Germany 🙂 Mone

  2. taking a toy away when it is left out is a way of teaching kids to take responsibility. If they were to go to the park and leave a toy unattended, it could easily be taken. Or if they left their bike outside, it could be stolen. This method wouldn’t be the best for toddlers, but for older kids who should be able to clean up by themselves without any outside help. My mom started using this on me when I was around 8-10 yrs old and it worked like a charm. It really made me see my toys as my responsibility.

  3. Lots of good ideas here for teaching kids responsibility. I’ve found that having natural consequences for actions the best way for us personally. My son understands the reason behind consequences, and he is being prepared for real life — where there are consequences and rewards for your actions.

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