Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Picking Up Toys!

Picking up Toys. Yuck! This is one of those hard things. Little Mary is the main culprit in taking out all the toys and arranging them like this every day. Babycakes helps her, but she just goes along with Mary. Mary likes to take a little of every container and make her own stuff. Take a little from every container and fill it in purses, houses and her bed. (under the covers) Behind the couches, under the tables.

So when clean up time comes, usually before we leave to go somewhere or for sure every night before bed, she disappears and we are left to pick up. We try to get her to pick up, but she really only helps with a few items and somehow disappears. Oh, we call her back and make her come, but not without tears and screaming. The big kids are the ones who end up picking up the majority of it all. I feel kind of guilty for this, but at the same time, when they were her age, they did the same thing, so what goes around, comes around. Last night we did "everyone helps" This worked pretty good, but it took 4 of us (Babycakes doesn't count, she takes out as we put away) 20 minutes to clean up! My perfectionism just can't let me leave it alone. I want them to clean up, to have the fresh start in the morning. I need it cleaned up, so when they go to bed, I have that feeling of some organization.

This past year, during dance class, I met another mother who had the kids pick up after school (she was not a homeschooler) so the mess was only cleaned up for a few minutes before they played and then it was messy from the time they played until the next day at 3pm when they cleaned up and then played again. (messing it up) Now, this just did not make any sense to me. Why would you clean up and only have it clean for a few minutes? It got me thinking though. How do people clean up toys in other families? I thought most people do what we do. I do know lots of people who never clean up though, I guess, their toyrooms are always a mess, nothing goes together, nothing on shelves. I, personally could not live like that. It would drive me crazy.

We never had a toyroom until we moved here last fall. We had toys wall to wall in every room, our living room was the toyroom. Now we have a toyroom, and you can see Mary is gradually going through those glass doors into the living room to make her house. She takes out all the blankets and sets up everything on the couches and behind the couches and under the side table. Then she will take all our board books and lay them all out accross the floor, kind of like the yellow brick road. Fun, imaginative, yes, but a LOT to pick up!

How do you pick up toys? When do you pick up toys? How can I make it fun? We have tried the clean up music..."I like to move it, move it" That's a great one! Is it fair to make the older kids help with what they did not take out? If I don't, I end up picking up most of it "teaching" the little ones. What do you do?


  1. Peach is like Mary. Everything is a plaything and she mixes them all together. We keep toys in the basement (she has her own playroom, since the toys are mostly hers), some in a basket in the family room, and a few have made it to her room. When we clean up, the toys might need to go back to one of three levels -- NOT a good system. Fortunately, it's mostly just Peach making the mess. Of course, that doesn't keep her from saying, "I didn't do it." (oh, yea, the boys were playing with the dress up clothes!)

  2. Jamie,
    we don't have many toys... We don't have enough to need a toy room. If they get toys for gifts and they don't get played with they get sent to Treasure Chest. That has been our best way to keep the mess under control. If our kids take something out to play with, they need to put it away before they play with something new. Therefore we never have stuff laying around in our main living area. But my kids are not real big on toys. They play more game stuff: hide and seek, tag, dress up, board games, reading ect... Not sure if this helped you much?
    Stacie L.

  3. Aslynn is totally Mary! I call her my 'bag lady.' She is always packing containers and bags with a random assortment of things from everywhere!
    As far as clean up goes, we do an evening clean up before Paul gets home from work. Unless things get really out of hand during the day I allow a mess to accumulate until then. Around 5:30pm we begin clean-up, and then dinner, so the house is nice and peaceful when Paul gets home.
    My boys are...grrr...so hard to get them going on clean-up...I won't elaborate.

    Anyway, I'm like you- need a fresh start in the morning. Once Aslynn even said late in the evening, "You can get out whatever you want boys. Mom hates a mess in the morning so she'll be sure to clean it up when we're in bed!"
    Grrrr again!! ;)

  4. I was a montessori kid and my eldest also went to Montessori. We both learned the rule, BEFORE YOU CAN START SOMETHING NEW, YOU MUST PUT AWAY WHAT YOU'RE WORKING WITH.

    My little girl is at that age where she doesn't always want to clean up. There are times however when she is quite good...where she seems to be imitating me, a clean freak. But the other times she'll say she's tired and so I use the natural consequence of that and tell her she'll have to go to bed and can't do anything else until she cleans up...and that I will help her....sometimes she needs a cry and some time in her room, but she always comes down and does the job...eventually.

    I think sometimes, it just looks to big to them so I really try to peek in and do the Montessori thing, "Pumpkin, before your take out the puzzle lets pick up the the dollhouse together. Remember we have to clean up before we make a new mess."

    Dr. Ray Guarendi always says to not let them play with whatever they don't pick up. "Oh, it would be fun to play with those blocks but you didn't listen to me yesterday about picking them up, so I had to take them away. I just know you'll listen better next time."

    Everything has a place and everything in it's place also makes it easier for children. Our shelves have clear buckets on them so that they know how to sort and where to put things. (Also where to find what we need/want...a good skill, I think.)

    If my home is out of order it robs my peace and makes me feel distracted, crabby. Although my husband doesn't always like my picking up, he does concede and remind the family that our God is a God of order. :)

  5. A trick that worked wonderful for me today was:
    About the time they are finished playing a one room or with a big project - it tends to coincide with snack time. So the rule is, no snack until you clean up. It actually worked slick today. It gives them an incentive. And then I make a plan with them what we will do after the snack, something they will like such as a movie, play outside, or if it's bedtime - we make plans for the morning.

    Otherwise the kids just think the same as we do - I'm just going to mess it up all over again later. So why clean? Well, I just tell them that's they way mommy wants it. Then we can start a whole new adventure next time, and daddy won't step on a toy and get angry at you. :)

    Some days I've sung the annoying Barney songs like "Clean up, clean up - everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up - everybody do your share." Anyone singing with me?

    I grew up with the rule: Clean up this before you move onto the next thing. And I did as far as I remember. But my kids are like yours - "I'm playing with that" "But it's dinosaurs and blocks?" "Yes, I'm playing with that, and that, and that too!"

    #1 Priority - them having fun.
    #2 - If mommy's happy, everybody's happy.

    A quote from my husband's aunt:
    "If the house isn't a mess, the kids must be sick."

    I'm going to write a little more on this on my site: stbrigidsacademy.blogspot.com

  6. I worked at a Montessori school as an assistant teacher for 2 years and followed that rule of putting away before taking out more "work" and then did the same thing when I did daycare. But for some reason, I did not follow through into my own life, my own children, I think it was too stressful constantly watching and making sure they would pick up. Making sure everything stays on the mat. I don't need high blood pressure! I also think the Montessori way works for some children and not for others. My Mary would have a hard time with it, but Jedi would have been the perfect Montessori student. He lined everything up, he was reading at age 4...etc...If a child is like Mary and likes to mix everything in purses etc, then the play with one thing and put it away doesn't work for her. She kind of sets up her house and makes rooms with the containers. I'm not complaining, it's just one of those hard things every night, clean up time!

    I want my children to be able to relax and have fun and play with everything, that's why it's there and they can mix it up, it's creative, but it's just, well, messy. I want their personalities to shine through, not mine...(wanting it perfectly lined up and neat and clean with one thing out at a time)

    I have seen a pattern though, around age 5 they just become great picker uppers!!

    I love that quote "If the house isn't messy, the kids must be sick" -Thanks Melissa! I just tell myself every night that some day I will miss the mess, I will wish the children were small and I didn't have a perfect house.

    I know we have too many toys, but it's hard to give them up, especially when we have a child like Mary who plays with everything. I do clean out a couple times a year and donate what we get rid of, but it's always hard to get rid of stuff. I know less is better though...balance is the key as I say quite often, but it's true even in toys, huh?

  7. It really thins down when they get older and the Wii and PC take over . . . but I tell you what, the Legos are a must have and have strong staying power. I think I will really miss stepping on Legos' in the middle of the night or hearing them tear up my vacuum bag as it sucks up an unsuspecting piece. :-)

  8. Maia, my four year old, is the same way about the toys. Taking all of them out and putting them in little boxes, purses, etc. And she takes off when it's time to clean. My seven year old gets so annoyed, and I do agree it's not right, but like you, I have no idea how to keep Maia there to help with the pick up, other than getting mad, which isn't good. :-) We have moved five times so far, and I've had a chance to get rid of a lot of "stuff", but more "stuff" seems to show up! I have no rhyme or reason right now as to when to pick up, but plan to implement one into our new schedule. In the book The Mothers Rule of Life, she had the kids pick up several times a day...after breakfast, after lunch, then before dinner. I'd like to do something similar. As I type this, I'm sitting amongst toys in a messy computer room that spills out into the playroom. I stepped on numerous Fisher Price "little people" to turn a Baby Einstein video for David. It drives me nuts!

  9. HI Jamie!
    I think everyone has this same battle with pick up. It can be SO maddening! And, my hubby HATES clutter and piles, unfortunately, so we really have been striving to have things in their places before he comes home.

    I finally have it written on the kid's chore charts, so they each get a sticker (worth 10c) for each day that they pick up their rooms, living room and basement.

    It has to be picked up before they can eat at suppertime. If they argue, they still have to do the pick up, but don't get a sticker on their chore chart. It's surprising the amount of fast work will be done when there is something "good" happening next. (plus, eating is not really a bribe, but works the same! Are I sneaky? ;)

    One of the best things that we did for toy control, was to limit their toys in their bedrooms to only 3 things, and the rest is down in basement.

    That way, clean up in their rooms is a breeze (almost always!) and then fewer things are strung out in the basement or brought to the living room. I instituted that after a whole afternoon was wasted on bedroom detail that had EVERYONE in tears! :)

    Also, I do go through ALL our toys and weed out and donate on a seasonal basis. We have been donating to our Church's childcare room, which is such a win-win as my kids do use this room and can still play with their old toys (the mess and clean up just doesn't have to be at my house!! :)

    Sorry this is so long, but I just wanted to share how we FINALLY are starting to tame the pick up/ clutter monster at our house (with a 9yr, 7yr almost 3yr and new one coming in Oct).

    Now.........I was thinking I might need to make myself that same deal when it comes to MY bedroom (which is where LOTS of piles can gather!:)

  10. As you know, Jamie, I am still in the construction phase and all our toys are in the pole barn. We have some here and there.

    I am so glad you do not get on Mary's case. She is different then Jedi.....he is a super-duper kid. Mary is Mary and has her own talents and gifts. I am glad you do not get stressed out about her. Love her just the way she is.

    I get way more stressed about the clutter of shoes, bikes, helmets and scooters and rollerblades all over. They have been good since I have done my treat jars. Anytime I find their stuff out....they lose a treat. It is working!

  11. Hi Jamie-This dilemna is such a familiar one. Even here at Grandma's house, there has to be pick up time. Our motto has always been, 'get one out, put one back". I tried to have pick up time before nap/rest time and before bedtime. That way it was tidy when we started fresh again.
    Luv, Nerm

  12. Jamie,

    I allowed myself a treat and read your blog today. I got a little caught up, but not all . . . have to come back later with more time.

    We have a toy room (used to be a crawl space) and we do our best to keep everything there. I only let the kids take out one kind of 'parts' toy at a time, this includes legos, knex, play mobile, Thomas the Train. With only one daughter, many of the girly toys (Polly Pockets, Barbies, etc.) are kept in her room. I'm letting my oldest son keep the small legos in his room, too.

    I try to rotate the toys so there is not boredom. However, the books are always out and I look forward to setting up my library, which will be similar to yours when its completed (I cannot wait!!).

    God Bless you, Jamie!

  13. That Montessori rule is interesting, and probably makes life a lot more organized and peaceful. But, my kids and toys are like Jamie's. It all works together. The dinosaur bin is out at the same time as the matchbox cars because the dinos are attacking the cars. And the play food is also out because Aslynn decided that the dinosaurs need to take a break from destruction and eat. Someone else finds a makeshift 'ramp' from some other bin for the cars to escape on. Then Aslynn gets a big inspiration for an art project that fits in with the 'scene' they are playing with. She runs immediately to get out the art supplies and make something (she believes you can make anything you need!). It's like this 'sream of creativity' that, if interupted for clean-up, would never happen.
    I have worked in many daycare settings and it always drove me nuts how compartmentalized everything was. I always wanted to take the plastic bears from the manipulatives corner and let them play in the wooden dollhouse!! :)

    As I type this I realize that it's probably a personality thing. I'm sort of a scattered person, I think.

    But, in the end my house gets clean. And we all seem reasonably happy.
    I may not be reasonably sane, however. My litte bag lady just informed me that she has her own trash can that she designed to put things in that she didn't want. I found this out when we were cleaning one day and I asked her to throw something away. She said, "My trash can or your's?"

  14. Wow, what a number of comments on this one! eh?

    Even though my children do clean up, with our assistance, I tend to "re-clean" about once a month, where I reasort them where I wanted them to really go. There are bins and buckets everywhere, some are labeled with my handy-dandy label maker. Some I made labels on the computer with pictures for the little ones who can't read.

    Sometimes there are those days where the child is just determined to keep their "work of art" or "project" intact for a few days. So I just let them. Maybe just let Mary keep her creations in the designated toy area up as long as she desires if no company is coming. But keep stricter rules about toys in the other living areas. When Stanley absolutely refuses to clean up, who is the same age as Mary, you first have to ask why, and ask if you can help him or her move it to the toy room. That would be easier on you and her. And she'd come to know that her setup will last longer if she just starts it in the toy room.

    Just another thought to ponder...

  15. I'm bad, all must be picked up at the end of the day...it just must!

    I need that serenity at the end of the day when they are in bed. I need that order for that short time. It keeps me sain, it gives me peace. Weird,huh? I know.

  16. I didn't even realize it was a Montessori rule! It's just what works for our family.

    As for the amount of toys, we do go through & 'give away' or sell on consignment. I try to let the kids have a say, but gently guide them in their decisions on what to let go.

    I have found it helpful to give gift suggestions to family members. I have asked that they not start any new collections! It's also helpful & less costly for family to give one gift to all the kids . . . I know this can be hard when there are are a variety of ages, but the less we bring in, the less cleaning there will be in the end.

    I'm very much like you, Jamie. I need that peace & clean at the end of the day. Starting out the day with a clean room is better for us.

  17. I have the same problem in my house. The older kids groan when I ask them to clean up the basement because they usually didn't make any of the mess. Unfortunately, if they didn't help, it wouldn't get cleaned up by the 3 and 5 year old. For the rest of the house, I have assigned each child one main room that they are responsible for cleaning (usually we do it right before dinner)for one month. With each new month we rotate rooms. This way no one has the "hard" room for any great length of time. This also comes in handy when someone is dropping over soon. I just tell everyone to pick up their assigned room and within 1/2 hour, the house looks great.
    Great post. God Bless!


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