ways to get children to pick up all their toys
My children, ages 4 and 5, simply will not pick up their toys
or books. I have reduced the number of toys, significantly, but they
still won't pick them up. They pull everything out; toy cars and planes,
stuffed animals, blankets to make tents, and so on, but they won't pick
up and put anything away unless their father or I stand over them. What
now? Should I reduce the number of toys further?
I have not one, but three ideas for you! Take your pick.
INCREDIBLE VANISHING TOYS: The first option will deliver a
HUGE wake-up call to the children. As the name implies, their toys—all
of them, mind you—suddenly disappear. If you don’t have
an attic or basement storage area big enough for the job, then go to
a self-storage facility and rent a unit big enough to accommodate the
entire kit ‘n’ caboodle. The next time the children are
out of the house for a few hours (this may require that one of you takes
them somewhere), put ALL of their toys in boxes, and then take the boxes
to the storage unit. When the kids come home and discover their immaculate
rooms, tell them you are no longer going to get upset and mean about
them not picking up their toys because they aren't going to have any!
Be very matter-of-fact. Don't be mean or act like this is a “gotcha!”
move. Tell them that in a month, you will give each of them two or three
toys. If they do well with that number, then after a week or so you’ll
give them two or three more, and so on. Make sure you hold back the
toys they covet the most for last.
“Boy, John,” someone in Reader Land is saying, “that’s
a bit over the top, isn’t it?”
I’m sure some people think so, but I’ll simply point out
that children who are toy-less will find ways of entertaining themselves.
In fact, this method just may result in two children who are a lot more
self-entertaining and creative than they were before. Nonetheless, knowing
that we’ve got some sensitive souls out there (obviously, I’m
not one of them), I will now unveil the second option.
CHARITY BOX: Put a “Charity Box” in the back hallway
and tell the kids that you are no longer going to nag them to pick up
their toys. On any given occasion, you are simply going to tell them
once that it’s time for them to pick them up, but you will pick
up any they don’t pick up within a reasonable period of time.
The toys you pick up will go into the back hall Charity Box. The children
need to know, up front, that once a toy goes into the CB, no power on
earth will get it out. When the box is full, it will be taken and donated
to a local charity that distributes toys to underprivileged children
and a new box will take its place.
“Well,” says my critic, “that will surely do less
damage to the kids’ psyches, but I’m not sure I’d
want to give hundreds of dollars of toys away.” Therefore, my
TOY LENDING LIBRARY: Dedicate a closet or a large cabinet to
toy storage. Go through your children’s toys, culling ones they
no longer play with. Keep culling until you get down to no more than
20 toys. Put the rest in the new “toy library closet.” Allow
the children no more than two or three to play with at a time and make
a rule that in order to get a toy out of the closet, they must give
you one to put back in. This keeps the number of toys that are “out”
at any given time to a number that your kids will be able to pick up
in no time at all. If they “can’t” pick up three toys,
then limit their library privileges to one toy at a time.
See? There is always more than one way to skin the disciplinary “cat.