Help! My child’s bedroom is very messy.

Step 1: Rotate toys to minimize the number in the play area

Look at the number of toys your child has. When they are strewn all over the floor, do you feel overwhelmed? Chances are your child does too- especially when you ask her to pick them up. Consider rotating toys out.

Step 2: Organize the toys

Think about if someone put all your kitchen items into a large trunk. Every time you went to cook something, you would have to sort through cookbooks, spices, stirring spoons, etc. to find anything. How would that make you feel?

With your children’s toys, instead of putting them into a large trunk, try to separate them out onto shelves or in small shoe boxes. Just like you group things in your kitchen, group similar toys together. For example, all the blocks would go in one box or on one shelf.

Step 3: Understand your child’s developmental sequence of sorting and classifying objects

It is important for parents to know the developmental sorting/classifying progression young children go through from ages three to seven when they ask their child to clean up their room. Three year olds can only focus on one aspect at a time- such as picking up all yellow items. Four year olds can classify three or so categories at a time such as organizing square, circular and triangular blocks.  The objects that are easiest for children to sort/classify, in order of increasing difficulty, are colors, shapes, and then sizes. Once children can classify based on externalities, they can start thinking in terms of the function of an object such as “all the animals that swim in the ocean go in this box,” etc.

Step 4: Teach your child how to clean.

Practice working with your child on how to clean. Model what to do first, then support your child on how to clean. “Let’s pick up all the cars first,  then let’s pick up the soft toys.” For more information, read “How to Help Your  Child Clean Up His Room”.

Step 5: If they won’t pick up their toys, say in an assertive voice:

“In 10  minutes, I will walk around and pick up the toys still on the floor. Sunday I will put them out again.” Then Do IT. Don’t repeat yourself over and over. “I’m going to clean up. Ok….I am going to clean up. OK you can have 5 extra minutes……..” DON’T do that. Just START CLEANING.

  1. When trying this, you need to tell your child, the day before (not in the heat of the moment) that you are going to try a new method. The first time, they might not believe you and not pick up their toys. It is important to follow through and put the toys out of their reach as you said you would.
  2. While you are taking away their toys and afterwards, don’t give them any I told you sos. They already have the consequence of losing their toys. They don’t need any additional emotional dumping.
  3. If anything, empathize and say, “It is SO frustrating to lose your toys! We will try again tomorrow.” But don’t cave and give the toys back.