When it comes to parenting toddlers, one common problem is that toddlers like to take their toys out, but they are not so keen on putting them away.
The reason is very natural. Clean-up time is just not a whole lot of fun for anyone. At least that’s the way your kids (and probably you) have been conditioned.
In my house we’ve changed this by anchoring a positive feeling to the whole cleanup process. When I say “anchoring a positive feeling” I mean that we have established a ritual that is fun for the kids, so it makes them feel good. Since the fun is connected to clean-up time it literally programs their brains to enjoy clean-up time.
What do we do? We play a particular song and sing along while we put away the toys. The song is “Dreamer” by Supertramp. It’s a fun song and we’ve come up with our spoof version of it at home. Basically we substitute the word “Clean-up” instead of “Dreamer”. Really complicated (not!)
“Clean-up …everybody clean-up… Put Your hands in the air oh oh …”
The kids probably think that these are the real lyrics. We call it “The clean-up song” at home. When my youngest daughter was just learning to speak she would shout out at the “oh oh” part because she could not sing the rest. And she did it with such enthusiasm and excitement!
One day I’ll teach them the real lyrics so they don’t get made fun of when they are older. It reminds me of this one “Saturday Night Live” skit where they talk about songs that are commonly sung with the wrong lyrics. “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix was on the list because some people sing “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” instead of “Excuse me while I kiss the sky”. What a laugh!
Anyway back to the point of all this: My kids enjoy the clean-up process because we (parents) are actively involved and we’ve turned it into a fun activity with an attached feel-good song. That’s why it works. There are no fights. I just put on the song and start singing. You can do this with any activity and make it fun.
I teach you how to use the process of anchoring in my audio course on dealing with toddler behavior.
Enjoy your children,