How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up

March 1, 2019
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This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure.

Do you wish you knew how to teach your toddler to tidy up?

You’re sick of constantly chasing after them all through the day, picking up all the mess that seems to trail behind them.

I know, mama. I’ve been there.

I know everyone says to just let them play and enjoy the moment because before you know it they’ll be up and grown.

And I get it. I really do.

Mom and baby together

My eldest is turning four at the end of March and I keep wondering how I went from being a brand new (clueless!) mama to having three kids in just 4 years!

But you know what? There needs to be a balance.

We can’t just let everything go for fear of not enjoying the moment. Because you know what else is important?

Teaching our children.

It is our responsibility to help mould and develop their little characters.

Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to make it easier to get my little ones to clean up after themselves. Part of it is time, but there are also some actionable steps that you can take.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up:

1) Teach by Example

This might seem really obvious but sometimes we forget how closely our children watch us.

I’m not suggesting that you become crazy about keeping the house clean, but basically, be sure you’re also tidying up after yourself.

Leaving things out and procrastinating with chores won’t go unnoticed.

Give your children the gift of a good example and they’ll be more interested in tidying up themselves.

Toddlers love to mimic those that they admire, especially their parents.

If they see you keeping your home tidy (not spotless!) while having a joyful spirit, they will be drawn to emulate that behaviour themselves. Include Them

I’ve actually referred to this a bit before in my post about why I work when my children are awake.

Another great way to teach your toddler to tidy up is to involve them in the daily chores. That could mean packing the dishwasher, clearing plates, putting laundry away.

The list is endless (but you already know that).

I have a great list of chores for 2-year olds that you might find helpful!

Currently, my 2-year old loves tidying up because she sees both myself and her older brother doing it.

She wants to be a big kid and according to her, tidying up helps her feel like one.

I also ask her to clear her plate after meals and put her clothes in the hamper. It is never too early to teach your toddler to tidy up.

Another thing to consider is that you need to be involved. As your toddler becomes a preschooler they will be better able to tidy up autonomously.

However, while they are still young and learning it will require some participation from yourself.

When I ask my children to tidy up I usually get down on the floor with them and pick up a few toys myself. This works to encourage them as well as help them not to feel too overwhelmed by the job.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up

2) Be Consistent

If you want to teach your toddler to tidy up then one big factor is to be consistent.

This can be applied to both teaching and discipline.

Toddlers have a great big world that they are navigating and it can be super difficult for them if the rules are always changing.

If you expect them to tidy up their toys and you’ve told them as much, then follow through with it.

I know that isn’t always easy because it requires discipline on your part. It is, however, so very important.

When your toddler knows that they are expected to tidy up their toys then they will be less likely to push back on it. If however, you often give in and don’t get them to do the job then they will learn that and protest every single time.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up

3) Less is More

On more than one occasion I have asked my son to tidy up and he has looked back at me with despair and stated that there’s just too much.

First of all, yeah kid, I know…there’s stuff!

Truly though, the mess can be completely overwhelming for them so I have a couple of suggestions.

First of all, is the one I already mentioned. Get involved.

Participate in the cleaning up while they are young and still learning.

Secondly, purge!

I’ve written a post about how we stop toys from taking over our home. There are practical steps you can take to reduce the amount of toy-clutter and keep things organised.

Fewer toys equals less mess which means your toddler will be less overwhelmed when it comes to tidying up.

It also has the added and somewhat unexpected benefit of your toddler playing with their toys more.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up

4) Have a Routine & Make it Fun!

We have a tidy up time that is part of our daily routine.

It usually falls somewhere between 11-11:30 in the morning just before I make lunch and serve it to the children.

At first, it was mainly Jack (my almost 4-year old) who was doing most of the work. But by using the tips above I’ve been able to also teach my toddler to tidy up.

We turn on some fun and upbeat music and often make a race out of it. No one really wins or loses (although I like to think a clean house makes me a winner) but the children love it.

They also expect it. Sure, they don’t always love to do it, but they also know that lunch (and tv time) doesn’t happen until the playroom is clean.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Tidy Up


If you want to teach your toddler to tidy up it is going to take time and consistency.

Try not to get frustrated with them and lead by example.

If you put in the effort now you’ll find it will pay off later. Your children will develop a habit of picking up after themselves and you won’t be worn out from having to clean up everyone’s mess.

Until next time!

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