A Helper I Will Be

A Helper I Will Be!

It’s good to be back at the website after taking a few months to enjoy family visits and travel. And, to do some much needed organizing in my home. With the grandchildren growing in many ways, the toys and activities we have accumulated in our home needed attention. When I was teaching preschool, we always talked about having a “system” in the classroom for “pick-up time.” This is true for the children in our homes as well. The system doesn’t have to be fancy and should not be complicated (frustrating), but it needs to be a system your child can understand and can be successful when it comes to putting things away.

Young children begin to feel pleasure and satisfaction when helping or completing a task of cleaning up after themselves – they have a sense of pride.  We can foster their pride.

When creating a system, remember:

In the beginning, keep it simple and always developmentally appropriate.

Sorting toys by color, sets, theme, used most often

Keeping in mind – independent accessibility, items needing supervision or assistance

As your child grows, he/she can help create or modify the system, thus incorporating ownership into the process.

Start by sorting the toys:

“still plays with”

“pieces are missing”

“it is time to find them a new home”

“store away, save for a rainy day, we’ll try again in a few months”

I am a true believer in rotating toys. If something seems to have lost its appeal, sometimes it is the best thing ever when it makes a returns in a few weeks.

When pieces are missing, don’t be too hasty to toss them out. Designate a container to hold missing pieces until they can be reunited.

This is an example of one system I use:

Take and print photos of individual toys and sets.

Attach the photo to the designated container or shelf to return the toys at “clean-up time” – or cut out a picture of the toy from the box, container or magazine page

To help in locating larger toy sets stored out of sight, attach a picture to the storage tub, basket or box.  

Insert photo in a bargain $1 photo album (remove album page and attach tape, Velcro dots or strips, 3M hooks) and place “photo label” in your desired location. As toys change and rotate, remove the photo and add the photo of the next toy. For older children, add the name of the toy (puzzle, trucks, balls, dinosaurs) providing early literacy development.



Learning the system will take time, practice and patience.

Children want to please and they are very proud of learning new things.

Introduce your child to the system pointing out the various containers, labels and locations.

Point out the photo of the toy in the tub or on the shelf

Practice picking up toys together. Ask the child to start with the red toys first or the trucks or the books.

Sing a song during pick up time

Be willing to make modifications to the system to help children succeed.

Everyone’s tolerance for clutter varies. Yours may not be the same as your child’s, but you know your child best. Monitor your childs play. Request some toys be put away before getting more toys out. Eventually the child will begin to self-regulate and tidy up as they play.

Children enjoy being a “helper” and “pick up time” is another opportunity to learn important life application skills.

I would enjoy hearing your ideas. I hope you will share them with us here.







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