16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

When it comes to tidiness, I will not be winning awards any time soon! And yet, mess stresses me out. Recently, my wonderful three and a half year old has been going on a ‘tidy up strike’. Every. Single. Day. The resultant battles that have unfolded have not helped the matter at all. I decided something needed to change if I wanted a different outcome. Read on to discover 16 Ways To Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up – all tried and tested by yours truly. And we’re seeing massive breakthroughs already.


I love how organised Zoe likes to be. Even when she’s being ‘untidy’ there’s an order to the chaos.

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

At first glance, what appears to be her teddies and books carelessly thrown around her bedroom, is actually strategically placed books, each assigned to their own teddy to read.

What looks like a box of farm animals and fruit and vegetables has met with a grizzly end, is actually carefully assigned food items placed next to designated animals to eat. Caring is sharing.

When it looks like she’s emptied the contents of her pencil case all over the lounge floor, if you look closely, you will see the crayons all neatly arranged in a line.

It’s actually pretty cool. When I see the ‘mess’ she makes, I simultaneously roll my eyes and smile.

Zoe’s been doing this a lot recently. Emptying out entire drawers and boxes filled with toys and then organising them as she sees fit. She shows great creativity and imagination through the way she engages with her toys.

“I don’t want to tidy up!”

However, the creativity seems to stop at making the mess, and doesn’t extend towards the tidying of the said toys. Has anyone else found this? It turns out, toddler’s don’t like tidying up very much! So what has been ensuing recently is a battle of the wills.

Me, asking, begging, cajoling her to tidy up. Offering incentives, threats and the occasional gift of sarcasm in my vain attempts at convincing her that she really wants to tidy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to tidy up the entire contents of her playhouse?

Zoe, simultaneously digging in her heels, point blank refusing to tidy up, claiming that she doesn’t know where everything goes, and that it’s too much for her to tidy by herself.

(The key phrase here is “by herself”, but we’ll come back to this later!)

This is generally followed by lots of tears, the occasional tantrum and more attitude than you would expect to find from someone who always appears so sweet and well behaved in public.

And Zoe’s not too happy about it either!

You can see the problem here.

Like holding up a mirror

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

I was recently reading about how the struggles we face with our toddler’s behaviour (and older children) could actually be reflecting something of our own hearts and attitudes.


Proceed with caution before you read this. It’s not an easy pill to swallow:

God teaches us many things through parenthood and one of the best lessons, although sometimes hard to stomach, is that our kids are like apples; they usually don’t fall far from the tree.  THEIR behaviour is often a reflection of OUR behaviour. They can be the best mirrors that reveal how WE are operating and where we need to stretch ourselves a bit to learn and grow alongside our kids

Wendy Snyder, For Every Mom

You can read the full article here. It will make you stop and think, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll find it really insightful and helpful!

So in other words, you know all those times you let out a deep sigh of despair and frustration, because your toddler is literally ignoring you to your face. Maybe it’s time to ask the question: how good a listener am I?

And all those times your toddler displays wilful disobedient behaviour. Think about how quick you are to obey your heavenly daddy?

Or to put it another way, you know all those times your child makes a huge mess and then point blank refuses to tidy it up, does that behaviour seem at all familiar to you?


The antithesis of tidy

Anyone who has lived with me for any length of time, could easily tell you that tidiness is not second nature to me. My husband is nodding away over here!

I’m sure you’ve all seen this meme doing the rounds on Facebook:

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

I laughed when I first saw this. And wondered if someone had been looking in my bedroom?

Unfortunately, this is not limited to ‘the chair’ in my room. A chair, the bed, on top of a bookshelf. Basically anywhere with an empty surface space usually succumbs to a few items that I will get round to ‘putting away later’.

And to be honest, I don’t even like mess. It stresses me out. I do eventually tidy it all away, and feel really happy for about 2 hours.

Until the whole process starts again.

So yes, the expression, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ is definitely spot on when thinking about Zoe’s untidiness.

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up


Anyway, I digress.

Although Zoe’s ordered chaos is kind of sweet, with all it’s quirky and creative flair, the lack of tidying up afterwards has been starting to frustrate me recently. After all, (I tell her) how hard can it be to put away the toys that you just got out, and if it feels like there’s too much to put away, why don’t you just get less out?

I decided I needed a new approach to encourage tidying up, as my current one, well, it basically sucked!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

So I’ve been trying some new ways to encourage my toddler to tidy up, which have been pretty successful so far. Both in terms of Zoe’s responsiveness to them, and for my own mental and emotional well being.

If you’re a parent who’s struggling with a toddler that refuses to tidy up, I feel your frustration. I totally get where you’re coming from! Keep reading to learn 16 Ways To Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up. I hope that you can take away some inspiration from a mum who’s in the same boat.

Just as a word of encouragement to you, I’ve definitely seen some improvements on the tidy front since I adopted these new approaches.

And I’m sure you will too!

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

So without further ado, here are 16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

1) Set a Timer

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

When Zoe looks at the chaos she has caused in the lounge or her bedroom, being told that it’s time to tidy up feels a bit overwhelming. She probably feels like she’s going to be spending the next week tidying up. She had so many exciting things she wanted to do with her afternoon, and strange as it may seem, tidying up didn’t make the list.

Zoe responds quite well to a timer.

Sometimes, when I need to spend some time clearing up the mess I’ve made in the kitchen. I set a timer. I tell Zoe, I will set my alarm for 15 minutes after which, I will stop cleaning and come and play with her. I then leave my phone somewhere she can hear the alarm, and set to work. I am freakishly efficient at tidying up a kitchen in a small window of time. And Zoe knows that I will be done soon and then she can have my undivided attention.

The same has worked with setting a timer for tidying. Although 15 minutes would probably be too long.

I tell Zoe that she needs to tidy up for 5 minutes, and then after that, she can stop and we can do something else. Obviously, she has to actually tidy during this time, and if she stops tidying to start playing with the toys, the timer gets paused until she re-starts.

She likes knowing that there is an end in sight to the tidying. We can do a couple of 5 minute tidy up frenzies during the afternoon, and by the time bedtime arrives, the lounge will no longer look like a disaster zone.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be perfect, but it will be a vast improvement.

2) Put a number on it

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

Quantifying how much tidying needs to be done, is another winner in our house.

This could play out a couple of different ways:

  • “You just need to put away 5 toys and then you can stop”.
  • “You put away 3 toys, and then I’ll put away 3 toys”.

I’ve been trying this method recently, and it’s been working pretty well. Admittedly, Zoe tends to go for the easiest and smallest items to tidy away, but for now, I’m letting that go. She’s doing what I’m asking of her, and that’s the main thing.

She seemed to have got stuck in a mindset that tidying up is a huge task, that would zap all her time and energy whilst she does it. This obviously made her not very enthusiastic about tackling the task at hand.

Breaking it down, into small, bite-size chunks, makes it suddenly more manageable. And she’s therefore less likely to stage a revolution at the mention of tidying up.

Now she’s started to realise how easy and quick it can be to tidy up, her mindset has shifted and half the battle has been won.

3) Do it together

Zoe’s blatant refusal to tidy up began a couple of weeks ago with the phrase:

“I can’t do it by myself!”

Admittedly, at the time, I didn’t handle this objection very well. I reminded her that she had managed to get all the toys out by herself, therefore she could manage to put them away by herself. I specifically told her before play time that whatever toys she got out, she would need to pack away afterwards. She responded with: “yes mummy, I will.”

But then in the face of the tsunami she’d created, she changed her mind.

I even threatened that whatever she didn’t tidy away, I would take away in my bag and she wouldn’t be able to play with anymore.

Unfortunately, this backfired quite spectacularly when she declared she didn’t want to play with them anyway, and I could take them away. The loophole she discovered, meant that I ended up tidying all the toys into a box/bag to take away. Meaning she didn’t have to do it.

This girl is kind of genius I say!

There is now a bag of books, teddies and games sitting in my cupboard that have been there for a few weeks. I don’t really have space for them, and she doesn’t seem to be missing them.

Needless to say, I never threatened this again.

Tidying up together can be quite fun

In the end, I realised that she wanted company while she tidied up, and she needed help. Was this just a big fat compromise on my part? Maybe a little, but I decided that all the hysterics on her part were not worth it. Now, I ask her if she’d like to tidy up the books or the teddies, and we do it between us. No tears, no tantrums, no drama, no big deal.

In return, she very happily works alongside me. Singing away as she tidies. Perfectly happy to do some chores whilst she has mummy’s company, and more importantly, help.

Lesson learnt.

It’s also a great opportunity for us to chat about her playtime, and I get a real insight into her sweet personality and the character she is growing into.

4) Encourage playing with only one thing at a time

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

One way to encourage your toddler to tidy up, is to encourage her to do it as she goes along.

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘tidy up as you go along’?

What a fantastic idea! Let’s just avoid all the mess in the first place, by playing with one thing at a time, and then put it away before moving onto something else. Absolute genius.

And it semi works.

The downfall of this idea is that it requires quite a bit of regulating. This means that if you are actively playing with your toddler, it’s quite easy to encourage her to tidy up what you’re playing with before you move on. You can even use the timer or number tactic to make this easier.

But what happens when you’re making dinner, and your toddler is playing in the lounge? Or when you’re taking a shower and she’s playing in her room? The truth is, you cannot be there every time she’s playing. Fact.

During those times that your toddler practises independent play, the end result is often carnage. Or is that just in my house?

But when it works, it’s a real no-brainer!

5) Have less stuff

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

It sort of goes without saying that if you have less stuff to begin with, there will be less mess to tidy up later. This is a fantastic plus side on the list of arguments for minimalist living.

If you have too much stuff, it does make the process of tidying up a little more stressful. Trying to find a place to put everything away, when there isn’t really space for it all. Doesn’t sound like fun does it?

If minimalist living sounds too extreme for you, try rotating your toddler’s toys instead. This means you just have less ‘active’ toys, books and teddies out at any one time.

We do this with Zoe’s toys. She has so many. With her birthday being so close to Christmas, she gets lots of presents all in a short space of time. So we keep some of them back, and bring them out later in the year. We swap them with toys she hasn’t been playing with very much, that way, she doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of stuff available at any one time.

I also just love that feeling of going through the ridiculous amounts of stuff my girls have, and re-housing some it. Whether that be to a charity shop, a friend, a Facebook group. I’m not a huge lover of clutter!

Even with less toys available to play with, you’ll still probably have lots of mess that needs tidying up at the end of each day. But think how much worse it would be if there were more toys available.

6) Tidy up in bite-sized chunks throughout the day

I don’t know about you, but I like the bedtime routine to be a peaceful and chilled out affair. Having a wound up and frustrated toddler just before starting the winding down process of putting them to bed, does not usually end very well.

For this reason, saving all the tidying up until the end of the day, is not the best idea in the world. Unless of course, your toddler loves the process of tidying up, and finds it quite relaxing and therapeutic to put all their toys away. Then go for it. Also, I want to know your secret!

But if that’s the case, you’re probably not reading a post entitled 16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up. 

Just saying.

On the other hand, if your toddler is anything like mine, and if the hint of tidying up is a bit of a trigger, maybe it’s better not to pull this trigger just before bedtime.

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

Designated tidying up sessions

Instead, try encouraging tidying up as you go along as much as possible. As mentioned above, I’ve personally seen problems with this approach, but I’ll continue to encourage this anyway. You never know, one day the notion might catch on.

Or how about having designated tidying up times throughout the day. These usually take place before something nice is about to happen, therefore providing an additional incentive to tidy up quickly and efficiently. (See point 7 below on offering incentives)

For us, designated tidying up times include:

  • Just before snack time mid-morning
  • Before lunch
  • After nap time before starting our afternoon activities
  • Before dinner

As you can see, most of these tidying up times come just before food. What can I say, the allure of food is always a winner with my girls.

Other times we spontaneously tidy up throughout the day includes when my toddler really wants to do a particular activity, or play a game with me. I always encourage Zoe to tidy up before starting something new.

Anything that avoids leaving all the mess till the end of the day is a good plan.

7) Offer incentives

I’ve been wondering what the difference is between an incentive and a bribe? As mums, we talk about offering our kids incentives to do things, because it sounds nicer than saying we’ve bribed them But is it the same thing, just in a different, more acceptable, wrapper?

In the context of parenting:

An incentive is something that is usually pre-agreed before actions commence. For example, at one point we used a sticker chart every day to encourage Zoe to do good listening. She knew that every time she did good listening, she would be rewarded with a sticker. When her sticker chart was full she could have a treat, also determined from the start. The rules were clear from the outset, and over time, using this sticker chart helped Zoe became a much better listener, even when no stickers or treats were involved.

A bribe on the other hand, is not usually pre-determined, but is more likely to be a desperate attempt at getting your child to obey you. For example, if you’re trying to get your toddler to stop kicking the person sitting in from of them on an aeroplane. You’ve done everything you can think of, but they’re still kicking. In desperation you tell them that if they stop you will give them a lolly. That’s a bribe. And don’t worry, I’m not judging. We’ve all done it.

(Which reminds me, I must pack some lollies ahead of our flight next month…)

Bribes hand over the parent’s control to the child, who is smart enough to realise they their bad behaviour just got rewarded. Whereas an incentive empowers the child to behave better, as it rewards good behaviour, not bad behaviour.

Clear as mud?

Pre-determined rewards for good tidying

So an example of an incentive when it comes to tidying, could be a sticker chart. Maybe, every time your toddler does good tidying they get a sticker, and when the chart is full they get a small treat.

Or the incentive could be a promise that when the toys have been tidied up they can go and play in the garden.

In order for this to be an incentive, rather than a bribe, you should specify the requirement to tidy and the reward of the garden before any mess has been made. That way, the toddler knows any mess they make while they play will need to be tidied up before they can play in the garden.

Other incentives include:

  • Showing mummy what a big girl you are by tidying up (the incentive: being recognised as being all grown up)
  • Having a nice tidy room with more space for playing later (the incentive: future fun)
  • Not wanting to lose pieces of the puzzle or game, so putting it away once finished (the incentive: future fun)

In my experience, incentives go a long way to encourage your toddler to tidy up.

8) Turn it into a game

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

What child doesn’t like to play a game? If you can find a way to make tidying up fun, do it!

Recently, Zoe has become very competitive.

  • At dinner time, she likes to let me know her portion is bigger than Sophia’s
  • When she gets dressed in the morning, she likes to race against daddy to see who can get dressed first
  • When we’re brushing her hair in the bath, she likes to tell me, “my hair is longer than…” and then she gives me a big list
  • She no longer walks up the stair, it’s always a race to see who can reach the top first
  • She even has a little competition with her younger sister every morning over whose nappy is the heaviest.

I have learnt that Zoe LOVES to be the fastest and she likes to win in a competitive situation. So when I’m trying to find creative ways to make tidying up more appealing to her, I turn it into a game, and tap into her enthusiasm for speed and winning.

For example, “let’s see how many toys you can pick up by the time I count to 10”. Or, “let’s see who can tidy up the most toys, mummy or Zoe”.

When there’s an element of speed or competition involved, she likes to win. This makes the whole process of tidying up that much more enjoyable for her.

9) Give lots of praise

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

A couple of days ago, I asked Zoe to put all her foam letters back in their pot, and told her when she’d done that, she could wash her hands as lunch was almost ready.

5 minutes later, I went back into the lounge, and reminded her that she needed to put her foam letters away and wash her hands for lunch, to which she replied, “I’ve put my letters away mummy!”

And sure enough, there they were packed away, all nice and tidy.

When I say I was surprised by this, I should explain that the last time I’d asked her to put her foam letters away (which were tipped all over the kitchen floor at the time), she cried for 20 minutes, telling me that she couldn’t do it by herself.

My response to her amazing tidying was to scoop her up in my arms, cover her face with kisses, whilst telling her what a brilliant job she had done, and that I was super proud of her for doing such good tidying. She was absolutely delighted.

As was I.

I don’t think you can be over-the-top when you praise good behaviour in your kids. Including good tidying. I’m a little too quick to get frustrated or impatient when she won’t tidy up, and not quite so fast to heap on the praise when she does. But encouraging, and making a huge fuss of the behaviour you like is really important.

I’m hoping that next time I ask her to pick up her foam letters and put them away, she’ll remember what happened last time she did, and will be encouraged to do it again.

This remains to be seen.

10) Lead by example

I have deliberately left this one till near the end. Honestly, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite to include it at all. How can I encourage other mums to lead by example with tidying when I’m so rubbish at this myself? I don’t do a very good job of leading by example for this particular issue.

We’re currently in the middle of preparing the spare room for Zoe to move into. Since we moved into this house 5 years ago, the spare room has been a bit of a dumping ground. All this stuff we have been failing to sort through, is now sitting in our bedroom whilst the spare room is refurbished.

I’m not exactly modelling good tidying with my bedroom looking the way it does.

But I can lead by example with tidying her toys up. Or making sure I’m keeping Sophia’s toys nice and tidy. I can ensure the kitchen doesn’t look like a bomb has exploded in it (too often). I can demonstrate tidying up as we go along during the times we’re playing together. There’s plenty of things I can do that don’t require Mary Poppins attitude to tidying.

I can also make more effort with my own bedroom. Maybe having someone watching my every move, is just the incentive I’ve been waiting for all these years.


11) Do it yourself

If you’re thinking that’s a strange way to encourage your toddler to tidy up, let me explain.

Tidiness is awesome. You know what they say, “a tidy house is a tidy mind.” I totally get this. As I mentioned earlier, mess stresses me out. I can’t find things I’m looking for. My clothes are crumpled from being on ‘the chair’ for too long. I have nowhere to put things down.

Urgh, it’s awful.

On the other hand, when things are away in their proper place, and everything is tidy, my mind feels more at ease. There’s no doubt that I’m happier in a tidy room.

So yes, I definitely want to encourage Zoe to tidy up after herself. And be a tidy person generally.

Remembering what’s most important

On the other hand, it’s not the most important thing.

It’s a good thing, but it’s not the only thing that’s worth investing in. Time is precious. It’s going by so fast. Two days ago my youngest daughter turned one, and I’m asking myself where the time went. Now is the time I want to spend creating memories with my toddler. And I don’t want those memories to be about tidying up.

So I think it’s OK to relax. To decide occasionally for the sake of a little quality time with my daughter, that it’s alright to leave the mess. I can tidy it up when she’s in bed later.

I wonder what I’m teaching my daughter about what is important in life. Is she learning that the most important thing is to be neat and tidy. To take good care of stuff. That mummy is most happy when she tidies up her toys. I don’t think these are the lessons I want her to take away from her toddler years.

I want her to know that she’s important. That she’s worthy of love and that she’s worth spending time with. I want her to have lots of memories where we’re playing and laughing together. I want her to know that people matter more than stuff. So sometimes, I need to be OK with the mess, and just hang out with her.

Time to look in the mirror

But what about you? (I’m talking to myself here too).

Above are some great Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up, but I don’t think focusing solely on the toddler, and the ‘problem’ is the full solution to this particular challenge.

Mulling over, or stewing over my frustration at Zoe’s refusal to tidy up got me thinking. How have I responded to her challenging behaviour? Have I responded in a way that helped the situation or made it worse? How could I love her better?

Too often, I think I have made the situation worse by the way I responded to it. Like two stags locking antlers, it quickly escalated into a battle of wills. And trust me, no one leaves this particular battle unscathed.

I don’t want to be this kind of mum.

Here are a few things I have found useful for me personally, which have helped me become a better mum in this area.

The spotlight it off the kids. It’s time to look in the mirror.

12) Choose your words carefully

How I respond to mess and how I ‘encourage’ tidiness is important.

Do I berate Zoe for being so messy, or get frustrated that she’s emptied out every drawer AGAIN? Is my voice full of annoyance that the room looks like a war zone?

Or am I kind?

Do I say things like, “wow, it looks like you’ve been having great fun playing in here. Do you want to tell me about it?”

Or do I miss the moment and bark at her about how if she only played with one thing at a time and then put it away before going onto the next thing, she wouldn’t have this huge mess to clear up. (I’m pretty sure I have used these exact words in the not so distant past).

Before I decided something needed to change, my language and tone mirrored my frustration. Lots of sighing and eye rolling. Poor Zoe. She only wanted to play. Fortunately, I now check myself more closely and make sure that my language is kind and gracious.

I think this helps extinguish the heat of the battle before it properly gets started. Whereas, responding as an angry mum is like throwing petrol on the fire.

Words matter. And so does the way we say them.

13) Pick your battles

This ties in with my point earlier about realising tidiness is not the most important thing.

Sometimes, as mums, we have to let things go. Being a parent can be a little challenging at times – hahahahaha! We have the power to choose which confrontations are the most important in the grand scheme of things.

Put your hand up if you’ve ever had one of those days where you feel like every. single. little. thing. is a power struggle between you and your toddler. I see you! And that’s me in the corner, waving both hands frantically in the air. Those day seem to quickly spiral downwards, in a vicious cycle of nagging and frustration.

Chances are, your toddler is not going to be the one to break the cycle. That’s on you mummy!

Remember the bigger picture

There are lots of ways to break this cycle, and that’s a different post entirely, but one way is to choose your battles. Don’t pick up on every little thing. Remember there’s a bigger picture. Allow the mess to slide, and focus on more important things, like your toddler’s heart.

For me, I would get so frustrated when Zoe got every single toy out during her quiet time, and then didn’t want to put them away ‘by herself’. I tried reasoning with her, and explaining the concept of one toy at a time. I tried explaining if she got less toys out she’s have less to put away. Nothing worked.

So I reassessed.

Having a toddler crying for 20 minutes wasn’t what I wanted. I started tidying up with her. I didn’t make the mess. But I helped her tidy it up. Together. I realised there are more important battles to fight than insisting she do it by herself, just so she would learn.

She still gets a lot of toys out during her quiet times, but now we tidy them up together. It’s fun. We chat while we do it, and it’s done within 5 minutes.

High fives all round!

14) Lower your standards

I don’t know what your home was like before you had kids. Ours was OK. To be honest, as per above, we’re never had a ‘show house’ where everything was so immaculately tidy that guests would feel a little nervous, and definitely wouldn’t want to bring any kids round.

I guess the best way to describe our pre-baby home is, ‘lived in’. It was clean, it was (mostly) tidy, it was comfortable.

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

(I saw this quote on Learning and Exploring Through Play’s Facebook page. Very funny! Very me!)

But everyone knows having kids tends to turn things on their head a little. Where before kids, a full night of sleep plus a lie in was the norm, this is replaced with intermittent nighttime sleep followed by a 5am wake up call.

What used to be hot cups of tea and hot food all to myself, quickly became lukewarm (at best) beverages and puppy dog eyes begging for some of my food – which I can’t resist sharing because, well, puppy dog eyes.

Where I used to have a beautifully toned and athletic body… OK OK you got me. That was never the case. I can’t reinvent the past.

Just like in most aspects of life after kids, the level of tidiness tends to nose dive once children arrive on the scene.

Have realistic standards

If you’re expecting otherwise, I’ve got news for you: kids come with a lot of stuff. And this ‘stuff’ tends to get everywhere. I think it’s a good idea to lower your standards slightly over what is an acceptable level of tidiness. Chances are, as with most things, the lie ins won’t be as long, the tea won’t be as hot and the living room won’t be as prisitine (cough) as before.

And that’s OK.

I used to apologise about the mess when friends came over. Sometimes, I would even pre warn them before they arrived that the house was a bit messy. Trying to take the shock factor away.

I don’t do this anymore. Like the scar on my abdomen, having a slightly messy home is simply a reminder that kids live here. This is their home and I want them to feel comfortable in it.

Maybe when they’re older, things will improve. I mean, I’ll still live here, so there’s a limit to how good it’s going to get, but I’m sure it won’t always look like this. But for now, I’m comfortable with the new, slightly more relaxed, approach to tidiness. It’s just for a season anyway.

15) Keep perspective

This goes back to point 11 above ‘Do It Yourself’ – it’s important to see the bigger picture. After all, a home is not built out of bricks and mortar, but out of the [little] people who live in it.

These days are going to fly by and before you know it, your baby will be a toddler, your toddler will be a teenager, your teenage will be off to university, and your university student will have left home.

In the blink of an eye.

See related post: Celebrating Sophia – One Year Awesome to see exactly how fast that first year whizzes by.

So try not to get hung up on the details of a slightly messy lounge. Remember it’s just for a season and it’s OK if your home looks like you have kids living in it. You do!

16) Have some grace

Be kind. To yourself and to your toddler.

Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t get around to dusting the ornaments on Tuesday morning like you usually do. Congratulations by the way, on still having ornaments with a toddler around. Although, you might want to consider putting them away until little hands can no longer reach and destroy them.

Don’t despair if you’re not on top of the cleaning, washing up, laundry, or ironing as you were previously. Cut yourself some slack. Show yourself some grace. It’s alright mummy.

Now you’ve shown yourself some grace and been kind to yourself, show the same level of care to your toddler. Every day she’s learning and growing. She’s remembering to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more and more without being prompted. She gets her own spoon from the drawer ready for breakfast. She’s sharing much better with her baby sister.

And this tidy malarkey? She’ll get that too.

But until she nails it, and whilst she’s still learning how it works, show her some grace. Allow her space to fail, teach her better ways with gentleness and humility, recognising that you’re still learning too, and use kind words, even when the mess is REALLY BAD!

Making memories

She won’t remember the mess. She probably won’t remember the day she decided that every single book needed to be laid out on the floor and each book needed to be coupled with a teddy, an animal or some other toy.

But she will remember you.

She’ll remember how you reacted, and more importantly, she’ll remember how you made her feel.

This is a sobering thought and I know I get it wrong so many times. Too often I I fail to extend the same grace to her that I receive every single time I mess up. I know sometimes in my frustration my words have not been kind and my ‘teaching’ has been more angry than gentle.

These were not the glory days of motherhood for me.

Recipient of grace

But just like with the physical mess of a ‘lived in’ home, the mess I make of motherhood in those moments is also met with grace from my heavenly Father.

He showed me first what it means to be a recipient of grace.

When I was at my most unlovely, he loved.

When my life was falling apart at the seams, he was the seamstress sewing it all back together.

When I willfully disobeyed him, he waited, patiently.

When I fell and cut myself, he picked me up and soothed my pain.

When I was merciless and unkind, he showed me mercy and loving kindness.

It turns out, I have a lot in common with my toddler. More so than I’m probably comfortable to admit. But how my heavenly Daddy chooses to respond to all my shortcomings, teaches me how to love my kids better.

Showing grace. One day at a time.

16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up

So there you have it, 16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up.

I hope you found these ideas helpful. Since implementing them in our own house, there have definitely been massive improvements. Tidiness is no longer a daily battle for us. Not because our house is miraculously spotless, I hasten to add. The improvement has just as much to do with my attitude adjustment as it does Zoe’s willingness to tidy. We work alongside each other now. The stress and frustration has been removed and it’s actually something we (semi) enjoy doing together now.

The sting has been removed, and I’m so relieved!

If you try any of these yourself, let me know how you get on. I would love to hear from you and share in your success, and relief.

I’m sure some of you more experienced mums out there have some great tips of your own on this topic. I would love to hear them. Please share them in the comments below. I’m always looking for new and proven ways to encourage better behaviour with my toddler.

Until next time,

xx Hannah

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2 thoughts on “16 Ways to Encourage Your Toddler To Tidy Up”

  1. I really like your clear definition and comparison between incentive and bribe. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions – love how you communicate and encourage and teach Zoe! This is great advice for me to refer back to when 4month old Chloe’s a bit older! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Hannah Cleater

      Thanks Beth!

      I honestly use incentives AND bribes. 🙁

      Incentives as a general policy for encouraging good behaviour, and bribery if I’m completely desperate! Fortunately, she doesn’t get bribed too often.

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