Mother toddlers picking up toys putting in box

How to teach your toddler to take care of their belongings

Try and remember if you ever enjoyed cleaning up your room as a child; Did you enjoy picking up your toys and books? What about making your bed? 

We're sure most of you will answer that it was a tedious task. Even today, it's challenging to finish up all of the chores and clean up the house. Maybe it's because our parents made us clean up as a form of punishment. Or perhaps because we never learned the importance of organizing our belongings? 

We can change this cycle and teach our children that taking care of their things, their room, and toys can be pleasurable, improving their surroundings and environment. 

In this article, we want to discuss how you can teach your toddler to take care of their things and become more independent. 

The best way to teach a child is to lead by example

No matter how much theoretical knowledge you give your children, they will always copy and mimic your behavior. 

"Children are mirrors; they reflect back to us all we say and do." - Pam Leo, author of "Connection Parenting" and children's book "Please Read To Me.

Lead your toddler by example and start organizing your personal belongings. You want to show your children that you're dependable (to yourself, first of all) and responsible. It's the best gift you can give your baby. 

Assign places for everything they own

Let's take the advice from an ADHD mom who explains how the organization system works for her children and the whole family. She talks about having designated places for everything the family owns so they don't lose or forget about them. 

While we don't have to go full-on spring cleaning level on the organization, we do need to assign places for everything we have in the house. 

Teach your children to have homes for their toys, to put the books back on the shelves, and more. 

It's easier for them to remember where everything goes, so they won't run around confused and looking for an available spot to cram the toy in. 

Include organizing tasks in your toddler's routine

The research, published in 2016, studied the impact of daily routines on childhood development. Researchers found that routines and rituals help children understand time better, productively segregate their day, regulate their emotions and improve attention skills. 

While we can go on and on about the benefits of a toddler's routine, we need to talk about how to implement organizing tasks as a habit. 

You can start associating cleaning with particular tasks. For example, you can have a cleaning time right after breakfast, before children go to school, before/after playtime, etc. 

It will create a better image in their head, and slowly they'll adapt to the new routine. As habits often gradually merge with our behavior, you'll notice how your baby runs to their room to clean up toys all on their own.

Don't forget to explain why cleaning up is essential

Of course, before you go on and implement something new to your child's routine, you need to explain its' importance. 

The first thing you need to do is to forget about cleaning up as a form of punishment. Communicate why the cleaning process is essential for hygienic reasons. And teach them about the fun of cleaning up by gamifying the tasks. 

You can use educational games to let the kids learn through play and help them implement the cleaning tasks into real life. 

Minimize the stuff your children own and buy fewer things 

Be a bit more careful with new purchases to teach your children to take care of the belongings they ALREADY have. 

Doing this can help your toddler understand that they can't have everything, and what they do have is precious and needs to be taken care of.

Owning fewer things also means that they'll have to clean up fewer toys and the organizing tasks become less of a challenge. 

Include your kids in the spring cleaning process

If you follow the spring cleaning craze or have another annual or monthly cleaning period, you can include your baby in the process. It's another way of saying lead by example with few extra steps. 

Give your toddler a chance to decide what to throw out and what to keep on their own. Making such decisions will boost their self-confidence and teach them about the value of personal belongings. 

And, as a side note, we want to talk about the mental health benefits of decluttering

  • It reduces anxiety and uplifts mood;
  • It requires physical activity, which can aid our physical health;
  • You let go of unnecessary stuff and the emotions that came with it and free up space for new belongings and sentiments; 

Stack up on organizers, mini boxes, and storage containers

Remember the kids who used to decorate every single one of their pages in the notebooks? Do you think it helps them study better, or do they like how the words highlighted in pink look? 

It's surprisingly a psychological effect that helps them pay attention to the material; the same reason why so many articles recommend we decorate our workspaces to boost productivity

Invest in small storage containers, organizers, and hanging wall pockets, and put them in your toddlers' room. Such organizing techniques can help in understanding what belongs where and how to clean up after yourself effectively. 

Start encouraging your toddler to take care of their things slowly, and soon you'll have a little independent rascal running around the house. 

Of course, they don’t need to deep-clean the whole place, air out the mattresses, and unload dishwashers, but simple tasks like picking up their toys, books, pillows, and blankets, can help them set expectations and teach them about independence

Don’t forget, your toddler is still a small human being, and they have the need for independence heightened at this age, especially. Giving them independence will help them improve their comprehension of day-to-day tasks and enhance their self-confidence.