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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

There are a few things we do in Montessori classrooms to encourage even the youngest children to put away their things when they're done using them, and they don't involve constant nagging or the incomparable frustration of asking a child to do something for the thousandth time.

If you can't face stepping on one more Lego, try these six ways to encourage your child to put away their toys.

1. Create a place for everything

While it seems like it would be easier for children to put away their toys if they simply had to dump everything into a big toy bin, this isn't generally the case.

Young children have a powerful sense of order—they like things to be just so. Because of this, many children get immense satisfaction from returning something to its precise spot. They are more likely to clean up their toys if each toy has a designated place where it belongs.

To try this, you may have to put away some of your child's toys. Spend some time observing your child to see what they really like to play with. If there's something they haven't touched in a week, put it away in a closet for a later time, or give it away if you think they've outgrown it.

Then arrange the remaining toys on a shelf so that each item has a clear spot. Make sure the shelf is not crowded. Your child may surprise you by starting to put their toys away on their own, now that they know exactly where to put something.

2. Model from a young age

With babies and very young toddlers, the best way to encourage them to clean up their toys is to model it. Don't save cleanup for nap time—make it a part of the process you complete together.

Your baby will watch you, and your toddler will likely join in. If they don't, give it time. They are much more likely to help if it seems like a natural task you complete together than if you demand that they do it and it becomes a power struggle.

If you have an older child, that's fine too! It's never too late to model how to clean up. You may be doing most of the work in the beginning, but you can gradually step back and encourage your child to be a more active participant.

3. Make expectations clear

Decide what expectations you have for your child regarding clean up and make them explicit. Do you want them only to use one toy at a time and then put it away or are you okay with them mixing toys?

Are they allowed to leave out a big project, like a Lego creation in progress, overnight or does everything get put away at the end of the day?

If you have more than one child, who cleans up if they're playing dolls together, but one child moves on to play something else while the other keeps playing?

The rules you choose are less important than the consistency with which you enforce them. Choose a few rules that are important to you, share them with your children, and remind them frequently until they internalize the new expectations.

4. Make it a game

"I wonder how many red blocks you can find to put in the bucket?"

"I wonder if you can put ALL the toys away before Happy and you Know it stops playing?"

"I wonder if you can fit every block into the bucket?"

I admit, it can be hard to muster the energy to turn clean-up into a game sometimes, but if you have it in you, give it a try. It can quickly turn the worst part of the day into one of the best.

5. Frame it in a positive way

Instead of, "No lunch until your toys are cleaned up!" try saying, "After you put your toys away, we can have lunch together."

Often highlighting what comes next is a great incentive for kids to put their things away. It helps them mentally transition to what comes next and gives them something to look forward to.

6. Wait for a natural break

No one likes to be interrupted, and kids are no exception. While it isn't always possible, try to wait until your child reaches a natural pause in what they are doing to ask them to clean up.

Let them finish that one drawing. Let them put the last few blocks on his tower. Let them finish making their mud pie.

It can be automatic to ask our children to clean up when we have lunch ready or when it's time for a nap, but try to ask yourself first, can this wait five minutes?

The thing is, it will often be quicker to let them finish what they are doing than to interrupt and ask them to clean up right away.

If you are on a tight timeline and you need to interrupt, be prepared to help a little more with clean up.

No parent wants to spend the precious nap time or post-bedtime hours picking up toys, and you don't have to.

No matter what age your child is, you can set clear expectations that they put away their things. It may take some practice and some patience, but they will get on board soon if you are consistent and make it as collaborative as possible. You've got this mama!

Simple storage solutions that kids can easily utilize are the key to stress-free clean up. Check out some of our favorites from the Motherly Shop!

Yamazaki favori storage box

Yamazaki favori storage box

Perfect for organizing and toting around the house, this storage bin is great for keeping toys upright and easy to find.

$33

Yamazaki tower storage bin

Yamazaki tower storage bin

From train pieces to LEGOS to wooden blocks, these minimalist bins feature easy-to-remove lids that allow them to stack.

$33

Yamazaki tower end table with storage

yamazaki minimalist toy shelf

Pare down to your favorite toys and have your little one give each toy its own place on the shelf.

$85

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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