How To Get A 4-Year-Old To Pick Up His Toys & Clean Up?

Teaching kids to clean up or pick up their stuff is a skill. Not every child loves to keep everything in order. If your 4-year-old refuses to clean up or pick up his toys, it’s completely normal. Kids this age are still learning to be responsible. This act doesn’t make him a bad child. 

Instead of asking your child to clean up immediately, you must try changing your ways. Think as your child. You are busy playing and do not want to give up, but someone comes and asks you to pick up all the mess. You won’t feel good, right?

Try the following tips to get your 4-year-old to clean up after he is done playing. 

4-year-old playing with toys

1- Reduce the number of toys to play with:

Your kid won’t pick up his toys when he sees that there is a lot of work to do. So it is best to reduce the number of toys he plays with. 

When he is playing with blocks, ask him to pick up and pack all the blocks before he takes other toys. 

This way, he won’t see a lot of mess to pick up.

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2- Give advance notice:

This is my best tip. It always works for many other parents and me.

Tell your child 5 minutes before what they are going to do next. 

“Finish playing and start picking your toys in 5 minutes”,

“You can play for five more minutes; then you’ll have to clean up.”

Then remind them. 

“Two minutes remaining until you have to start picking up your toys.”

“One minute left.”

Your child will likely bargain. But you must be firm, start picking the things and ask them to help. 

A sand-timer is a great thing to have when you have kids this age. Pick a 5-minutes sand timer and tell your child when all the sand goes down; you have to stop playing and start picking the toys. 

For example, this hand2mind Orange Jumbo Sand Timer, 5 Minute Sand Timer is excellent. This 5-minutes timer will allow your kids to be ready for what’s next. 

3- Start slow: 

If your child is already not used to picking up his toys and you are starting now, then instead of asking them to pick everything, ask them to pick only one type of toy. 

For example, “I will pick the blocks, and you will pick all the puzzle pieces.”

Then gradually increase the types of toys they’ll have to pick. 

4- Praise for picking one (or one type of) toy:

Once your 4-year-old picks one type of toy, praise him. Tell his father at the dinner table how he was a good boy and picked all his puzzles.

“Maxi has been a very good boy today. He picked all his blocks. I had to help him pick some other things today, but he is learning very fast. Soon he will be able to clean up his room without my help.”

These words are not just words, they are magic for kids. Appreciation will improve their behavior, and they will try to do more work to please their parents. 

5- Give an immediate reward:

Sometimes, parents offer a reward for finishing a task. If you are the one, who likes giving rewards, I suggest giving an immediate reward. 

So, instead of, “If you pick up your toys daily, we’ll go to the park on Sunday.”, try this, “if you pick up all these things, you will get a good boy sticker right after cleaning.”

An immediate reward will give your child a push to finish cleaning up.

6- Set example:

You want your 4-year-old to help clean up or pick up his toys, how often do you set an example for him? 

Do you clean the kitchen right after you finish cooking? 

I suggest that you intentionally set an example for your kid. Make a mess of utensils, finish cooking and then organize everything. Ensure that your child is present and knows what you are doing. 

“So, my work is finished. I will play with you now. Just give me two minutes while I clean up all the mess.”

Ensure that your child understands that you are cleaning up after finishing your work; it will take only two minutes. 

Children unintentionally follow their parent’s acts, so it is a great way to make them learn.  

7- Make cleaning fun and clear:

4-year-olds are all about fun. Give them fun, and they will do anything. 

Sing a cleaning song while you clean. 

Moreover, make cleaning “clear.” Instead of asking your child to clean up the room, break down the tasks. 

Sing songs like, 

“We are cleaning clocks, we are cleaning clocks. First, we’ll pick the blocks; first, we’ll pick the blocks.”

“We are cleaning hooks, now we will pick the books.”

Your child must find the tasks very clear, easy, and fun. 

8- Do not make your “ego issue”:

Do not become hard on your child. If he not picking up the toys, do not make it your ego problem.

“I want you to pick your toys, you are not getting any help.” avoid this attitude. 

You must help your child if you want him to learn how to clean up. Be with him. Eventually, he will develop a habit of cleaning after playing. One day, he will do it on his own. 

7- Put face sticker on toy basket:

Get some eyes and mouth stickers on Amazon and make a face of the toy storage basket. Tell your child that the basket has been hungry for a long time and wants to eat. So feed him with all the toys when you finish playing so he can sleep peacefully. 

8- Get clean up toys and story books:

The kind of toys your kids have really make a difference. If you want your child to make a habit of cleaning, you should consider getting him cleaning toys. 

For example, 

1- Melissa & Doug, Let’s Play House Dust!:

2- LeapFrog Clean Sweep Learning Caddy:

3- Disney Junior Minnie Mouse Sparkle ‘N Clean Trolley:


If your 4-year-old refuses to pick up toys or clean up, change your strategy. Make cleaning fun for him. Set an example first, make his job clear, then help him.

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