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Not all of us have the fortune of a nanny like Mary Poppins to magically tidy up the house behind the kids - but introduce games and rewards and even the youngest toddlers can help clear up after themselves. Tidying is a good routine to get into because it teaches responsibility and co-operation from an early age. It is a good idea to designate a part of the day to tidying, it might be at the end of the day, or it may just be between different activities.
Create a warning sound that you can use to signal that tidy-up time is approaching. Your kids are certain to have a toy that makes a distinctive toy - a whistle, a drum, a tambourine. Use this to give a three minute warning that activities are about to cease and you're all going to work together to tidy up.
Make a race out of tidying up. Assign different areas or groups of toys or games to put away to different children. If you only have one child, then the race is against you! See how quickly they can put away or how clear they can make the floor? Designate a particular song to tidy up to and play it on CD or simply sing as you all work. For older children learning phonics and counting, introduce letters and numbers during tidy-up time. "How many things beginning with 'B' can you put away?" and so on.
Once everywhere is tidy, use good old fashioned praise and rewards to let your children know that they have done a good job and been super-helpful. Sticker charts are great to create a habit of tidying up. The key is to make tidying up fun, after all, tidying up with your children has to be more fun than you having to do it on your own!
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