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My 2 1/2 year old won't clean up her toys

Q: I allow my two-and-half year old to play with her toys all day in the playroom, however, when I ask her to clean up her mess it is always a fight.  She cries, whines and throws a tempter tantrum.  I always end up picking up her toys after she has her meltdown.  What can I do?

A: Let's look at what is happening developmentally.  Two-and-a half year olds are just starting to recognize that pictures can represent real objects.  You have probably noticed when she sees a picture of a dog she looks for your dog or makes a barking sound. Labeling the containers and shelves (with a picture of the item and the word) will make it easier for her to put her toys back where they belong.  You will need to support her in this, make it a game, I put one back, you put one back.  Soon she will start matching the pictures on her own without as much stress.  This will also support her need to do things for herself as she strives for a little independence.

At this age things can also be frustrating, she is just starting to learn to control her behavior in mildly stressful situations.  Acknowledge her feelings first, hen she will likely need your help to take a deep breath or use another technique to self-calm.  Instead of a tantrum teach her the replacement behavior you would like to see when she is feeling stressed.

Please see the resource section for more information on development with the DRDP planning tool.


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