I have 2 kids. 3.5 yrs old girl and 10 month boy. We live in apartment.

Daily my kids used to make mess in whole house. What I mean my "mess" is that they put their toys everywhere, drag their washed cloths here and there, take out kitchen items and play with those, never allow us to throw their nappy boxes and play with it. But not painting on the wall, pulling/tilting over furniture etc. They do have their room to play. But they never played there. My younger one just follows my daughter's toys. He haven't started his own messing yet.

Sometimes it is up to a point where I have to watch my every step when I walk in to house. For me it's really hard to clean and vacuum after long day at work. Whenever friends and families come over, I don't have time to clean and house looks very messy. It's really embarrassing.

This is where me and wife used to argue. I prefer a reasonably clean house with a dedicated play area. And I argue with her saying,

you haven't properly trained them to behave. You should teach them to play and pick-up the toys after that.

But she tells

kids need to learn and I should let then play creatively anywhere. And we don't have back yard as well. So this is the only option to me.

I am wondering am I reacting too much? or is it very common on every-houses with similar age kids/toddlers?

  • Your wife is the stay-at-home mom, full time with the kids?
    – Layna
    May 30, 2016 at 8:40
  • We, the children, always cleaned up our own messes whenever company was coming or our mother got tired of walking through it. It isn't too hard that young children can't do it, but it is harder proportionally to the mess. That discourages them from being very messy. If you allow them to be messy with no consequences, what can you expect once they get older?
    – zondo
    May 30, 2016 at 10:50
  • 2
    This isn't a parenting question. This is a relationship question. You disagree with your wife about domestic chores - that's very common, but the question is only tangentially about the children.
    – user19912
    May 30, 2016 at 10:57
  • @zondo True. Agreed to your reply.
    – Jeyara
    May 30, 2016 at 13:16
  • 1
    "And I argue with her saying, you haven't properly trained them to behave. You should teach them (...)" -> Shouldn't that "you" rather be a "we" ?
    – Evargalo
    Apr 18, 2018 at 9:20

3 Answers 3


It is a very common problem. I've been to plenty of houses that looked like the way you described yours. But I think the problem has several causes:

1) Too many accessible toys. The bulk of the toys needs to be in an area or closet where kids cannot get to. Kids love unpacking so they'd unpack whatever they can put their hands on. If the toys are out of reach, that doesn't happen. There should still be some toys they can reach, though. But those should preferably be the ones that are easiest to put way. Personally I like having less toys, but quality toys, around. I keep putting away bags of toys that aren't be played with anymore.

2) Kids need to learn to clean up. This doesn't apply to very young kids who can't clean up (the 10 month old). Still, before the next toy is brought out, the previous toy should be packed up. Only one or two toys out at a time. Mom has to get down and clean up with the kids to show them how it's done (they don't learn magically on their own).

  • 1
    "before the next toy is brought out, the previous toy should be packed up" This is not how to raise an engineer.
    – bjb568
    May 31, 2016 at 8:02
  • 1
    @bjb568 So that's a good thing then?
    – user7953
    May 31, 2016 at 10:46
  • @bjb568 but it IS the way to raise an organized child ;)
    – Rachel S
    May 31, 2016 at 13:54

Make cleaning up a family activity. When you get home (or even once a week) do a clean up game with your kids. Make it short (like 10 minute putting all toys in a proper bin) and don't worry too much about what didn't get done. It's only the big visual things that matter, not dust free environment.

That way your kids learn to clean and it isn't turning into an argument between you and your wife that between sitting at home all day between 2 yelling kids she doens't do enough cleaning. Also you get quick about it so just 15 minutes before other people stop by you can do a quick cleaning with your kids and you don't need to be embarrassed about it anymore.

  • If you do it often enough, especially if it's at the same time at night, eventually it will become a "ritual" that they expect.
    – John Doe
    Apr 11, 2018 at 16:38

Your oldest kid this might not work anymore but this was our solution:

  1. lock everything they are not allowed to play with (especially kitchen and medical stuff, rooms and drawers/closets). These things are great:

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  1. Make rest of the room kids friendly. don't leave your own stuff laying around everywhere keep, the rooms clean and simple.
  2. For things that can't be removed but should not be played with: be clear and constantly say no and punish for it.
  3. For the rest let them roam around and plunder. I think kids should be allowed to explore but certain things are off limits and that's fine. Just make sure they don't have too many toys and things they can pull out of the closet.

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