Our baby is 10 months. Very healthy, happy, and on target with developmental milestones. My husband suggested we start showing her how to put away her toys for the day. I'm wondering if it's too soon. If not, what is a good way to show her this? Demonstrate and/or navigate her arms to put her toys away in a designated spot?


Putting away toys is something the child can be involved in very early, for sure. I like the Montessori approach to toys and organization, and this is definitely an important part of the Montessori approach.

This article explains the Montessori approach to cleaning up well. As far as age, I fully agree with this sentence:

Once the child is able to pick up and release a block, they can start to put their blocks away.

The focus here is not on age specifically, but abilities. Can the child move a block? Then they can help you put them away. Can the child walk? Then they can help a little more. Of course, they can't do it by themselves, but that's not the point - the point is the habits and the skills.

One other major factor here is the organization. A key focus area is that the child has a reasonable number of toys - not too many - and that the child has a lot of room for those toys. Also, the toys each have their own place that they always go back to, and that place is clearly visible to the child - and preferably not just a jumble in the toy box.

We used Ikea shelves, the kind that are just a bunch of squares, but you can really use anything similar - where each spot is clearly demarcated. The squares help with that, as we'd have one kind of toy in each square, but you can do other things too - have small baskets, small rugs or placemats, really anything that individually identifies "something goes here". Then, the child can learn what goes where, and have a good sense of where to put things away. It's very hard to put things away when you have to be deciding where to put things - it's very easy to put things away when you already know, and you just need to put them in the places you know very well.

Finally, the best way to show her is for you to put things away with her. She'll see what you're doing and learn from you. At 10 months, if she can't walk yet, then you can put her in front of the spot where the toy goes so she can practice putting it on the shelf. If she can walk, then she may be able to do this herself. But be very patient - expect a lot of fooling around and silliness. As long as it's a positive experience, she'll be learning the skill. That's something I and my wife had to learn over and over again - having kids do something is nearly never more efficient than doing it ourselves, but it's worth doing because eventually they'll learn how to do it themselves. But while going through the learning stages, it's extremely important to have tons of patience and let them work it out however comes to them.

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