My kids are terrible at picking up. I don't know why but my kids will drag their heels and lollygag around like nobody's business. Drives me crazy! Taking a hard nose approach like taking away whatever they leave out has not worked. I've put it up on the fridge, I've made them buy it back, I've taken it to the thrift store, and I've thrown things away. But they just don't care all that much. Perhaps it means we have too much stuff. Or perhaps it stems from early years spent in orphanages without personal possessions. I don't know but picking up often becomes a battle around here. I have one who loves to turn it into a huge power struggle. This child can make cleaning up a room take hours. This child will miss supper, miss fun activities, lose privileges and possessions all in an attempt to outlast you. The child can tell you it's not a good idea and that it doesn't end well but simply digs their heels in deeper. It's a battle I really try to avoid because I usually end up wanting to lock myself in my room lest I harm the child. So sometimes, if I think it's headed down that path, I just ignore it and let the child sit in the bedroom while they do everything but pick up their room. Then, at bedtime, I just ask them to get into bed and let them deal with it in the morning.
Big battles aside, there are a few things that have seemed to work around here better than the taking away items or the old "can you beat the timer" game. (I don't know why but beating the timer to pick up just doesn't work for my kids." Nor does the logical consequence of "we can't watch tv/read books/whatever activity is next until you pick up.")
Here are some things I have done that have seemed to work:
*Use money as an intermittent reward. I set the timer and ask the kids to keep track of how many things they pick up. After the timer beeps, the kids receive a penny for every item they picked up. Yes, it requires the honor system and no, Zeke can't count. (I just give him money for whatever he says.) I don't do it regularly, just enough to make my kids wonder if this time around will be a time where I will be giving out pennies.
*Have the kids check each others work. I use this strategy most often to keep the kids away from each other when the basement needs picked up. If I send all 3 down to pick up the basement, it often ends with someone crying, someone yelling, or someone giggling hysterically. So I send down one kid at a time with a specific task. "Go pick up all the cars." When that child returns, I send down the next child and give them something else to pick up and tell them to check the first child's work. "Go pick up the balls and check Conleigh's work. She was supposed to pick up the cars." If the first child did not do the job well, the second child then shows them what they missed. Not only does it keep them separated but I think they are more thorough because they don't want their sibling finding something that they missed. It does not get things 100% clean because I am not downstairs to see exactly what needs picked up but it does help to do a quick straighten.
*Do a 5 minute clean or a commercial clean. When there is a big mess, this is a great way to keep your kids from being overwhelmed by the mess and give up before they have even started. Just have them pick up for 5 minutes or if you are watching tv, have them work on the mess during the commercials.
*Assign kids a specific color to pick up. I use this on the basement too. Again, I am not downstairs to make sure 100% of the toys are picked up but it gets things neater than they were.
*Give kids a number of items to pick up. We do this as part of our after school routine. After they eat their snacks, the kids go to their bedrooms and pick up ten items. I also use it to tidy up the whole house. Often instead of telling the kids to pick up, I phrase it differently. I will say "Find ten things that are not where they belong and put them in their right places." Maybe I'm silly to say that but I kind of think it makes it feel less like cleaning up.