teaching kids to clean up

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teaching kids to clean up

Young kids and clean, organized houses don’t really seem compatible.

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”

I read this quote by Phyllis Diller a few days ago and it made me smile. Because I totally felt like this when my son was a toddler.

But this also determined me to find ways to keep things under control because I didn’t want my house to be a total mess all the time.

The benefits of teaching kids to clean up

Teaching kids to clean up certainly makes things easier for the parents. And it also brings many benefits for the children:

  • It teaches them to be responsible and organized.
  • It helps them develop good habits that will be very helpful later in life.
  • Also, a clean and organized house will provide kids with a more peaceful environment. (Studies show that a cluttered house has a negative impact on the emotional state of the inhabitants.)

A few things to consider before teaching young kids to clean up

Make things easy by creating a simple organization system.

Young kids won’t be able to follow too many instructions or remember complicated rules.

We will talk more about how to create an organization system a little bit later.

Have realistic expectations.

Young children have a short attention span so you need to make sure that cleaning up doesn’t take too long.

Consider decluttering toys to make cleaning up more efficient.

Having fewer toys will make things easier for both you and your child. And it will also encourage more independent play.

If you like the idea of having fewer toys in the house, here is how we managed to declutter all the toys and only keep those that were really interesting and engaging.

Consider trying toy rotation.

If you still have a lot of toys even after decluttering or you just want to offer your child many alternatives for playtime, consider trying toy rotation.

This is a very simple system that will allow your child to have access to many educational toys in a way that is not overwhelming. And it’s also very practical when it comes to cleaning up.

Here are all the details about how to set up a toy rotation system that will work for you.

teaching kids to clean upphoto credit: Photographee.eu / shutterstock.com

How to encourage kids to clean up

It is very important to encourage kids to clean up from an early age. If cleaning up is fun and playful children will be more likely to do it without whining and complaining.

Here are some great tips for encouraging kids to clean up:

  • Be a role model. Young kids learn by watching us so it’s very helpful for them to see their parents cleaning up and being organized.
  • Make it playful. You can do this by using a special clean up song or use a timer and start a “clean up competition”.
  • Include cleaning up in the daily routine. It is easier for young kids to get used to a routine and it prevents many power struggles.

>> Related: Click here to download a printable list of chore ideas for kids

How to teach kids to clean up in 3 easy steps

1. Create a simple organization system for the child’s toys and belongings

A simple organization system that works great for kids is setting up separate bins (or drawers) for different toys or belongings.

Decide on a few categories and create special places in the room for each of them.

Our organization system includes:

  • the bookshelf for the books
  • separate drawers for Legos, building blocks, and “small things with wheels” (cars, trucks, etc) – we have a 3-drawer storing cart similar with this one
  • a bin for small random toys (like small plastic animals)
  • a big box for large toys
  • 2 shelves for clothes
  • a 10 Drawer Craft Organizer Cart for different educational toys and supplies (this cart is very helpful and practical)
  • a box for “quick clean” (when my son is tired or we want to clean up very quickly we use this box to place all the toys on the floor and we organize them another time).

teaching kids to clean upphoto credit: Photographee.eu / shutterstock.com

2. Set special times for cleaning up and create a playful ritual

You can either set one clean up time at the end of the day or several cleaning times during the day.

We have several cleaning times during the day because this works best for us. Also, in the evening my son gets tired and he doesn’t have a lot of patience to clean up.

The easiest way is to set up these times close to other activities from your daily routine: before going to the park, after lunch, before dinner, etc.

An additional tip: To avoid the situation when the child creates a big mess that is hard to clean up, encourage the child to put each toy back after they play with it. Even if the child doesn’t follow this rule every single time, it will still make cleaning up easier. I don’t insist on my son to do this all the time. But I explained to him that this helps him with cleaning up and he usually does this.

You can create a playful ritual for the cleaning time by playing a cleaning up song or setting a timer and challenge the child to finish everything on time.

3. Guide the child and teach them to clean up in an efficient way

When you just get started with teaching kids to clean up the best approach is to get involved and do the cleaning up together. Name each of the steps and encourage the child to do them with your help.

Each of the steps needs to focus on one category. (e.g. “Let’s pick up all the books and put them on the bookshelf” or “It’s time to gather all the Lego pieces and put them in the drawer”)

After the child gets used to the process you can take a step back and just guide them. I usually sit close to my son and enumerate the steps. (e.g. picking up the books, gathering all the toys on the floor and put them in the right drawer, taking clothes to the laundry basket, etc)

When you notice that the child doesn’t need your guidance anymore you can let them do the whole process on their own. This will make them feel independent and will give them more confidence. When they are done you can praise their effort and emphasize how nice it is when the room looks so clean and organized.

The secret to efficient cleaning for both kids and adults is to develop a system that makes things easy and takes away the overwhelm. These 3 steps will help you teach kids to clean up in a playful way without unnecessary power struggles.

If getting kids involved in chores is not easy at first, check out these 2 articles that will offer you helpful ideas and tools to make chores enjoyable for the little ones:

>> Want to remember this? Share these tips to your favorite Pinterest board!

Can't figure out how to get kids to clean up? Here are 3 steps that you can use to easily teach your kids to clean up on their own. --- Teaching kids to clean up #ParentingTips #MotherhoodTips #RaisingKids

photo credit preview photos: Africa Studio / shutterstock.com


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