How to Teach Your Child To Clean Up After Themselves
Parenting is a full time job that requires the skills of being a chef, chauffeur, therapist, and maid. However, there comes a time when the kids must pull up their bootstraps and learn to clean up after themselves! How to get them to do so can be the tricky task, but fear not, with a little training your children can be the neat and tidy little wonders that you always knew they could be…deep inside.
The first thing to remember is that children thrive on consistency and routine. Get them into the mindset and routine of automatically putting things away when they are done with them and before moving on to the next toy and you will be one happy parent. As they are playing and you see them reaching for a different toy, first one discarded, then say “Put away the first toy and then you can have the next one” and work with them to put away the first. Do this often so that they get into the mindset that “If I play with one toy, I have to put it back before getting the other one”. This is best done while they are still very young, around 2 years old so that the habit will form and stick with them. By picking up after each toy, it also cuts down on massive messes that will overwhelm both you and the poor little dears! If you notice that there is a large mess, turn it into a game so that they forget it’s an actual chore. With multiple kids, you can have them race to see who can get their side of the room done first with a prize at the end. Kids love games and contests, so that’s an easy way to “trick” them into liking cleaning! Put that competitive spirit and all of their energy to GOOD use.
Although they may be in the way sometimes, little kids love to help with chores so let them help with unloading the dishwasher, pushing the vacuum with you, hold the dustpan or loading the clothes into the dryer like an assembly line. The times that my baby cousin has begged to let her do the task at hand are endless, so letting them do it with your help will only lead them to good habits later on.
Now, you must be firm and stick to it when you give the order to clean up, especially if said with a threat such as taking away a toy or time out. If children notice that you SAY something (you clean up this room now or else there will be no dessert) and then turn around and give them dessert anyway without them cleaning, they’ll know that you aren’t to be taken at your word and they can get over on you, doing the task when/if they please. Say the demand and follow through with it.
Have distinct areas for toys to go or else they may not know exactly what “clean” means to you. There are cute ways to customize toy bins with their name and personalized touches, so do this and they will know exactly where to put the toys and want to keep it clean so that they can show off their precious special box.
Reward them with smiles and praise! Children feel so happy when they please their authority figures, puffing up with pride and confidence. My baby cousin would wipe off her face and place setting after she finished eating and my gushing thanks to her for being a big girl had her smiling all day and saying that she did it. Guess what happened the next time she ate? She cleaned up after herself again and felt happy to do it! Praise systems and positive reinforcements are a key component to happy children who will do their duties.
A very important thing to keep in mind is to remain a clean and tidy person yourself if you would like them to be. If your room has clothing thrown all over then it would come as no surprise that they don’t see the value in keeping their room tidy as well. Children learn by example for the most part, so be the example that you’d want them to follow after!
Teach children while they are still young and malleable, in that tender fleeting sponge stage where they soak up all information and you should have neat kids who know to clean up after themselves as a habit, not a chore. Good luck and may you have a happy clean home.