3 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Children to Clean Up
Ever feel like a broken record having to repeat “Don’t do…” and “Please try…” over and over? Sigh. It often takes several repetitions before our children respond. The good news is, you can use repetition to your advantage! Repetition also happens to be the first of three ways to encourage your children to help with cleaning.
Ask with tasks rather than commands. This means instead of saying “Pick up your toys and brush your teeth!” you say: “Please put the books in the bookshelf, the dolls in the dollhouse, and the bears in the basket.” You’ll still have to repeat yourself, but at least you’re repeating information you want them to memorize! Not only is it easier for your children to remember where everything goes, but they’re also more likely to respond faster to tasks over commands because they’re specific. "Clean up your room" doesn’t always elicit a response because they’re unsure where to start. Whereas a specific task like “Please put all blocks in the blue box” offers a clear starting point. Using clear starting points is one of my favorite tips because it’s simple but very effective!
The second way to encourage children to clean up is to use their curiosity! Sometimes as adults we unknowingly project our concepts about cleaning onto our kids. Children don’t think like adults. No need to try to get them to clean as we do! For toddlers, playing is all about exploration; as they grow older, playing becomes more about imagination than when they were younger. Observing how your children play can help make cleaning more engaging and exciting for them. For example, during the notoriously messy toddler stage, it’s important to remember is why they take out anything and everything. Toddlers are trying to figure out how things work. Getting creative about how to ‘put things back’ can make clean up a continuation of their exploration.
One way to do this is to find exciting storage containers. Instead of a toy box without a lid (that’s just begging to be dumped on the floor!). The best is to use a variety of unusual containers (long, round, etc) these could even go inside a bigger toy box. The goal is to have containers where they need to put toys in slowly, either one by one or at a certain angle. Then it becomes like a puzzle. We have a few toy sets like this and my two year old won’t let me clean them up because he has so much fun figuring it out himself! I don’t mind one bit haha.
For pre-school kids, who are more in the imagination play phase, you can turn clean up into a game with points or a scavenger hunt to find lost items. If your kids are school age, involve them in the decision making about what kind of cleaning tasks they’d like to do and what they think should be a consequence if they don’t do it.
The final way to encourage your children to clean is to make cleaning a family activity! This one is for all you mamas who have a hard time delegating. You know who you are ;)
Delegating chores is hard for me because I care the most about how things are displayed and organized. So rather than delegate, I used to attempt to do it all by myself which rarely worked out well and left a lot unfinished.
Something that’s helped me delegate is establishing ‘home care habits’ together with my family. It works well because I’m able to guide the process and everything goes much faster with all four of us helping at the same time. Some examples of ‘home care habits’ for us are: setting and clearing the table at dinner time and picking up toys as part of my sons’ bedtime routine.
Not only is it helpful, but it’s also an opportunity to invest time as a family to create a home everyone loves. It’s less about what you do and more about spending time together which is what our children value most of all.
Here’s a list of a few ‘home care habit’ ideas:
Involve your children in the cleaning and make it part of their daily routine.
Work on creating something (DIY) to use or display in your home.
Grow plants or garden together.
Plan out future home projects.
Rearrange furniture and shop your home together!
Ask about their favorite spots at home – what they like and why then decorate a space with meaning and intention together with them.
Depending on the age and attention span of your children, these activities will vary. However, the goal is the same: encourage your children to take care of home together with you. Not just as a one-time event but continuously.
Hands down, the best way to get our children to do something is to do it together with them and create good memories around it. Did these tips spark any ideas for you to try at home? Let me know in the comments!