Teaching children to clean up after themselves

Teaching kids to clean up after themselves can teach them life skills and create a stress free environment for everyone. 

Kids love to make a mess while being playing and being creative, and it’s good for their development to play and explore. Once they are done though, and there is a big mess left behind, that’s when things get a bit challenging. Teaching kids to clean up after themselves can be hard. There is no wrong or right way to teach them, however, it is something that needs to be taught and easier on both parent and child if you start teaching them at a young age, when they are more enthusiastic. 

These are a few ways you can teach your child to clean up after themselves and form good habits. 

Break it down into smaller steps

You can’t send your child off to clean on their own because the overwhelm can become consuming and all they see is stuff everywhere. When my kids were young, I used to sit in their room with a book or magazine and give them direction when they were young. I would break up individual tasks to make the process easier:

  • Make your bed 
  • Clean bedside table and remove anything that is not essential
  • Collect all rubbish and throw into the bin
  • Pick up all dirty clothes and put into a laundry basket
  • Hang up or fold any clothes that are not dirty
  • Clean up toys and put them where they belong

Once all of those tasks were complete (and let me tell you it would take ages, and often my kids would need a drink break or a toilet break, or get distracted by a toy they hadn’t seen in a while), I would help them to dust and vacuum. I used this method every now and then until my kids were in their young teens and knew what they needed to do to keep their space clean. 

Make a game of it

Some kids work better if it’s a fun environment, so make cleaning up a game. Get the whole family to put things away where they belong with some music on and throw an incentive in there if you think that will create more enthusiasm.

Create some rules

My kids were expected to put their own dishes away once they had finished eating or put blankets and cushions back to where they belonged after watching a movie, or putting one toy away before bringing out another toy. It’s the little things that can turn into big things and cause frustration with both parent and child. By creating these simple rules, I wasn’t the one who was constantly cleaning up after my kids. Please don’t get me wrong – I still have to remind my kids from time to time to pick up after themselves!

Explain why keeping things clean is hygienic

Explaining to your kids that keeping your house and bedroom clean is hygienic and when you leave clothes, food or things lying around for too long, bugs and insects can create nests and homes. A clean space can also be good for overall health, letting dust build up of dust and mess can trigger kids with allergies. Make your kids an all natural cleaning spray they can use, so you don’t have to be worried about them coming into contact with chemicals.

Have a home for everything

If your child knows where certain things go, in their bedrooms and throughout the house, it will make it easier for them to clean up after themselves. If they don’t know where things go, they won’t put in the effort. Have clear places for things, use storage tubs and label them if you want to. 

Be a good example

You can’t expect your kids to clean up after themselves if you don’t. If your kids see you doing things, like cleaning up after yourself, or putting things away, they will follow your lead. If they see these things from a young age, it will become easier to make this a part of their everyday living. 

Age appropriate chores

Have age appropriate chores for your kids. Chores teach your kids important life skills, teaches them to take responsibility and good work ethic. Keeping the chores age appropriate won’t overwhelm them. You can use routine charts for young kids to help them along daily so they can stay on track. 

How do you teach your kids to pick up after themselves? 

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