Tired of picking up your kids’ toys and items at the end of the day? Here’s how to get your child to clean up after themselves without nagging or yelling.
I had just finished bathing the kids, got them dressed into PJs and helped them with homework. My eldest had finally crawled into bed for the night. And I was just ready to relax when I saw the explosion of toys across the floor.
Instead of reading a book or watching a movie, I was bent over picking up toys and putting them back where they belong. Sure, I figured it was faster if I did it yourself, but I felt tired of picking up the mess the kids left behind.
I’m learning the importance of teaching kids to clean up after themselves. We’re instilling important values and lessons, such as:
- Contributing to the family unit
- Fostering a sense of belonging
- Learning how to clean and maintain a neat home
- Teaching them how to value and care for their items
- Understanding the importance of responsibilities
How to get your child to clean up after themselves
Yes, it saves us time from having to do it ourselves. But what happens if your kids are new to cleaning up? What if they resist? How do you get them to clean up after themselves without the nagging and power struggles?
Make clean up part of your routine.
My go-to move to avoid nagging and whining is to take the Terrible Task and integrate it into our routine. Every night, we do a quick five-minute clean up before my twins take their bath. We don’t get started with anything until the floor is free of any toys.
Have designated spots.
My toddler impressed me the other day when I handed him a toy and he knew exactly where to put it. Without a permanent place, telling him to ‘put this back’ would delay the whole process .
When toys have their regular places, kids need less reminders of where to put them. They know that the cars go on the shelves, the balls in the yellow box and the stuffed animals in the toy bin.
Give direction and help as well.
Make clean up a family affair, rather than a task designated only for kids. Help out by putting difficult toys away or returning toys in harder-to-reach places. Give your kids directions if you see them looking around. Point them to items they missed so they can find them easier.
Helping is faster and instills the values of collaboration and family contribution. Everyone pitches in to clean up.
I made these printable chore lists that are yours free when you sign up for the newsletter (which subscribers say they love!):
Clean up throughout the day.
One habit I’m trying to ingrain in my kids is to put away their current items before they move on to the next one. For instance, I’ll ask my kids to put away their blocks before moving on to books. Cleaning up as you go along is a good habit to have into adulthood as well. Plus, this makes the end-of-the-day clean up finale less arduous.
Explain the importance of cleaning up
My kids respond well when I explain why we need to do something. And the benefits of cleaning up after themselves are many:
- They’re less likely to lose things.
- Their toys and items won’t get broken.
- You’ll all have more time to spend time together.
- They’re big kids now and can take care of their items.
Model the same habits yourself
Modeling is one of the best ways to teach your kids how to act. Make sure you are also keeping the home tidy, taking care of your belongings, and cleaning up as you go along. They’ll learn more from following your habits than empty words you don’t follow yourself.
And do so with a positive disposition. Don’t grumble about having to make your bed—just do it. Treating chores as another hassle will translate right down to your kids.
The goal with these tips isn’t to maintain a pristine house or to implement a rigid routine. You’re teaching kids responsibility. Holding them accountable for their actions so they grow up doing so on their own. Your children’s independence and responsibility will be useful habits they’ll use all their lives.
Get more tips:
- What to Do when Your Kids Refuse to Do Chores
- 3 Lessons Every Mom Raising Boys Needs to Teach
- How to Run Errands with Kids (And Not Go Crazy)
- Genius Ways to Make Bedtime Easier
- What to Do when Your Child Disrespects You
Your turn: How do you teach your kids to clean up after themselves? Let me know in the comments!