How To Teach Kids To Tidy Up

September 29, 2020

Tidying up after a day of playing together is probably not on the top of your child’s list of things they’d like to do. If you don’t want to spend your time stepping on Lego blocks, your child will need to clean up after themselves. 


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An important part of a young person’s development is learning how to clean up a mess that they have made themselves. This helps children to develop their sense of responsibility. It might be easier for you to just tidy up yourself if you’re organizing a child’s closet or picking up their toys, but this is a short-term solution. If a child learns to clean up after themselves now, this will set the stage for how they complete the task as they grow up. If you’re always picking up after them now, they won’t learn to do it for themselves. 


Tidying up isn’t always fun, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable chore. Here’s how you can make the task go more smoothly. 


Choose your words carefully

Don’t just tell your child to clean up. It’s easy for a young child to feel overwhelmed by a large mess because they don’t know where to start. Instead, start by giving them instructions like, ‘put away your books first, and then put the toys in the toybox’. Break the job down into smaller tasks to make a big job seem much more manageable. 


Remember that your child is new to tidying up. Cleaning up their toys won’t be something that they inherently know how to do. You will need to teach them. 7


Explain why cleaning up is needed

To you, it’s obvious that things need tidying up. To your toddler, cleaning up just means putting away the fun, so why would they want to do it? Explain that if the toys aren’t put away properly, then someone could fall over them and hurt themselves, or toys and pieces could get lost, which would make playing with the toy less fun next time. With very young children, you need to make a connection that they can understand. 


Create child-friendly storage for toys

Put labels on drawers or storage bins with pictures of the things that go in them, to help your kids learn where everything should go when it’s put away. Your child could draw the pictures themselves, or you could cut them out of magazines. Under each picture, neatly write the name of the item, which is great practice for the recognition of words for pre-readers. When everything has a proper home, it makes it much easier to put everything away, even for young children. 


Make it a game

Keep tidying fun by making a game of it. Try games like ‘beat the clock’ to see if your children can tidy their room before time runs out, or compete to see who can put the blocks back in the box the fastest. By making it a game, you can make tidying more fun. 



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