We all know how messy kids can be.
Just one child can tear a house apart in a matter of hours, but if a brother or sister is involved as well, you can lose all sight of the floor in a few simple minutes! Building blocks will be strewn everywhere, and crayons will be spilt all over the table, and maybe you’ll even find paint flicked all over the walls as well…
All in all, it’s a real mess once the kids have had time to play after preschool or before dinner, and you’re starting to run out of energy picking things up after them. So maybe it’s time to start showing the little ones how to tidy up their own messes?
It can be done! As long as you make it an accessible and friendly activity, even the most grumpy 5-year-olds can be encouraged to put their own toys away. Here are a few tips to get started:
Set some simple rules
Kids can find it hard to understand rules that have more than 2 or 3 steps. So if your usual cleaning schedule means you use the yellow gloves in the kitchen and the blue gloves in the bathroom, and one duster for the living room and another for the bedrooms, there’s a good chance the kids won’t even begin to follow!
Making it simple will help them to get into the groove by tidying up.
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Ask: Does rubbish go in the bin? Check! Toys go in the toy box, and only one is allowed out at a time? Check! Do crayons have to stay in the packet if you’re not using them? Check!
These rules are easy to set, easy to enforce, and kids are much more likely to commit to them thanks to just how easy they are to follow. Little brains often need help, so this is one of the best ways to structure a child-friendly cleaning routine.
Make it fun!
Kids love having fun, and as long as they know an activity is going to make them laugh or smile (or even just let them spend some time with you!), it’s going to be one they’ll undertake with no problem. And even as adults, we put on music or a podcast to pass the time as we clean up, so apply the same principle when trying to encourage the kids to join in as well.
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Putting music on is the easiest way to make tidying up more fun, and you can all have a sing-song as you head around the house with a bin bag and spray bottle. Let your child dance as they help you make the bed or wash the kitchen floor, and be sure to join in to let your little one know that this kind of fun is normal during chores.
You can also turn cleaning into a game, by handing out tools and setting a timer to see who wins the ‘race’, or by handing out little treats once your child has finished their task, or if they’re young enough, buy them toy versions of vacuums and sweeping brushes and let them follow along behind you. It’ll help them to get used to the sounds and actions, and encourage them to take on the challenge as they get bigger!
Try not to give your child a reason to hate cleaning
In order to help your child enjoy tidying up, and even take part in it without being asked, you have to understand why they would otherwise hate having to clean. What makes them think of it as a ‘chore’, even if that’s what you plan to turn it into?
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The answer is that cleaning tasks are often handed out as part of a punishment. If a bit of elbow grease is involved, then kids are more likely to learn their lesson after misbehaving. However, when using cleaning tasks to set your little one straight, you can accidentally teach them to loathe cleaning and anything that’s involved with it.
After all, this is a punishment. It’s not meant to be enjoyed, and it’s supposed to give your child time to think about their behaviour. They’re only allowed to finish and walk away when you tell them to, and they’re probably pouting or frowning as they wash a dish or wipe down a surface.
Suddenly, cleaning isn’t fun anymore, and it’s certainly not something they’ll want to do off of their own backs. So they simply won’t, because it’s boring and takes a long time, and they don’t want to have to tidy up any more than they’re told to. This is why it’s important to avoid this as much as possible, and instead, make cleaning the fun and easy game it should be at their age!
Tidying up doesn't have to be a big, nasty monster in your home!
Let your kids have the right expectations about tidying up after themselves; it’s a life skill we all need to learn at some point! Sure, even as an adult you can hate having to tidy up, but when you’re trying to encourage your child to take part, it’s best to show them that cleaning can be fun and that you can have a laugh during it. You might even find it much more enjoyable yourself this way!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to let us know in the comments below what tips and tricks you have to help promote cleaning at home with your little ones.