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In this post, I will reveal how I get my young children to clean up after themselves without yelling and constant arguing. If you are looking for stress-free ways to get kids to clean up their toys and their messes, you’ve come to the right place!
In my last post, we talked about how to keep your house clean with kids. I explained that it is completely possible to have a clean home even with young children, and the easy steps you can take to make it that way.
But what happens when you have kiddos who just don’t want to help?
Let me tell you a little story. This is a tale of two very, very different children.
Lauren has two kids: Alyson (5) and Chandler (2). Her baby boy loves to help his mommy. Anytime she needs anything, he’s right there to assist. Sometimes, he does things before it’s even expected of him. His little angel face lights up whenever mommy says it’s chore time. He’s a dream come true.
Then…there is Alyson. While she’s still a dream come true, getting her to clean becomes an outright nightmare. She resists, asks why she even has to do chores in the first place, and the tears just don’t stop flowing. Getting her to help is a chore itself, and causes her mommy so many headaches and at a loss for what to do.
Does this sound familiar to you at all? Are you meeting resistance from your children, but still want to teach them the value of chores and have them contribute to the house they live in?
I was tired of the constant battle with my daughter when it came to getting her to help clean up her room or the messes she’s made. Things still aren’t perfect, but by following these nine tips, I have successfully lessened the arguments and finally gotten my kiddos to help clean up and participate in chores.
I know you may be tired of the constant arguments, the wasted time, and the chaos of a messy home. If you are looking for effortless ways to get kids to clean up, then keep reading!
1. Set a Good Example
I know this can be tough to hear, but it’s something that needs to be said.
If you want your child to understand the benefits of chores and clean up their own messes, you must give them a good example to follow by staying organized and cleaning up your own messes.
Children learn by seeing, so make sure you are setting a good example for them to watch. If they see mommy making messes or being disorganized, they’ll start to question why they have to do anything. Whenever we want our children to do something or value something, we must start by doing it ourselves. Children, especially young children, do not understand “Do as I stay, not as I do.”
Make sure you have a good attitude when you are doing chores such as laundry or dishes. I know that sometimes this can be hard, but I always try to keep a smile on my face while doing household tasks in front of my kids. Do you know what’s going to happen the second you start griping about dirty clothes or messy floors? Your kids will start griping whenever they are asked to do chores. They watched you do it — now they’ll do it, too.
I know you’ll have hard days, and I know you can get busy. I completely understand because I’ve been there, too. But if you want to get kids to clean up, we have to set a good example for them.
Okay…I’m done being mean. Please forgive me 😉
2. Teach Them How It’s Done
I’d be a very rich person if I had a dollar for every time I told my kids, “Go pick up your toys” just to have them completely ignore the request. Why couldn’t they just listen to me and actually do it? What was the problem?
The problem with telling them “pick up your toys” or “go clean your room” is that it’s an overwhelming request. They truly don’t understand what you mean when you say that. It may seem self-explanatory to you, but children need a bit more guidance.
This is why you have to show them how it’s done. If you want them to clean, teach them how to clean.
Here are some ways you can teach your child how to clean:
- Please help me put your blanket and pillow back on your bed.
- Watch how I put the books back on the shelf correctly.
- Help me put your toys back in the bin.
- Let’s put our dirty clothes in the laundry basket together.
- Come with me to throw our trash away.
- I am going to show you how to clean up your spill.
This will require you to invest some time at first. Depending on the age and maturity of your children, this could take multiple times of repeating yourself and showing the process over and over. The good news is that it will get easier over time, I promise!
The key to making it easier is to be consistent. I make my children clean up every day. Now that cleaning has become a daily habit, fights have become few and far between because they are so used to it by now.
You will have to stay on top of your children for a while to make sure they are cleaning up correctly, but they will get it eventually. But if you don’t show them how to do it, they may never get it, which will end up causing you more time and stress in the long run. Teach them now and you won’t regret it. They will never be perfect, but they’ll have an easier time. Some days they’ll be able to tackle their messes perfectly, and other days they may need some help.
This leads me to my next tip.
3. Offer Support When Needed
As a parent, I know first hand just how overwhelming and intimidating huge messes and decluttering tasks can be. So when something seems too big to face alone, I always ask for help.
This is why I always help whenever my children ask for it.
Cleaning up together can be a great way to save time by dividing up the tasks. It can also be a wonderful way to spend time together and encourage your children to participate instead of arguing with you. In fact, whenever I start to meet reluctance from my children, this is the first thing I do. Sometimes they just want you there with them so they don’t feel alone and overwhelmed.
I don’t suggest doing all the work for them, but sometimes our kiddos just need an extra hand to get the job done.
4. Assign Age-Appropriate Chores
While I’m sure my husband would love to hand over the lawnmower to our children, and I’d be thrilled if they could cook us dinner one night, it just isn’t realistic.
Set your children up for success by assigning age-appropriate chores that they can actually accomplish.
You may be surprised that even children as young as two years old can help out! Just imagine how much you and your children can get done when you assign chores that are on their level.
5. Put Systems in Place That Makes It Easier For Them
You’ll need to put systems in place that make it easier for your kids to clean up after themselves.
Kids need some type of structure and organization if they are going to put their things back with minimal help. So why not make it easy for them to do so? Staying organized will teach your children that everything has a place, and make it quick and easy for them to clean up.
Below are a few tips to make it easy for your children to put their things away independently.
Use a Basket to Corral Clutter
I will admit that I let my children bring toys from outside of their room into the living room. They have a designated play area in the living room outside of their own room because I am fully aware that they want to be with their parents and I want them to feel at home.
I recommend using a basket like this one to corral toy clutter and keep it contained to one part of the room. This will help keep your floors clean and make it easier to gather all the toys once playtime is over. At night time, you can take the basket back to their room and put the toys away.
I love absolutely love these small bins to keep small pieces like Legos, Shopkins, or other small multi-piece toys for the following reasons:
- We can clearly see the contents of the bins since they are see-through.
- It’s an easy way to hold the pieces so that they don’t get lost
- Having the pieces in one place makes for easy cleanup.
- You don’t have to keep re-purchasing lost toys or sets.
- Because I keep these bins on a high shelf in their closet, they have to put one bin away to get another.
The bins below are great for small toys, but you could use this system with larger toys as well. They are 100% worth the investment and are affordable considering how many options you have. Win-win!
Using hooks is one of my favorite tricks to getting my kids organized. We use hooks for hanging up coats, scarves, towels, backpacks, or anything that can be worn again.
One tip is to hang them low enough that even your toddler can hang up their belongings.
Not to mention, these are so cute! They add such a beautiful, decorative touch to any room.
However, I must confess that these hooks are actually in their closet because we simply do not have the wall space to keep them in the actual bedroom.
These hooks have been an absolute game-changer for us!
I recommend labeling everything you can, from bins to drawers and everything in between. This takes the guesswork out of “where does it go” for everyone in your family.
You could also use labels with pictures for children who cannot read yet. My favorite place to get picture labels is here. This a great site to use even if you are not a teacher.
Check out my favorite label maker HERE. This is a great tool for making yourself and your children stay organized and keep everything in its place!
6. Less is More
I may sound like a broken record at this point if you’ve been around here long enough, but it will always be easier to clean if there is less clutter to pick up in the first place.
If you want to make things easier on your children and on yourself, you have to keep the toy clutter under control and declutter often. It’s just the name of the game when you have children.
There are many benefits of having fewer toys and making it easy and quick to clean up is one of them. So downsize the toys and donate them if possible. The benefits are amazing!
7. Make It Fun!
Chores don’t have to be boring! I love blasting music while I’m cleaning, so when I enlist the children to help, we love to make it fun!
We love to play music and dance around while we are cleaning! You could even make a cleaning playlist to listen to or sing your own songs while everyone is picking up. Everyone is singing and dancing, and you just turned a chore into a fun bonding experience.
Sometimes we will even set a timer or play a song and see if we can “beat” it while we are cleaning. My children absolutely LOVE to do this! We just set a timer and see if we can pick up a certain area before the timer goes off. It’s such a great way to motivate the children to actually get going.
Another tip for moms of two or more children is to make it a competition. Whenever my kids are cleaning their room, we have a competition to see who can fill up a bin first or pick up the most toys. Now they see it as a game instead of a boring task and are more likely to participate instead of arguing. And it’s a great way to make the time go by even faster!
8. Reward Their Efforts
Kids work just like adults. When you’re asked to do something, you automatically think, “What’s in it for me?”
This is where you could choose to put some kind of reward system in place to make it beneficial for your kids to clean up.
Some ways you can reward your children for a job well done include:
- Praising them with verbal compliments.
- Giving them a monetary reward if you are able or desire to do so.
- Let them have an extra fifteen minutes of their favorite activity.
- Give them a special treat from the kitchen.
- Reward them with a consumable gift so that you aren’t bringing in clutter.
- Extra tablet/screen time.
Full disclaimer: I do not physically reward my children every time they pick up their room (not including praise — they get this every time). If I did, they’d be getting some type of reward every day since I ask them to clean up every day. Use your own discretion when rewarding your children for good behavior. Only you know your kids, so if you think this could help motivate them, then use this method. Some people find that rewarding their children hurts rather than helps, and do not reward their children for expected behavior. Do what works best for you and your family.
9. Embrace the Mess
Now I’ll contradict literally everything I just said, but hear me out.
Some days, you’ll have to accept the fact that your home will never look exactly the way you want it. You have children, and children love to make messes. And guess what? They won’t always want to pick up their things. And some days, you’ll just be too tired to make them. You have to pick your battles because you sure can’t win them all.
So, you’ll have to learn to embrace the mess. At the very least, take small steps and work together to get the job done.
They’re kids, and it is their job to play. While I fully believe in the benefits of chores, I put play above everything else.
Some days I just close the door and ignore the mess.
And we play.
Final Thoughts on How to Get Kids to Clean Up
Teaching your kids how to clean may take some time at first, but it will be so worth it and you will instill some wonderful values in your children. Teaching them to clean will save you and them so much time, stop some of the arguments, and encourage everyone to take pride in their space. Your kids will never be perfect and sometimes you may have to embrace the mess, but these tips will help you and your children improve so much and keep your home clean and clutter-free!
Before you go, don’t forget:
- Follow me on Pinterest for more cleaning and organizing tips with children!
- Let me know in the comments if you have any other tricks about how to get kids to clean up! What works for you? I’d love to hear from you!