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How to Teach Your Child to Clean Up After Themselves: 7 Tips for Tidying
Children are a furious hurricane, leaving toys, clothing, homework and more in their wake. As a busy parent, you’re trying to tackle the dirty dishes in the sink, get laundry sorted and get dinner on the table instead of worrying about the clutter they’ve left in each room. You want them to clean up when they make a mess, but how? Yelling doesn’t work. Fun sing-along songs don’t seem to do the trick in the long run. So, how do you convince your kids to tidy up the home?
How to Teach Kids to Clean
Below are a few tips and tricks to get your children to clean up after themselves.
- Be Specific. Do you usually tell your kids, “Clean up” and leave it at that? Younger kids may not understand what you’re asking and do their own version of cleaning up — like clearing a spot in the middle of the room by pushing everything under the sofa or along the wall. Instead, tell them exactly what you want them to pick up, where they should put it away and what their time frame is. For example, turn “Clean this up” into “I need you to pick up all of the toys in this room and put them in your toy box in the next 30 minutes.” If your kids are too young, associate the time frame with something else: “Put your toys away before your favorite show comes on.”
- Set a “Take One Out, Put One Away” Policy. Children have a habit of getting a toy out to play, then abandoning that toy for another one that catches their eye. Rinse and repeat. When this goes on for too long, you end up with toys strewn about your home. Implement a new rule: when your child wants to get a new toy out, the old one must be put away. This will help to minimize the number of belongings out at one time.
- Don’t Use Cleaning as a Punishment. You might feel the urge to use cleaning the playroom or their bedroom as a punishment for something they did. However, that can teach them to hate tidying up. Instead, show them that it’s not a punishment but a gateway to rewards.
- Make It Fun. You’ve likely learned to make some of your own chores fun over the years, but your children haven’t had that much experience to do this on their own. Make it a competition with a small reward for the winner (e.g.: they get to choose which type of ice cream you have for dessert tonight). Put on some music with a beat so they can dance around while they clean up. Or, add some fun tools like dust pans they can use to scoop up all their Legos or Hot Wheels.
- Be Honest with How the Mess Makes You Feel. It’s inevitable that your children will not clean up how you expect, when you expect. If your children are old enough to understand empathy, tell them how the mess makes you feel. For example, try saying something like, “It makes me feel sad when I see your toys/clothes/other items laying on the floor where it doesn’t belong. It makes me feel like you don’t appreciate those things.” Then ask them how they feel about what you just said. Children generally want to make you happy, but they may not understand why you’re upset if you don’t verbalize it.
- Lower Your Expectations. Remember: your kids aren’t going to get everything right each time. They don’t clean up like adults. If you set unreasonable expectations, you may get upset with them for not meeting those expectations or decide to reclean everything “the right way”.
- Remember that it’s a Process. Your kids won’t get it right on the first try — and likely not on the second or third, either. Teaching them to be tidier will take consistency and time, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. Try to stay patient and encourage them to keep cleaning!
Keep Tidy with Self Storage Plus
As you relish in your children picking up after themselves, you may notice that some items aren’t being used as frequently — if at all. Should you find yourself needing to clear items out of your home to make more space but aren’t ready to let go of them, turn to Self Storage Plus. Our climate controlled storage units are the ideal space to keep your sentimental items so they can be used for years to come. And we offer a variety of storage resources to help you along every step of the way, like our Packing and Storage Guide, which shows you the best way to pack your belongings, so they stay safe and secure while in storage.
We pride ourselves on offering the best storage experience to the greater Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD areas. Discover how easy self storage can be — start by reserving a storage unit near you.