Bonus – Cleaning Up

Does your child pick up their toys when they are finished with them?  Cleaning is a skill that should be taught early on.  Is it faster to just pick up yourself?  Of course!  Are you teaching your child anything by cleaning up for them?  Yes!  You are teaching them that others will take on the negative consequences of their actions.

I get it.  You can’t always wait for them to clean up.  On top of that, even if you do wait, they don’t clean up just right, and even after waiting for so long for them to get their things put away, you still have to go back and do it all again.

So you cannot allow them to pick up after themselves every time.  However, the more you allow them to clean up their own messes, the more THEY benefit.  Eventually they will become better at tidying up, and they also learn responsibility that will translate into other areas of their lives.

Cleaning is not usually an innate skill.  You need to teach your child to clean, and help make it easy for them.  Show them using simple steps so that they will be able to clean later on.  Also, don’t just sit there!  If you have something of your own to clean up, do it at the same time.

You should make up your own methods that work for you and your family.  Before we transition to another activity, I usually have my sons clean up what they were doing.  Small tasks are much more manageable than cleaning up an entire room.  However, we do get carried away sometimes and must perform a larger cleaning task (an entire room or two).  When I find we are in this position, there are a few things I like to do:

1.  Make it fun!  I call it “Speed Cleaning Time,” mainly to help keep minds focused.  I set the timer on the oven for something manageable, like 10 minutes, and I make it a challenge.  “Do you think we can clean both of these rooms in 10 minutes, before the buzzer goes off?”  When the buzzer does go off, even if the rooms are not clean, we stop.  10 minutes of cleaning can seem like an eternity to a little boy.

2.  I give clear, 1-2 step tasks.  “Pick up the books and put them on this shelf,” “Find all the papers and put them in this bag.”  I also like to add what I am doing so he knows I’m not just playing myself.  I’ll usually start by saying, “I am going to pick up all of the crayons while you pick up the stickers and put them in this tray.”  When they complete the task, praise them, and assign them a new one.

3.  Encourage, encourage, encourage.  Even if they’re having difficulty, sometimes all it takes is you praising them for cleaning up one thing to start them cleaning like a pro.  Cleaning is difficult for many adults.  Make sure to tell them how proud you are while they are doing it.

4.  When they finish cleaning, I usually “reward” them by giving them a sponge to clean off a table.  I know this sounds like a terrible reward, but they love it.  I am going to use it for as long as it works!!!

Good luck!  I know it is difficult, but it is worth it in the end.  You are instilling responsibility and a sense of pride in their belongings.   Let me know what your tips are for getting your child to clean.


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