15 Tips For Parents To Teach Kids To Clean Up

It is fun to see your child play with toys and get creative with their crafts. But cleaning the mess after them is a stressful task, especially when it adds to your existing house chores list. You might, therefore, want to let them do the cleaning themselves.

It might take some time, and you may not always get a perfectly organized room. Nevertheless, it is still vital they learn to keep their toys and house clean. As small as this task may seem now, it teaches them to be responsible (1) (2).

Read on as we give you a few tips on how to make the process of cleaning with kids fun, easy, and motivating.

At What Age Should A Child Clean Up After Themselves?

By the time children are three years, they start imitating the actions of adults and children around them (3) (4) (5). Thus, if you plan to teach them to clean after themselves, this is the right age to inculcate the habit into their routine.

The more they see you clean, the more they will try to involve themselves in the chores. So, motivate them and involve them in cleaning.

15 Tips To Get Your Kids To Clean Up

Making children clean after themselves is difficult but not impossible. The key lies in stirring up their interest by making the tasks simple and fun. Follow these simple and unconventional tips and make the cleaning process interesting for them.

1. Teach them the importance of cleaning up

State the need for cleaning up and let them how it affects others around them. Explain to them that their toys and household items could get damaged when they lay scattered around, and they won’t have much to play with the next time.

Let them also know that scattered toys could hurt others when stepped on. This can help them understand the importance of cleaning up and make them responsible for their actions.

2. Adapt to the swapping rule

This rule is simple – to take a new thing from the shelf, your child must replace it with the one they’re already playing with. The main aim of this swapping rule is to prevent your child from being stressed with the thought of clearing a large pile of toys at the end. If there is no mess to clean in the first place, what would they have to be overwhelmed about?

3. Label the boxes

Often, children fail to clean up as they do not know how to start and where to place the items. To help them avoid this confusion, you may have to put in a little effort.

Categorize each shelf or box and label them using pictures, words, numbers, or color codes. Then, give them simple instructions such as “All the toys with wheels on the top shelf” or “Anything that rolls go into the boxes.” By helping them know the place of each item, you are helping them speed up this mundane task.

4. Play the treasure hunt game

If there is a pile of toys on the floor, and your child doesn’t know where to begin, make a game out of this confusion. Choose a category – it can be color, shape, size, or type. Ask your child to clear up everything that comes under it. For example, when you say “purple,” the child should pick up and put away the purple toys. Your child would be so preoccupied with finding and finishing the task that they wouldn’t notice they are getting the job done.

5. Organize a fun cleaning competition

Why not organize a cleaning contest for your children? Start the timer and let the competition begin. The one who finishes organizing or cleaning before the bell rings is the winner. Ensure not to incentivize the game, as it may demotivate the others. The ultimate goal is to let them enjoy the cleaning process and make it a habit.

6. Play the tool game

Give your child an item to help them clean. It could be a bag, a dustpan, or a glove. The tool would make them more enthusiastic about the task.

You can also make it into a fun game by creating an imaginary situation. For instance, you could tell them that the house is a jungle and all the items on the path must be cleared before the lion arrives. Then, give your child the tools, and let them take pride in being the savior of the jungle.

7. Clean with music

Most adults love to work with the music on. Music helps us speed up the work and be less overwhelmed about the task on hand.

Play your child’s favorite rhyme, soft pop, or soft metal in the background. And if you and your child know the words, sing along and have some fun dancing while decluttering. You could also teach them some amazing clean-up songs.

8. Try the curtailment rule

Your child might not need all the toys available on the shelf for each play session. So, ask them to pick only those toys that they plan to play with. They can plan and choose only a few. This way, they will feel less intimidated when asked to put the toys in their respective places after the game.

9. Use a timer

If your child loves a challenge, set a timer and ask them to complete the cleaning within the specified time. Another way to have fun is to make a prediction game out of it. Let your child guess how much time they would need to rearrange everything. Reward them with a pat or a clap on completion. You can also have a one-minute clean-up game.

10. Play the number game

Select a random number, and ask them to pick up as many toys as that number suggests. Let them return to you for the next number. Continue until they’ve completed the task. You can also use this time to teach them their date of birth or your phone number. All you need to do is recite the numbers in their respective order and help your child memorize them.

11. Use rewards

You can use rewards to motivate your child. Reward them with their favorites. Tell them you’ll allow them to watch their favorite cartoon or help them do their favorite creative activity if they clean their room. Get them excited about the reward to keep them going. You may try this on the weekends, and remember not to make this a daily occurrence.

12. Maintain a chore chart

A chore chart is like a calendar, but with chores for each day of the week written on it. On completing a task, your child would have the honor of placing a magnetic appraisal pin over it. The sense of pride that this board would instill is reason enough for your child to clean up. The more they clean up and help you with the chores, the more labels or pins they earn.

13. Maintain a cleaning checklist

An excellent way to break down a massive, tedious task into something smaller and achievable is by maintaining a list. Prepare a checklist of all the toys and books your child uses. Give them the chart after their play and let them put the things back into the shelves in that order.

This list is a great organizational tool and would help them decide on where to begin. You can also add cleaning tasks to the checklist.

14. Give away the toys

Your child might be over a few toys or might have broken a few. Donate the good ones and do away with the broken ones with your child’s consent. Explain why you plan to do it and tell them that those unused items could make someone happy. You can also set a limit on the number of toys to be purchased each month. This exercise can also teach your child good values.

15. Set up play areas

Every house has that one spot or room where children love to frequent. Identify the zone and restrict your child’s activities only to this zone. For example, restrict reading, painting, and doing craft activities to one room and playing with toys to the other. With this zone-cleaning method, the mess of the respective room stays in the same place, and hence, it becomes easier for your child to rearrange them. You can also tell your child to move to the other room only if they’ve cleaned up the room they were just in.

Although it is a challenging task, teaching children to clean up is essential. It teaches them time management skills and to be self-dependent (4). You can also use chore time as an excuse to spend more time with them. So, make cleaning with kids fun and a part of your routine.


MomJunction’s health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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