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Teaching Children to Clean up After Themselves

By Mei Yee

One thing that can be hard to do is getting a child to clean up after themselves, leaving parents frustrated. Here are some things I have learned to do to help them;

Make it a game! If they need to put toys in their designated bin or toy box, let them have fun and toss them in. Or if they still aren’t interested, help them and challenge them (friendly competition, of course). I have done the “can you get more in the box than mommy?” And for my girls, that is typically all it takes for them to speed up and get the toys in the box.

Be the example. It sounds simple, as kids do learn from watching their parents. I have not always been an excellent example with the mentality of “I can do it tomorrow.” Then the mess tomorrow is bigger, and I want to ignore it even more. But it would have been less work to clean up right away. (That is a phrase I can hear my mother saying). Then I see my girls doing the same thing, and then I have to remind them until they clean up the mess. I get frustrated about it, but I have to stop and remember they learned that from me.

If there is that rare moment where they come to you and ask if they can help. Do not turn them down! You may never hear that question again if you do (speaking from personal experience), even if it is minor things like emptying the bathroom trash or wiping down the table. If you go to them and ask for help after you turned them down, you might hear, "I asked you, and you said no." And then it may be a struggle to get them up and clean something, again speaking from personal experience.

I try to teach my children that they live here too and make messes. That we need to help each other out, they will not do everything around here while I do nothing. Also, I will not be expected to do it all, but I also make sure they know that I will always be here to take care of them as their mother.


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