Cleaning with Kids

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  • Cleaning with Kids 1 of 13

    Cleaning with Kids Your living room is a mess, and you’ve spent half the morning chasing a tiny tornado through the house. How do you teach your two-year-old to tidy up after himself already? Before you trample on another block tower, try these tips for helping your tot tidy up.

  • Cleaning with Kids 2 of 13

    Have realistic expectations.

    Have realistic expectations. Your toddler is capable of following rules and understanding basic order and he has gross motor skills, but he’s still little! If you’re hoping he’ll sort all of the game pieces and put them back in the correct boxes, you’re in for a big disappointment. Try something simple like, “Let’s get all the trains off the floor and into this bin.”

  • Cleaning with Kids 3 of 13

    Be prepared for setbacks.

    Be prepared for setbacks. Tantrums happen. It’s just part of learning how to do something you don’t want to do. You’ll probably do the bulk of the work the first few times. Also, know that you will find a Lego in your rain boot — the hard way.

  • Cleaning with Kids 4 of 13

    Don’t ask, tell (politely).

    Don’t ask, tell (politely). If you ask your child if she’s ready to clean up, you can be pretty sure the answer will be “no.” Use a normal, happy but firm tone of voice and say, “Now it’s time to put the play-dough away, so we can read a story!” Highlighting a positive result of cleaning will make your child less reluctant to help.

  • Cleaning with Kids 5 of 13

    Corral the mess before it spreads.

    Corral the mess before it spreads.  Keep play areas contained to a small(ish) locale, like a particular rug or corner of the room. If you are consistent in this, your child will eventually learn to keep the mess there, too, and it won’t be so overwhelming to clean it up.

  • Cleaning with Kids 6 of 13

    Make it easy for her.

    Make it easy for her. Use baskets, tubs or other large, open containers to wrangle her stuff. If she can get to it easily, she’ll be more inclined to do it! If you have the space, keep these containers on the floor so she can access them without too much trouble. Low shelves and drawers are okay, too.

  • Cleaning with Kids 7 of 13

    Don’t worry too much about “getting it right” at this age.

    Don’t worry too much about “getting it right” at this age.  Your child will be able to understand general sorting (books go in the green bucket, cars go in the yellow one), but more complicated categories can be confusing. If you’re missing a puzzle piece, look in the doll bucket, and don’t think about it too much. And just know that things will get broken, mislaid and sticky.

  • Cleaning with Kids 8 of 13

    Set a goal.

    Set a goal.  Nothing will get a toddler to clean up more readily than knowing something even more exciting looms on the horizon! Let him know that he can’t move onto the next activity until this one is all cleaned up.

  • Cleaning with Kids 9 of 13

    Make it a game.

    Make it a game. See how creative you both can get with putting things away. Can your son “sneeze” the ball into the basket? Can the dolls dance back into the dollhouse? Who can get the crayons back in the tub first? Your kid won’t even realize what he’s doing!

  • Cleaning with Kids 10 of 13

    Learn a clean-up song.

    Learn a clean-up song.  Every daycare teacher has one! Make it short, repetitive and easy to remember (like the alphabet song). You’ll be amazed at the Pavlovian response.

  • Cleaning with Kids 11 of 13

    Give a short countdown.

    Give a short countdown. And think about starting at 3 minutes before clean-up time. If you sing the countdown, it’s even more effective (“3 more minutes for us to play, before we start to clean up,” to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”).

  • Cleaning with Kids 12 of 13

    Lead by example.

    Lead by example.  Show your child how to clean up, expect her help, but don’t just do it for her! It can be frustrating to get a toddler to understand the concept, but if you give up and do it for her every time, why would she bother to do it herself?

  • Cleaning with Kids 13 of 13

    Repeat, repeat, repeat!

    Repeat, repeat, repeat! As with anything your toddler learns, repetition is key. Be consistent, be patient, and be aware of your child’s limits. If you make cleaning up a part of daily activity, she’ll just incorporate the idea (eventually).

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