Clobber the Clutter with Kids
The endless battle:
How to keep your home clean when you have young children, that is the question (and it's a darn good one). Luckily, there is an answer!
The battle between a clean home and the child's desire to have fun has been going on for ages. So what can you do to keep your house clean when you have efficient mess makers running a muck? Those wild little tornadoes that seem to be able to undo your hard work in a fraction of the time it took you to get it all put back together are experts at pressing that last cleaning nerve.
Look no further. Help is here! With these fabulous tips and tricks you'll not only have a cleaner house, you'll have helpers to keep it that way!
Step 1: Get Organized!
When a child knows where things go they are more likely to put it back! The easiest way to do this is by separating your toys into sections. Keep your child's toys on shelves or in bins to help with this. You could just shove everything in a big toy-box or stuff it all under the bed, but that wouldn't help keep your child's toys in good working order or prevent them from being lost or broken.
Label your shelves and/or totes clearly with what belongs in (or on) them. You can clip pictures from magazines, print some off the computer, or draw your own. As long as your child can identify what the picture it and it matches. For an educational bonus, print or type the words to go under the picture. This will help with word recognition. Examples of shelf or bin labels includes:
By placing a photo of the toy type for each bin, your child can look and identify where it goes. There is no overwhelming confusion. Your child will know exactly where the toy goes when it is done being played with.
Step 2: Rules to Play by
One of the best rules that parents can learn from school, preschool, or daycare environments is the "one toy at a time" rule. Clear and simple: You play with one toy at a time, put it away before you take out a new one.
This is a tricky one to get started, especially if it's new to you and your child. The argument may (or should I say will) come up "But I want to play with my dolls and my ponies" or "But I want to play with my cars and my blocks". It's perfectly acceptable to let your child play with more than one thing at a time, as long as he/she knows that before any new toys come out, those ones get put back.
It is a shift between the "dump and run" style of playing, to a more organized style. By picking up the toys they are finished with before taking out new ones, there is more room for them to keep playing and having fun!
Step 3: Make Cleaning Up a Game!
When it's time to clean up it doesn't have to be the end of the fun. In fact, the more fun cleaning up is, the more often your child will want to do it. You might even catch your child cleaning when you didn't even ask! Why? Because it isn't a "chore" anymore, it's a game!
When cleaning up blocks you could try things like:
- Can you find all of the red ones first? Great! Now how about all of the yellow ones?
- How many blocks can you pick up before I finish singing the ABC's? Ready, set, go!
- I see four blue blocks, can you find all four of them?
- Let's find all of the square blocks first! Can you find any square blocks?
- I'm going to close my eyes and count to 10, I bet you can't find 10 blocks before I'm finished counting. Ready, set, go! You did it! Let's do it again and see how many you find this time.
Step 4: Make a checklist
Create a checklist for your child so they know exactly what is expected of them when you utter the ultra scary, overwhelming words... "Clean your room".
Checklists are a great way to help your child succeed in cleaning up after themselves. They can gauge their progress with each little check or X they put on the finished tasks. It also gives them the freedom to decide which thing they want to do first or last. Checklists are very empowering little buggers. Kids love them (parents do too).
For more detailed instructions on how to create and use a checklist, check out:
Step 5: Expand the Horizon
Getting your child to help pick up his/her own toys or room is just the beginning! Don't limit yourself. Children love to pitch in and help around the house when it is presented in a fun manner. Get creative.
For chores around the house (other than their bedroom or playroom) try these nifty little ideas:
- Put chores on small pieces of paper and let them draw it out of a hat or bag.
- Create a reward chart so they can work toward earning a special privilege.
- Have the sink ready with hot, soapy water so they can wash their dishes after finishing a meal (or rinse it off so it can go in the dishwasher).
- Make an apron with their name on it that they can wear while cleaning. Dress up is fun!
- Have a race to see who can finish their chore first.
- Put on some fun music; dance and sing while doing chores together.
The possibilities are endless. The key ingredient to getting any child to want to help clean and/or pick up after themselves is to have fun.
Extra (sneaky) Trick:
Children have fantastic imaginations and love to play make believe games. You can use this to your advantage. After you've finished getting any room in the house just the way you want it, tell the kids you're playing a game. The goal of the game is to keep the room as clean as possible for as long as possible. If you mess the room up, you lose. If you keep the room clean for the rest of the day, you win!
Pretend that you're royalty. Encourage the kids to dress up if they like doing that sort of thing. You're in a palace and you're awaiting the arrival of a very important guest who judges castles! You really want to win the judging contest.
Now, the kids are all in on this game. They are walking around with their pinkies in the air, talking in goofy accents, pretending to be snooty princesses and/or princes. Slip away and change into something ridiculous. Put on your best snooty voice and announce that you are the judge who has come to look at the palace.
If there are things that are out of place, say "Oh, my my, I'm not sure about this. Prince Hawkaloogy had all of his books on the shelf facing the same way." Scribble something down in your imaginary notebook. (The kids will probably rush over to straighten the books).
Give a little sniff with your nose in the air, "No, no, no, this will never do. Princess Iwannasingasong had all of her couch pillows fluffed. Yes, they were very fluffy indeed."
At the end of the "judging" announce that you've made your decision and that this castle is by far the cleanest, most delightful one you've visited and that it has the most enchanting children you've ever met. Excuse yourself and return as yourself, then ask how the judging went. Ask the kids if they will tell you about it over "tea" ~ which could be anything you want to serve as a snack.... They will LOVE it!