Mama's Little Helpers: Tips for Getting Your Children to Clean Up After Themselves

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Here's what I've learned in my almost 10-year career as a mom:

Kids are slobs.

You may be fortunate enough to count yourself among the few and lucky moms who have an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive child. I, however, am not among that elite group.


My children are the epitome of messiness.

One night before I finally retired for the evening, I looked around my downstairs and wondered, "How did I get here?" My house seemed a mess. An empty water bottle on the table, crumbs on the floor, stains on my sofa cushions, and small toys, books, and hair ties strewn about. Again, how did I get here? How have I not noticed the mess than has engulfed my home? And more importantly, what do I plan to do about it?

There was really only one solution: get the kids involved and empower them to clean up after themselves.

I essentially created these monsters by constantly picking up after them, primarily because their mess drives me mad, and it's just easier for me to do rather than ask them multiple times to pick up a little toy from the floor. Have you been there?

But now that my kids are older, 6 and almost 10, it's time for them to learn some responsibility. I can't follow them around their entire lives picking up their pieces. It was time to put a plan in place.

But because they are kids, I had to make it fun...and challenging. Taking the boredom out of cleaning up has made all the difference.

Tip #1: Time is ticking
Use a clock or a timer on your phone to set a guideline for completing a few tasks. My daughters love when I give them 15 minutes to do as much as they can. The race against the clock is completely motivating and inspiring. It worked wonders for me.

Tip #2: Make it a game
The most difficult part of clean up is that my kids don't know where to start. They become overwhelmed when they see the billowing mess. Grab a flashlight and play tag. You tag an item with the flashlight, they pick it up and put it where it belongs. It's fun and functional.

Tip #3: Put the mystery in cleaning up
Grab a basket and a sheet of paper. Write down cleaning tasks on the paper and cut them into strips. Fold and place in the basket. Some examples of tasks might be "pick crayons off the floor", "put away all stuffed animals", "put dirty laundry in hamper", "put combs and brushes into the basket". Have your child choose a slip of paper and complete the task.

How do you motivate your children to clean up after themselves? Please share a tip if you've got one. :)

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