Teaching toddlers to clean up – A guide

Toddlers are good at being able to make a large mess, and it is also like they are a walking, human tornado. Making a disaster can happen in a matter of seconds if a single area is already destroyed. These make for good reasons to start teaching your toddler how to clean up! 

The chances, however, are very high that your little one is going to think that cleaning is not a lot of fun. But, there are some ways you could try and make this a habit that aren’t as bad as they may think. Keep reading to find out more.

How To Encourage Kids to Practice Healthy Habits 

Encouraging your children to do certain actions or behaviors can be a long process. But the good news is that there are a few different ways to make this process easier for both you and your toddler. It wont take long until these activities become part of your daily routine and have a mini Mary Poppins on your hands!

Cleaning Activities for Toddlers 

There are a few different techniques that you can try with your toddler to make cleaning up more like an activity rather than a job:

  • Play some music: Set up a timer or play a song that is meant for your clean-up time.  Try to work together with your toddler to clean up the mess. With this, you can either work on the same task or divide it up into tasks, you are doing the more complicated task, and your toddler doing the easier task to see how can-do finish first. You can also make up a sing-along song that you sing together while you clean up.
  • Make it a learning game: While cleaning up, try to point out different colors or shapes of the toys to your toddle. This encourages learning while you are putting the items away. It turns cleanup time into a fun game by them seeing the cleaning process in action!

Try testing out these different strategies and see what one works best for you and your toddler and then use this activity every time you clean up.

What Are Realistic Expectations of Your Kids Assisting with Clean Up 

When you are teaching a toddler to start cleaning up you want to make sure that you have the right expectations in place. In most cases, the younger your kid is the lower your expectations need to be at the beginning of this process.  Kids need to learn from you what it is that is expected from them before they will even begin to do it themselves.

Start by Modeling at Young Age 

Starting to teach them these skills is best when they are babies and very young toddlers. If you want your kid to start putting up their toys. Stop cleaning up the toys while it is their nap time and instead make it a part of your process that you both do together. They should then become active participants in the tidying up process.

This means you have to start by showing them how to do it. Babies are going to be more likely to watch you while you are modeling the skills, whereas a toddler will have a higher chance of joining in. If at the beginning they do not start helping, give it a bit of time. The more you make the task appear natural, the higher they will join in. It is also best to not demand their help.

Make Your Expectations Clear 

Whatever you want your clean-up routine to be, make the expectation clear. Whether it is cleaning up after each project or each toy is used, cleaning up before mealtimes, or at the end of the day. 

Are they allowed to keep out big projects or creations overnight? Or are these allowed to be out overnight? Whatever you want your rules to be, make sure this expectation is set too. 

Whatever rules you set. Keep them consistent. If you have multiple children make sure that these rules are the same for each child to make it easier to understand for each of them what their role is.

Create A Routine From Start to Finish 

Pick a certain time during the day, that every day you will clean. Typical transitions are:

  • When switching to a new activity.
  • Before you transition into mealtime
  • Before leaving the house
  • Before bath time. 

Whatever time works best for you, stick with the same time, so you guys get into a rhythm of cleaning during that specified time. 

When it is approaching the time to start cleaning up it is best to give your toddler a 5-minute or 10-minute warning that their playtime is almost over, and that their cleaning time will start very soon. When the time is up, start by telling your kid that it is time to start cleaning up. 

If you are using one of the activities go ahead and start that now. Use this time to also be as specific as possible about what you want them to be cleaning up. 

While you are cleaning up, try to break up the tasks and make them so that they are manageable. During this process, you can also provide options as to what they want to tackle next. This way they are feeling like they are in control of the cleanup process.

Create Order for Each Item 

Use toy boxes or bins that do not have lids to make sure your child has easy access to putting away the toys. Have specific spots for their toys to go, so that they learn where their items belong. If possible, keep the toys in the same spot for the same reason. You can even add label bins to engage your childs awareness of characters and words. On the flip side, it also makes it easier for them to find their toys too!

Teach Toddlers Responsible Cleaning Recap 

Remember do not expect perfection. It is going to be a bit of a process depending on your child. Be sure throughout the process to give them plenty of praise for the work they do and constantly acknowledge their work to keep the motivation to keep it up. Make sure the tidying is in manageable chunks to help your child focus. As they get used to their new routine they will get a sense of accomplishment by helping you tidying up. 

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About the author
Henry is a father of 2 boys, musician and expert on all things parenting-related. As a dad, he's experienced the joys and challenges of raising children first-hand, and he's passionate about sharing his insights to help others.

Teaching toddlers to clean up – A guide

Teaching toddlers to clean up – A guide