We’ve all wished that the cleaning fairy would come into our home in the middle of the night and clean our child’s room. We would tuck our little one in bed with a kiss and then the next day awake them to a clean and sparkling room. Oh, thank you great fairy!
Now back to reality….it’s not going to happen and there is no “easy” button. The good news is that keeping your child’s room tidy doesn’t have to be a dreaded task for either of you. It can actually become a fun and rewarding activity for you and your child, especially if you keep things neat and organized to start.
Okay, so it may not be as great as having a cleaning fairy or Mary Poppins as your nanny, but you and your little helper can make this task a snap by using some great tips from Mrs. Clean.
Why a Clean Room is Important
The best way for your kids to keep their room clean is to teach them the values of keeping a clean room while they’re young. Clothes and toys that are scattered around the floor can be trampled and ruined, or easily carried off by the family dog. Starting young will also create healthy routines and your child will know what is expected of them.
With a little effort and endurance in the beginning, you set you child up to be a valuable helper and somewhat self-sufficient not only in cleaning their bedroom but for later household tasks. No child will be perfect, but if you don’t start when they are young, you will be nagging and picking up after them until they move out…..if they move out.
Before You Start
Do yourself and your child a huge favor. It is always easier for a child to “keep” their room clean if it is organized and clean to begin with. If your child’s bedroom looks like a disaster area then your child may not have a clear idea of what “clean” looks like…and children are visual.
Start off by making sure there’s actually a place for everything in the room to begin with. Children, as well as adults, get overwhelmed with clutter. Start with one area at a time and plan together as much as possible for their age. Let your child help make decisions that are less crucial.
Make Cleaning Fun
Make Cleaning Your child’s room a Game
I often “played” the sock matching game with my son. This is a great way to get children used to putting things in their drawers after the game is over as well as teaching matching skills. First, we would sort the big socks from the little socks and then we would match them. You can see who gets done first or do it together as a “team”. You may have to fold them after they are paired up and then your child can place them in his or her drawer.
Baskets are Easy, Boxes are Fun
You ever noticed how a child will play with a box for hours and leave the expensive toy that was inside just laying on the floor? That’s because boxes are fun and can turn into anything your child can imagine. A child sees a box as a car or a hiding place (depending on how large the box is).
If you can get the box before it’s been damaged from the kids playing with it – it can be used in the closet where items can be placed that are no longer used, clothes that are too small, books, etc.
You could call this the sharing box and when the box is full, it can be donated to the thrift center, women’s shelter, or charity. This will help teach your child the joy of giving to another child who may not be as fortunate as them. Your box can be decorated with pictures of cars, animals, or whatever makes your child happy!
Baskets are perfect for keeping rooms clean and can be used under-the-bed, in the closet, or on the top of the dresser. Baskets can also be color coded to help your kids put their toys where they belong.
Cleaning Strategies with Small Children
- Start with small specific steps: Picking up soft toys is a great place to start when kids are toddlers. You can use a laundry basket for these items. We had a “pick up” song that went along with cleaning up toys but this is totally optional! Clapping and praise works well if you are not musically inclined and your child will want to pick up their toys if you do this.
- Give them choices: Even small children like choices. Start with easy things first such as “do you want to keep your cars in this basket or the red one?”. As your child gets older, give them more choices such as where they want to begin or where they want to place some of their items. Choices are great for building a child’s self-esteem and add to the “buy in” of keeping their room clean.
- Repetition and consistency “the key”: As a child gets a little older you will want them to be self-motivated. Start by scheduling activities such as cleaning up toys before bed every night. Another excellent habit is to have them make their bed after they get up. Remember – you will have to help at first, otherwise when they take over it may not even resemble a bed that has been made. Keep in mind that the value is in the repetition and the good habit this is forming. Soon they will be able to do an activity by themselves and eventually be self-sufficient and proficient.
- Keep Your expectations realistic: Focus on their accomplishments and praise them for what they can do especially when they are just starting out. Don’t expect perfection and avoid “fixing” what they have done. Realize that they will get more proficient at each task only if you let them do it themselves. Modeling correct behavior is better than criticizing or any negative comments.
Kids Chore Charts are a great tool although you may want to call them an “activity chart”. An activity chart will help a child to visualize their tasks if you use pictures when they are young. It will also give them a sense of accomplishment when they get to check tasks off the list.
You can “reward” a child daily if they are younger; or weeklyas they get older. Some parents believe in giving a child an allowance for cleaning their room while others disagree with this method completely. However you view your child’s accomplishment, some kind of positive reinforcement is a good idea, praise is a minimum requirement.
Other forms of rewards include: letting them put a sticker on the days they do the chore or a trip to the dollar store after they have 5 stars (or check marks). Rewards can be as simple as to play a game with mom or dad after the task or a dinner out for pizza. The choice is yours – you don’t have to make this expensive or complicated.
Below is a chore chart I used with my son. Feel free to use it and change it according to your child’s age and the chores in your household. Remember to start small. You may want to delete all chores but one until your child gets the hang of things. I started with one task and added them as my child was capable of handling more responsibility.
Here’s a link to download my Kids Chore Checklist.
|Decide on breakfast & eat|
|Check school lunch menu|
|Brush teeth, comb hair & wash face|
|Fill up water bottle!!!!|
|Water outdoor plants|
|Help set the table & clear|
|Pick up room & toys|
|Brush teeth & wash face|
|Family reading night|
|Empty garbage cans inside & Take out garbage WED|
|Bring dirty clothes basket out of your room by SAT|
|Put clean clothes away|
Reaping the Reward: Your Child’s Pride and Responsibility
Teaching your child to clean their room is sometimes hard work. Especially if they are older and you’ve picked up after them thinking that you would wait until they are older. You should focus on the benefits as you are going through the learning process:
- Having children clean their own room is a good way to teach responsibility and gives a child a sense of pride and accomplishment.
- Making a habit of keeping a room clean also goes a long way when children grow up and have a home of their own to keep clean.
- The best part is that after it becomes a habit for your child….you’re job just got easier!