10 ideas for helping your kids clean up their own messes

I have a friend that never cleans her playroom with the kids.  She says she might go down and organize it once a year or so.  She said the kids still go down and play and just make the mess worse and worse, but they never clean up.  She said generally you can't walk into her playroom because there are toys everywhere.

I too have a messy playroom often, but I go down and clean it every week at least.  It gets so bad in a week that I have to go down or the kids have no room to play.

I think kids actually play better in a clean environment.  I would like it if my children did a better job cleaning up their own messes.  I think it is something kids need and must develop.  I wish I was better at making them do the work since often I am the one cleaning up messes.  I am a bit of an organization queen so I feel if I do the work it will be done right.

I have been busy lately with trying to blog, and playing with the kids that our playroom became the ultimate nightmare:
This is not all the kids fault.  I get lazy and just put things down at the bottom of the stairs instead of putting it away.  
After three hours the play room was clean and in no time had children wanting to play in it again.  I find kids play much better in a clean environment.  Keeping things neat and organized will help them to want to play and be creative.

I am definitely not an authority on getting kids to do their own work as you can see from the first picture, but I do have a few tricks that do work.  Consistency is the key and where I always fall short.

Keeping Kids Spaces Clean:

  1. Daily 10 minute clean up time.  Most parents have a bedtime ritual.  We certainly do.  Adding a 10 minute clean up time to your bedtime ritual will help keep the messes to a minimum.  
  2. Get an egg timer.  I tell my kids they have X amount of time to clean up their room.  After the timer goes off anything that I clean up is mine and is taken away.  They can earn these things back with "mommy dollars" that they earn for doing chores.  I have on occasion taken things away permanently which is even a better lesson, but hard for me because I tend to be attached to my kids' toys.
  3. Have a place for everything and label the box or bin with pictures so the kids know where things go.
  4. Give children small assignments. For example, I assign James to clean up the legos and Ally to find all the polly pockets.  When those are done I give each of them another assignment.  I find my children clean up better with specific small tasks other than just saying, "clean up your playroom."  
  5. Have a rule about how many toys can be out at a time. I say that only one toy box per child.  If they want to play with something else they need to put away their first toy.  This doesn't always work.  For a few days my kids are conscience and good about this and then they get lazy unless I am right there playing with them.  
  6. Have a clean room checklist. Kids may not know what clean to you means. My kids think throwing all their blankets on their bed is clean.  I had to show them how to make their bed, put their stuffed animals on it neatly, etc.  Make a checklist of all the things you find important for a clean room.  You could even put a checklist on a small note card and give it to your child so they can check off everything you expect them to do to get the room clean.  
  7. Model the behavior yourself. Your kids are not going to want to be clean if you don't clean up your own messes.  Even telling your child you are cleaning up after yourself will help them.  The next time you take your plate to the sink after dinner say, "I am all finished with my dinner so I am taking my plate and cup to the sink."  Kids love to mimic us and if started at an early age you may find that they will pick up on these behaviors.
  8. Know it won't be perfect.  Training a child to be a clean person takes time and practice.  If you have your children help with chores you may find it isn't done as well as you would do it yourself.  Let go of all the control.  It is good for your child to have some autonomy in how they clean.  Teach them how to do it and then let a few things slide. My kids clean our bathrooms.  They actually scrub the tub better than I do.  I do find however that they don't wipe the mirror as nice as I could so I just do it over a little bit later or invite them to try again.  It is more important that children learn to help with a chore than to have your home magazine clean every time.  
  9. Play music.  I always put music on while I work. My kids love kids bop. It helps them to feel happy as they clean up their messes to have vibrant fun music on.  With young kids we sing the clean up song from Barney and it is amazing how they all start working when the song is sung.
  10. Give an amount of toys to clean up.  Invite each kid to find twenty things out of place to clean up.  If this is done every few hours in a day the house will stay much neater. 
Teaching your kids to clean is a service to them.  If kids aren't taught, how will they know.  Let your child learn to do dishes, clean windows, scrub the tub, and clean up their rooms.  If we do it all for them they will grow up to be slobs and not know.   I find starting young is best.  All of my children have wanted to do chores.  They are still young and it is fun to them.  I haven't hit the teenage years yet when I am sure all this is much harder to do.  Start young to instill good behaviors for when they are older and more resistant.

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Creative Jewish Mom
No Time For Flashcards


  1. I am almost phobic of mess and chaos. As soon as I think my toddlers are getting bored of the current activity, I start clapping my hands and singing the clean-up song! It doesn't work 100% of the time, and certainly not all of my kids listen, but they know when I start doing that what I want to happen. Some of the kids start clapping and singing that song when they're bored haha.

  2. Lots of great tips! I know that if I let the toy room get too messy the kids get overwhelmed and will not clean up anything but if we pick up more than once a day the messes are smaller and they don't complain as much.

  3. I love your suggestions, especially the clean room checklist. This was a great post!

    I'm new to your blog and I'll be often!


  4. We struggle with this at our house. Great tips. thanks!

  5. I love this post. Thanks! :)


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