Teach Your Kids to Clean Up Their Own Messes (5 Tips from Experienced Moms)
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Is it really possible to teach kids how to clean up their own messes?
I'm still working on this with my own children. I have a lot of things that I work hard to implement, but I wanted some experienced “been there, done that” moms to speak out so I could make sure I was on the right track. Thankfully a lot of you chimed in on Facebook with what has worked for you.
I've compiled it all here into a (hopefully) logical format for the benefit of all of us younger mothers. You know as well as I do how quickly the messes appear! Teaching kids to clean up their own messes will not only save heaps of time in our own homes, but it will also help our children become responsible adults with good habits that will greatly help them to achieve harmony in their own families.
1. Start teaching them early.
Teaching children from the get-go how to clean up their own messes makes it so much easier later on down the road! From the moment they are able to make a mess, they can be taught how to clean it up. My children have all been able to throw away trash and put toys in a basket or bin beginning right around age one.
Little ones can understand more than we sometimes give them credit for! Tell your child, “Put it in the trash can” while gently holding their hand and helping them drop it in. They will get the hang of it very quickly.
2. Stay consistent.
This one is tough if you are expecting immediate results. You won't. Anything worth having takes time, and if you want a child who knows how to clean up his own messes, you'll have to take the time to teach him how. And you'll have to stick it out to see that he does it every single time. If your child is old enough to do a craft, he is old enough to put the supplies back in the box. If he can cut up the construction paper into itty bitty pieces, he can vacuum all the pieces that fell on the floor. Don't do it for him, even if it would be faster for you to do it yourself.
Developing routines can also help kids get in the habit of cleaning up after themselves. If you have them make their bed every single day as soon as they get up, it will become second nature to them. If you always have them straighten up their room right before they go to bed, it will (hopefully someday, eventually) become a habit. (I'm still waiting for this to happen. Just being real here.)
If there are consequences for failing to clean up after themselves, kids can get the hang of things very quickly! Toys left all over their bedroom floor? Take them away for a week and see how well they remember to put them away next time! On the flip side, be sure to reward any effort they're making to implement good habits. (I noticed you made your bed every day this week without being told! I think that calls for a second helping of dessert for you!)
3. Make it easy
Make cleaning up as easy as possible and it will help your child tremendously. If there is a huge mess, children can get overwhelmed very easily and give up because it looks too hard or they don't know where to start. (We adults do the same thing, don't we?)
Here are some ways to help make cleaning up easier for them:
- Don't give them too much stuff in the first place. The less they have, the less they can scatter everywhere.
- Don't let them get out another toy until the first one is put away. This goes along with the point about consistency. It's important to help your child develop good habits.
- Sometimes things get out of hand: the aftermath of a playdate, a day out of routine, etc. When there's a gigantic mess, help them focus on one small area at a time. (Put all the books on the shelf; now put the army men in the container; etc.)
- Have a specific place for everything. Make it clear where things go. Use labels. If they can't read, label with pictures.
- Use baskets and bins so they can put everything away quickly and easily.
- For messes beyond toys, keep the appropriate cleaning supplies at their level so they can easily access what they need. I keep large towels handy for them to wipe up spills as well as some non-toxic cleaner and rags.
I also like to let my oldest (he's 7) vacuum the floors. It's a huge help because there is constantly a nice collection dirt, crumbs, and tiny bits of paper on the floor. With a baby in the house who puts everything in her mouth, it's a priority to keep all that cleaned up. (Not to mention it doesn't exactly look beautiful to have a filthy floor.)
After 8 years of using the same vacuum, though, it was time for a little upgrade. A quick trip to Walmart remedied that situation and I found myself with the Eureka Suction Seal 2.0 . (Read all the way to the bottom of this post to see what I think of it.)
4. Lead by example.
(What was I saying about making the bed?) Seriously, how can you expect your children to clean up their own messes when your own room is always a mess? And don't be afraid to jump in and help when they have their own messes to clean up. Doing it for them and helping them are two different things.
5. Make it fun
Getting frustrated, yelling or acting like a slave driver are not the best ways to help kids get their work done. Make it fun instead. Have a race to see who can put 10 things away the fastest. Or race the timer to see if they can clean their room before the timer goes off.
Speaking of fun, my kids thought I had gone crazy when I told them we were going to break in our new vacuum the other night. I gave them a bowl of flour and let them throw it all over their room. You can see the whole video on instagram.
So, how do we like it?
Well, you know that silly little meme about vacuuming the same piece of paper over and over?
I didn't have to do that with the Eureka Suction Seal 2.0!
The Suction Seal technology consists of special plates that raise and lower against the surface maintaining suction and seal without scattering debris.
Also, the Air Speed technology uses a wide tube of air with minimal bends and twists that allows air to move freely across a shorter and more direct path.
You can see a video of it in action here.
I have a combo of carpet and wood floors in my house, so it's really nice to have a button that I can push with my foot to switch back and forth between the two.
And THIS. This, my friends is a retractable cord. Love! No more winding.
It's easy enough for my 7 year old to use it and powerful enough that when he runs it over the floor too quickly it still sucks up the mess. (Let me just tell you; he had a blast with this photo shoot. Dumping flour on the floor? Playing with mom's new vacuum? He was all too happy to help!)
Although normally $148.88 (which is totally worth it in my opinion), it's actually on rollback throughout the month of November for $129.00. Definitely worth considering if you're in the market for a new vacuum. I love that it has all the attachments too.
So which of these tips for teaching kids to clean up their own messes do you think you need to work on the most?