We all know that life with a toddler is never boring– they keep you on your toes! But with all that fun comes a lot of cleanup. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re putting away toys just as your toddler dumps out a new box of toys to play with—the work of a parent is never done!
Thankfully, by the time toddlers are 3 or 4 years old, they are capable of helping put their toys away. The trick is to make the task manageable rather than overwhelming. Here are some tips to help teach your kids to clean up their messes.
- Set a good example by explaining what you are doing while you clean up.
- Use toy boxes without lids for your child for easy access.
- Pick certain times of the day to clean up, for example: prior to transitioning to a new activity; before mealtime; or before leaving the house.
As morning snack approaches, give your toddler a 5 minute warning that playtime is almost finished and that he/she is going to need to clean up very soon. When the timer goes off, calmly tell your child to start picking up, and be as specific as possible: “It’s time to stop coloring, could you please put your supplies in the box for me?”
If possible, keep the job small or break it into easier chunks. Also, give a choice: “Do you want to put away the markers or the paint?” You are giving a choice between two things that need to be put away, and your child will feel like she is in control.
If, after 10-15 seconds, they aren’t winding down their play and starting to clean up, acknowledge their feelings and make the request again. Let them know what’s next: “I know you would rather keep coloring, but it’s time to put the markers away. When we’re done cleaning up we can have lunch. We’re having cheese sandwiches—your favorite!”
You might think it’s easier to just clean up after your child yourself—for sure it’s quicker! But cleaning up is an important life skill that will serve your children well as they move to school. If your toddler struggles with listening to you when you ask them to clean up, guide them through the steps.
We at Little Academy Nursery always ensure that children are responsible for tidying up after themselves. It is just as important that you work hand in hand with your child at home to foster their independence and sense of responsibility.