4 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Help Clean Up

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Does your preschooler refuse to help clean up?  Do you find yourself wondering how in the world am I supposed to keep my house clean with all these toys everywhere? Are you searching for a way to get your kids to help keep your house clean?

If you answered YES!, then you are in the right place!

My kids love to play with their toys, but they weren’t always great at cleaning up after themselves. I would always tell them to pick up their toys, but then that usually dissolved into tears or a power struggle.  No fun for anyone.

I’ve come up with some pretty successful ideas to get my girls to help with the clean up. I currently use all of these methods in varying degrees and they really do work.

So, stop the power struggles, stop the tears, and stop the frustration.  Get comfy and let’s solve this clean up issue!

Here are four ways that I have had success keeping my house clean with kids and getting my kids to clean up after themselves….

Kids love to clean up to their favorite songs

Clean Up Tip #1: Three Song Pick Up

This can really be any number of songs, but we do three in our house because it’s long enough that you can actually get stuff picked up, but not too long where they kids start complaining.

Basically, it goes like this…

I let them know that we need to do “three song pick up” in a little bit.  Then, when it’s time, we each get to pick one song and we clean up while the songs play.  Letting the girls pick the songs helps with getting them to be excited about it and “buy in” without complaining.  I mean, isn’t cleaning more fun for you when you get to pick the songs?  Same goes for your kids.

When we do the Three Song Pick Up, I either give each girl an area to focus on or a specific category if we are all doing the same room.  This helps them stay out of each other’s way and not fight over who was picking up what first.

So, sometimes I might tell my oldest to pick up train table area an my middle to do the kitchen toys and I will do the living room floor.  Or, if we are all doing the living room floor (because sometimes it just needs more than one person, right?!), then maybe my oldest will do the books and my middle will do the baby dolls and I will do the random clothes that always seem to be there.

Set a timer for clean up cooperation

Clean Up Tip #2: Set a Timer

Or, better yet, let them set a timer!  I don’t know about your kids, but mine are so much more likely to be willing to help when they have a say in how it’s done.  You could let them set the timer on your phone or just set a kitchen timer.

I generally don’t make my girls clean up for more than five or six minutes at a time.  It doesn’t sound like a long time, but it really is plenty long to be effective.  And it’s not long enough where they lose interest or start whining.  You don’t want to be in the middle of cleaning up and they start in with the “Are we done yet?” because that just ruins the mood.

Sometimes my girls both want to set the timer.  Fine, I just let one go first and have her set it for a smaller amount of time.  Then, the second kid gets to set it again once it goes off.  They almost always like to pick their own “alarm” sound.  Let them do it.  It doesn’t matter and they are much more likely to clean up if they get to have their say.

Have patience if your kids don't just as soon as you ask

Clean Up Tip #3: Don’t Insist on Immediate Obedience (have patience)

This is the toughest one, I’m not going to lie!  I mean, wouldn’t it be great if every time we spoke or asked something of our children they just jumped right up and did it?!

What, that doesn’t happen in your house, you say?

Yeah, mine, either.

But, what you have to realize is that just because you noticed the sudden need for the Legos to be picked up RIGHT.NOW. doesn’t mean that your child is available right at that moment.  They might look like they are available because they are just sitting and coloring, but to them it’s something really important that they are doing.

So, to avoid the power struggle and the “No, come here right now and pick them up because I said so”, try letting them finish their activity and then pick up the Legos (or whatever).

I like to use “when you’re done that color, please pick up the Legos.”

or something like that.  Let them finish their immediate activity and then complete the task you asked them to do.

Something that was really an eye opener for me was when I realize I often say “Ok, I’ll be there in a minute.” when my kids ask me to do something.  So, obviously they learned the whole hey I’m busy right now, gimme a sec from yours truly.

Related Posts: Caterpillar Number Match Activity

I know, do as I say, not as I do, right? Yes, but if you are always telling your kids to wait, then it might be a good idea to have a little patience with them if they are doing it, too.  Just sayin’

Give kids a choice when cleaning up

Clean Up Tip #4: Give Them a Choice

Kids love to feel like they are in control.  And so often, they are not in control, that it is great to give them the opportunities as they come up.  Letting kids make decisions also helps them grow into good decision makers later in life.

There are a couple ways you can give your kids choices when it comes to cleaning up.

You can let your child decide between two different chores.  I do this a lot with my girls.

Ok, we have to get the living room floor, the bar stools, and the pink room cleaned up.  You each pick one and I’ll do the other.

Then, each girl gets to “decide” what she is going to do and she feels like she is the big decision maker and is much more likely to cooperate.

Another way you can give kids some control over cleaning up is when they clean up.  This one is a little trickier because almost always they opt to put it off, then it becomes another struggle later.

But, you can ask

Do you want to pick up the living room floor now or after we get back from running errands?

Usually my girls choose after (delay, delay, delay!!), but then I try to remember to add something like Ok, but no complaining when it’s time or there will be no bedtime show. Or something like that.

Suggested Reading:

It is Possible for Kids to Clean Up without a Struggle

Kids are humans, too, so some days they are more helpful than others – just like adults.  But, it is possible to keep your house clean and get the kids to help you keep it clean.  I hope you found these ideas useful – they have been really successful with my girls!

Your turn!  What are some ways you get your kids to help clean up without a struggle?  Leave your tips in the comments below.

And be sure to save this post for the next time your child doesn’t want to clean up!

get your kids to help clean up after themselves with these tips

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