It is true – children are brilliant at making a mess and less than stellar at cleaning it up. Life is all about having fun and let’s face it, cleaning is not fun. Many parents lament the lack of effort their children put into cleaning up, but the key is to get them while they are young. Like teaching a child anything new at a young age, keep it fun.
In the age where both parents work fulltime and the time of mum the house maid is a theme from a 50s Sunday afternoon movie, most parents want their kids to be self-reliant and responsible.
Yet, the challenge in the age of helicopter parents, reluctant to let their little one has to bear to much pain in their young life, on how to do this and still allow the child to be a child. But they have to learn how to clean up and look after themselves because they are not going to be your little one forever.
Add some music and boogie
The key word is ‘age appropriate’. No one expects a two-year-old to give the house a Martha Stewart once over, but at this age, you can get down on the floor with them, sing a great clean up song (remember make it fun) and make cleaning up the mess fun. Add in some groovy moves and their fav song, and the blocks and puzzles are packed away quick smart.
Make it a contest
As children get older – around five and six – they like to race around everywhere, so using a clock or siblings, create a fun content for who gets the toys in the toy box first or tidies their room quickest. The prize could be an extra book at bedtime or a game one-on-one with mum or dad.
Not just the one time
Repetition is the key to building skills and habit. For little ones, getting into the habit of tidying up and helping around the house will lay the foundations to life long good habits. There are many ways to make this happen – chart on the fridge door or use one of the handy calendar apps on a smart device to remind your child that it is time to clean up. It is never too early to get kids to help with the laundry, they can use a soaking bucket to carry their clothes to the laundy.
Use household items
Little people have little hands. It can take a long time to clean up a stock of blocks, cars or bits and bobs off the floor, ferrying them back and forth to the toy box or their room. If they are picking up toys that are a bit sticky or dirty, use something like a Strucket - a combined bucket and strainer to put the toys in for a dip in some warm soapy water. This job is teaching them two things – picking up after themselves and caring for their belongings.
How you frame it
Like any human, it is all in the way you frame the request. As parents, we can get a bit tired and frazzled, especially when our precious is not listening to us. Avoid raising your voice, asking them to clean up (don’t frame the request as a question) and creating a power struggle. If you tap into the tips above, clean up time will become the norm and fun.