How to Teach Your Kids to Clean Up After Themselves

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A theme you may have consistently come across on raising kids is the value of teaching them independence. Being our children’s guides doesn’t mean following them around with a bucket and washcloth, ready to pick up after them or clean up all the mess they’re making.

As a mother, it’s always been a goal of mine to make my kids feel capable and independent at a young age. I know it’s common for many parents to want to coddle their kids. But if we want to impart healthy habits and practices, it doesn’t hurt to teach them how to clean up their own mess.

In fact, our kids might see it as a fun activity, and they’ll be more likely to proactively help you keep a clean and organized home. Who doesn’t want that?

Below, I’m sharing my top four favorite tips for helping my kids build the positive habit of cleaning up after themselves, which I’m sure my fellow moms will appreciate.

Let’s dive in!


1. Make Clean Ups Fun

One clever approach I’ve seen other moms do that helps kids build the habit of cleaning is to create a reward system. You can create tokens to give to your kids each time they finish the task properly, such as a gold star or a sticker of their favorite cartoon character (Disney characters are often fun for this!).

Next, you can either make a colorful “good deeds board” where they can display all the stickers they’ve earned, or you can just let your kids put them in a jar they’ve decorated themselves.

Another approach you can try, if you have more than one child you’re teaching to clean up, is to make it a race. Whoever finishes first can choose the flavor of ice cream the family gets to enjoy, or other fun similar reward ideas.

2. Be A Good Role Model

But remember that kids learn faster from copying us. So next time you’re vacuuming the floor or even just folding their clothes, try humming a tune as you go. Not only will your kids start to see the fun side of cleaning up, but you’ll also notice your mood lighten as you tap into your own inner child.

We can’t expect our kids to have fun cleaning up if we hardly ever show a smile on our faces as we’re doing the same tasks. Of course, I know that stress and exhaustion can make it extremely difficult for us to show a happy face doing the dishes or laundry. I have those days as well!


3. Create Guidelines

Kids are smart, and often incredibly naughty. If you don’t set boundaries, they’ll often think they can get away with whatever mischievous plans they can come up with.

So if you’re just starting out to teach your kids to clean up, it’s going to make it easier on them (and on you) if you create guidelines. Rules such as “no eating on the bed” or “put your dirty dishes in the kitchen sink” can create a good foundation for your child to grow up as independent and capable.

4. Be Consistent

It sounds simple, but oftentimes, we parents have trouble remaining firm on a lot of things that should remain consistent in our children’s lives. This applies to teaching kids how to clean.

Will this ensure a smooth and easy time with your kids? Definitely not. In fact, expect some tantrums and violent oppositions on days when your kids just aren’t in the mood to listen to you. But it’s still important to show them that you’re more than capable of staying consistent with your rule. It teaches them just how important cleaning is, and will eventually become a good habit for them as they grow up.

Final Words

As a mother of three beautiful yet often energetic kids, it can be hard to teach them the importance of having a clean and tidy home. But the good news is that it’s easier to teach our kids the habit of cleaning now that they’re a bit younger compared to when they hit puberty.

So, if you do find yourself having trouble keeping up with the cleaning, you’ll be happy to know that your kids can help you out with some of the lighter work!

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