"Julie! I told you to pick up those toys an hour ago. Why are they still there?" If you have young kids and this sounds familiar, all you need is a bit of routine and a dose of fun. As a long-time parent, I know full well that not all kids enjoy cleaning. Some see cleaning as a source of enjoyment. But if that's not your child, you are not alone. When young kids won't clean, it may be time for a new plan. Here are some of the things I have found effective over the years.
Make a chore chart. This helps with organization and also serves as a good reminder and source of motivation. For young kids who can't read, use pictures to depict each chore, rather than words. This way, your child can translate the chart without assistance. Young kids often thrive on independence. At least, that's how all of my kids were when they were small. Therefore, a chore chart they can use without the help of a parent may yield the best results. It also sets the pattern for kids to become responsible for their own actions.
Offer incentive. It's not fair to expect the kids to complete tasks without some kind of incentive. While teaching kids to do some things without being compensated is good, when it comes to chores, I prefer to reward my kids when possible. I leave learning about being unselfish to things like helping others without being asked. We have an elaborate chore chart system that also combines allowance earnings. You may choose to develop another system. Good incentive for young kids could be anything from money to special healthy treats, stickers, and more.
Make it fun. Young kids may not always enjoy cleaning. But they may not think of it as a chore if you make it something fun. We like to dance while cleaning or have cleanup and put away races. Making games out of cleaning up can reduce the grueling effect cleaning up may have on some kids. There's no reason not to make it an enjoyable experience for them and it may set a life pattern of seeing the fun in everything.
Get organized. Sometimes young kids don't clean up because there is no exact place for each item. If there's nowhere obvious to store their items, young kids will be happy with them being on the floor. After all, they can see all their toys that way. Devising an organizational plan that still allows the kids to easily see and grab their items has always helped in our family.
Don't stress. It's easy to panic when your child has thrown everything she owns onto the floor and refuses to pick it up. But as the parent, you should be the calm voice of reason and understanding. Remember that while it can be frustrating, it can be turned around with a little effort. At the end of the day, it is just a mess and not the end of the world. It will get cleaned up when you instruct your child on cleaning and instill some sort of routine.
Be consistent. This is the most important part of any routine you decide to go with. As long as you stick to what is relayed to your child, it will get done. My kids have always been better at cleaning when I make sure they clearly follow my instructions and the routine I lay out. You can't tell them something one day and ignore it or say something else the next. Otherwise, all that happens is they get confused and the room doesn't get clean.
More from Lyn:
Why is My Child's Room so Messy?
Can a House with Kids Be Too Clean?
5 Must-Have Items for Organizing a Kid’s Bedroom
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