Does your preschooler’s bedroom look like a disaster zone? While it may be unreasonable to expect 4 year-olds to keep their belongings organized 24/7, it’s also important to teach children that they bear some responsibility for cleaning up their own messes. If your preschooler is reluctant (or flat-out refusing) to put away his toys, try these five methods that other Circle of Moms members use to get their kids to clean up after themselves.
1. Make it a Game
Whether you sing songs or race against time, making cleaning fun can really motivate your preschooler. As Crystal L. shares: “Make it a game...see how fast he can pick up all his cars...time him and then he gets a small reward, or make it a race.” Tiffany G. agrees: “We sing while picking up toys or we race to see who can get it done faster.”
2. Be Specific
“'Clean your room’ is likely to be overwhelming for a little kid, especially if it's really messy,” Sylvia H. advises. Instead, make cleaning easier for kids by isolating specific tasks: “You'll have a lot better luck if you break down the job into smaller tasks ('Okay, first pick up all the Legos. Good! Now pick up all the dirty clothes and let's go put them in the hamper. Wow, look how much floor you can see now! Okay, now you can pick up either the Transformers or the K'Nex. Which do you want to do first? etc.')."
3. Sticker Charts
Other moms motivate their children to clean by using a reward system, such as a sticker chart. As Karen N. relayed: “We tried sticker chart rewards, they worked very well. Every time he cleans his room he gets a sticker, after 20 stickers he gets something he wants. If he does not clean, he loses stickers.”
4. Pare Down Toys
Another easy way to simplify clean-up is to restrict the number of toys your child can even get their hands on. As Atia C. shares of her 4 year-old daughter: “What we try to do… is limit how much "stuff" she has in her room. She has a lot of toys so we rotate them out, not just let her keep everything in there at once.” Cheryl D. takes a similar approach: “I have had luck with my daughter by weeding out her toys. The less she has the less of a mess there is.”
5. Hide Toys that Aren’t Cleaned Up
If your child is being especially stubborn about refusing to clean, some moms suggest emphasizing that playing with toys is a privilege directly related to cleaning them up, and that there are consequences for refusing to clean. Lisa D., for example, puts toys that are not cleaned up into a garbage bag. “I get a trash bag, and make them pick up whatever is left on the floor and put it in the garbage bag. No, I do not throw the toys literally in the garbage, are you kidding? I paid money for that stuff! But, I do hide it for a while. I'm not telling you to do this, but it DOES work for my kids.”