Getting Your Toddler to Clean Up

Toddlers are often synonymous with messes, which you’ve probably realized for yourself by now. Most toddlers love spreading their toys across the floor and dumping out the contents of boxes and drawers, and while you might not appreciate the mayhem they can cause in your house, you’re going to have to accept that making a mess is part of a child’s normal development process and helps toddlers better understand how things work. While turning a room upside-down comes naturally to toddlers, cleaning up afterwards doesn’t, but here’s how you can transform your little tornado into your little helper instead:

Begin teaching your toddler to put things away as early on as possible

Building good habits takes time, and instilling such habits is easier the younger a child is. Start training your toddler to help you out by its 18th month if possible. The process will, of course, involve a good deal of prompting and help from you, the parent, before your tot grasps the concept properly. Start small and simple, like placing all toys in a single box or container, and then as your child grows and understands the concept of cleanup better, you can have it help you put away books, art supplies and other types of items in their correct location.

Remember that you’re the role model

If you want to teach your child how to be neat, then you’re going to have to demonstrate such behavior yourself on a regular basis, since children emulate their parents’ behavior. In other words, children learn by example. Make sure you don’t break the rules you’re trying to get your toddler to follow.

Make it a collaborative family effort

Young kids just love to join in when everyone is involved in a group activity, since it makes them feel like they’re an important part of the group. Remember this during cleanup times, and recruit the help of other family members to encourage your toddler to chip in.

Try to make cleaning a fun activity

Make up a cleaning song that you can sing every time you want your toddler to start cleaning up after itself. Turn cleanup time into a game to get your child in the mood. Many nurseries adopt this approach in order to teach children that cleaning is part of playing and goes hand in hand.

Take disciplinary action when you need to

Your toddler should be able to clean up after itself by the time it reaches its 3rd or 4th birthday, as it is capable of recognizing its responsibility with this regard. If your toddler refuses to help clean up, take away a privilege and explain to it that this is a direct result of its lack of cooperation, such as cancelling a trip to the park or to a friend’s house if your child refuses to clean up.