Stay at Home Moms

How do you get your kids to help clean up?

DS is 3 and I'm thinking it's time he take a more active role in cleaning up toys.  Basically, right now he helps when he feels like it, which isn't often.  We usually do the cleaning up because frankly we're lazy about it and it's faster if we do, but I know it's a bad habit and DS needs to learn to do it, or at least help.  

Is 3 a good/realistic age to make it routine for him to help with clean up every time?  How do we do it?  We typically do a big clean up at the end of the day after he goes to bed.  Should we start making it part of his bedtime routine to clean up?  How do we motivate him?  Thoughts on the topic? 

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Re: How do you get your kids to help clean up?

  • I would say he should be helping out at this point.  DD is even able to put away her books or legos if I help her.  Just make it part of the routine and stick with it.  Good luck!
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  • I make DS clean up whenever the mess is out if hand or if he has gotten out something with a lot of pieces like Legos or a game or his doctor kit. The best motivation is to tell him I'll time him on my phone. He runs around like a crazy person and it goes 20 times faster.
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  • KC_13KC_13
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    We started at 1.5 with both kids, even with my youngest who is pretty delayed. The clean up song works well. It goes: 

    clean up clean up

    everybody, everywhere

    clean up, clean up

    everybody do your share

    there is a million variations on the song too.

    other ideas-make it fun. Help out and race your kids. Offer incentives, like a sticker for a sticker chart and when they earn x amount of stickers they get a new toy.  

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  • Ugh... I think this is going to be a struggle.  He's not easily motivated by "games".  He typically helps when things get out of control (like something with a lot of pieces) and we try to get him to help and it's like pulling teeth.  One time he decided he would rather sit inside and pout for like an hour rather than cleaning up a few blocks so he could go outside.  He's very stubborn sometimes.  I guess we'll just have to keep at it like with anything else! 

    I think I'm most worried about trying to incorporate it leading up to bedtime.  I feel like it's going to turn into a struggle that causes bedtime drama.  I guess we could do it a little earlier, but I feel like there probably needs to be a deadline there.  Like, if you clean up nicely before bedtime he could have a sticker or something.  If he doesn't do it then he has to go straight to bed without any stories?  I already know how this will turn out for a while...  

    ETA: So, for example, let's say at 7.30pm I set a timer for 10 mins and said he needed to clean up during that time (with our help).  What if he just blew it off and he didn't do it?  What would you do in that situation?  Time out and try again?  Straight to bed?   

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  • By 3 I'd definitely think some kind of chores would be set up and expected. Hadley just turned 2 and has been responsible for helping tidy up toys for months, she knows exactly what I'm asking and even though she doesn't always want to do it, I let her know that we're not doing xyz until it's done. 

    She also has responsibilities when it's time to eat, she has to go get the guys and tell them it's time for supper. She mostly enjoys doing it but at times she will refuse to do so and I just remind her that she needs to hurry and do it so we can all eat together. I think it is super important for even small kids to have jobs. 


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  • image Hav=Fath:

    She also has responsibilities when it's time to eat, she has to go get the guys and tell them it's time for supper. She mostly enjoys doing it but at times she will refuse to do so and I just remind her that she needs to hurry and do it so we can all eat together. I think it is super important for even small kids to have jobs. 

    He likes to help me with chores, but he doesn't have any specifically assigned to him or anything.  Like, we make the beds together, he helps switch over laundry, he likes to help cook, he'll hold the dustpan while I sweep, etc.  But basically it has to be something he's interested in :/   

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  • Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc.

    Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.
    CJ :-)
  • DS1 is much better at helping now that he's five - we don't have to actively clean with him to get him to do it. That being said, cleaning as a part of bedtime routine has always worked for us. And he might just help for some of it, but meh, he's three. 

    When you clean, you can ask him specifically what toy he's going to pick up (after you tell him what you're going to pick up), or you can pick something up, and then see if he can find the same one, something that's the same color, etc. Make it playful! 

     

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  • We just ask him to do little things now like pick up Legos. While we rush to stuff everything else away.

    Sweeping up and cleaning up spills etc. we just always had him
    Help so he knows to get out rag etc.
  • image cjcouple:
    Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc. Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.

    I really don't know, just asking. Is there an age that making each chore a game should not be done so frequently? I can't help but think that at some age kids should learn that it's expected to pitch in and help with what you can with the family without it having to be fun for them. I'm not saying there is an age or if this is the case at all, just asking if I'm crazy for wondering it. 


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  • image Hav=Fath:

    image cjcouple:
    Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc. Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.

    I really don't know, just asking. Is there an age that making each chore a game should not be done so frequently? I can't help but think that at some age kids should learn that it's expected to pitch in and help with what you can with the family without it having to be fun for them. I'm not saying there is an age or if this is the case at all, just asking if I'm crazy for wondering it. 

    I still blare music and dance around when dusting and vacuuming, so.... not for me ;)

    Seriously, though, I don't think there's ever an age that you can't try and make it fun. But with my boys (4 and 6), when they refuse the offer of a fun way, they're still required to do it or there are consequences. I don't think it makes us more lax that we try to make things as appealing as possible (when we can) because they know that it's not negotiable to do the job.


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  • We sing the clean-up song which often works. We don't really make it a game. We just make it a matter-of-fact sort of thing, like "alright, time to clean toys so we can get ready for bed." It's part of the routine. I find that with my DD when I make something a big deal, she's often less inclined to do it. It's like she's on to me. Just a thought.

    This is totally unhelpful for you at this point, but maybe helpful for your DD, when she was younger and just discovering taking things in and out of boxes is when I started having her help "clean up" and giving her lots of praise for putting something in it's appropriate place.

    ETA: I would make it a chore you do together at first. So something like "let's help each other clean up so we can get ready for bed rather than, "it's time for you to clean up." Or you could do something like, "ok, Daddy's cleaning up the dishes, let's you and me clean up your toys. Everyone helps to keep the house clean." I don't know... just thinking out loud. He might just feel proud knowing he's pitching in, you know?

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  • image nowababy:

    This is totally unhelpful for you at this point, but maybe helpful for your DD, when she was younger and just discovering taking things in and out of boxes is when I started having her help "clean up" and giving her lots of praise for putting something in it's appropriate place.

    We totally should have started this process earlier.  It was like I always intended to do it, but kept putting it off because it IS easier just to do it ourselves.  It's not necessarily beneficial to the big picture, but it's something we've been lazy about.  

    I'll definitely start sooner with DD! 

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  • This summer I went through her toys and sorted through the babyish ones to be put away. I then bought the plastic shoebox containers from Target (see through with lids) and put all of the toys into separate ones. (Sesame Street figures in one, blocks in another, etc). They are all in easy access for her, however because of the lids she has to ask me to open it. I then started to institute one or two bins out at time. She has to clean up the previous one before I open the next. 

    In the last few weeks since i made her toys more manageable and things like that-it really helped with her cleaning up. 

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  • KC_13KC_13
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    image sbevmc09:

    Ugh... I think this is going to be a struggle.  He's not easily motivated by "games".  He typically helps when things get out of control (like something with a lot of pieces) and we try to get him to help and it's like pulling teeth.  One time he decided he would rather sit inside and pout for like an hour rather than cleaning up a few blocks so he could go outside.  He's very stubborn sometimes.  I guess we'll just have to keep at it like with anything else! 

    I think I'm most worried about trying to incorporate it leading up to bedtime.  I feel like it's going to turn into a struggle that causes bedtime drama.  I guess we could do it a little earlier, but I feel like there probably needs to be a deadline there.  Like, if you clean up nicely before bedtime he could have a sticker or something.  If he doesn't do it then he has to go straight to bed without any stories?  I already know how this will turn out for a while...  

    ETA: So, for example, let's say at 7.30pm I set a timer for 10 mins and said he needed to clean up during that time (with our help).  What if he just blew it off and he didn't do it?  What would you do in that situation?  Time out and try again?  Straight to bed?   

    what about a visual chart going through the bedtime process? Add the clean up part in it. Offer a sticker for success.  

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  • image Hav=Fath:

    image cjcouple:
    Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc.

    Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.

    I really don't know, just asking. Is there an age that making each chore a game should not be done so frequently? I can't help but think that at some age kids should learn that it's expected to pitch in and help with what you can with the family without it having to be fun for them. I'm not saying there is an age or if this is the case at all, just asking if I'm crazy for wondering it. 



    I don't think so. I know I like doing the dishes more when I have a new dish brush or something. Anything to take the monotony out of repetitive tasks.
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  • image KateB1984:
    image Hav=Fath:

    image cjcouple:
    Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc. Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.

    I really don't know, just asking. Is there an age that making each chore a game should not be done so frequently? I can't help but think that at some age kids should learn that it's expected to pitch in and help with what you can with the family without it having to be fun for them. I'm not saying there is an age or if this is the case at all, just asking if I'm crazy for wondering it. 

    I still blare music and dance around when dusting and vacuuming, so.... not for me ;)

    Seriously, though, I don't think there's ever an age that you can't try and make it fun. But with my boys (4 and 6), when they refuse the offer of a fun way, they're still required to do it or there are consequences. I don't think it makes us more lax that we try to make things as appealing as possible (when we can) because they know that it's not negotiable to do the job.

    THis makes total sense. I guess I was thinking if it was a "game" and they didn't want to play that would be the end of it. As long as they are required to finish the task, games would be great. Thanks for putting it that way.

    And just for the record, I do play games with Hadley to get her to help but she barely turned 2, I was just wondering if there was an age that it would just be expected vs games.  


    image


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  • We do the clean up song. Now he'll sing it by himself. If he pitches a fit, I sort of let it go, but  I won't let him take out another toy or do something else desirable until it gets cleaned up.
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  • Maybe to get him to start say "you can stay up for another 30 minutes if you help clean up, if not it's bed?"
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  • DS started helping clean up around 18 months old.  I just say something like "It's time to pick up toys" or "Put your trucks in the bin", and he does it.  When we started, I would hold his hand and the toy and guide them to the toy bin until he got the hang of it himself.  We help with pick up still because it is pretty overwhelming for a toddler/preschooler to pick up a room full of toys by themselves.  But we keep him focused by telling him what to do next, like first we say to put away trucks, then when he is done we say to pick up blocks, etc.  We do it before meals and bed as well as after a particularly messy activity like crafts to keep the mess down.
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  • image sbevmc09:

    Ugh... I think this is going to be a struggle.  He's not easily motivated by "games".  He typically helps when things get out of control (like something with a lot of pieces) and we try to get him to help and it's like pulling teeth.  One time he decided he would rather sit inside and pout for like an hour rather than cleaning up a few blocks so he could go outside.  He's very stubborn sometimes.  I guess we'll just have to keep at it like with anything else! 

    I think I'm most worried about trying to incorporate it leading up to bedtime.  I feel like it's going to turn into a struggle that causes bedtime drama.  I guess we could do it a little earlier, but I feel like there probably needs to be a deadline there.  Like, if you clean up nicely before bedtime he could have a sticker or something.  If he doesn't do it then he has to go straight to bed without any stories?  I already know how this will turn out for a while...  

    ETA: So, for example, let's say at 7.30pm I set a timer for 10 mins and said he needed to clean up during that time (with our help).  What if he just blew it off and he didn't do it?  What would you do in that situation?  Time out and try again?  Straight to bed?   

    Boy that is frustrating!  DS is younger, so I'm not sure what will get a 3 year old to do what you want, especially if he'd rather take the punishment.  Maybe just keep insisting that he clean up before he can do something he wants until he gets that it is just part of his day?
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  • image Hav=Fath:
    image KateB1984:
    image Hav=Fath:

    image cjcouple:
    Yup. Make it a game. Tell him it's clean up time. Look around at what needs to be picked up and say..who can pick up theming cars. Or blue toys etc.

    Also start a routine of cleaning up the toy after playing before taking out another toy.

    I really don't know, just asking. Is there an age that making each chore a game should not be done so frequently? I can't help but think that at some age kids should learn that it's expected to pitch in and help with what you can with the family without it having to be fun for them. I'm not saying there is an age or if this is the case at all, just asking if I'm crazy for wondering it. 

    I still blare music and dance around when dusting and vacuuming, so.... not for me ;)

    Seriously, though, I don't think there's ever an age that you can't try and make it fun. But with my boys (4 and 6), when they refuse the offer of a fun way, they're still required to do it or there are consequences. I don't think it makes us more lax that we try to make things as appealing as possible (when we can) because they know that it's not negotiable to do the job.

    THis makes total sense. I guess I was thinking if it was a "game" and they didn't want to play that would be the end of it. As long as they are required to finish the task, games would be great. Thanks for putting it that way.

    And just for the record, I do play games with Hadley to get her to help but she barely turned 2, I was just wondering if there was an age that it would just be expected vs games.  



    Yup. It just makes it more enjoyable got them. As they get older you also explain and show them how much easier it is to clean up more often throughout the day. Do your teaching and having fun.

    If they say no to the game, you just tell them it's not a choice right now. This needs to be finished before we can pull out x y or z.

    My 6 yo can pretty much clean a room on his own without help at this point and assists his brother on where things go. If he gets stick and is not sure where done thing goes he asks me.
    CJ :-)
  • LouiejLouiej
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    The game thing and the song thing both do not work for us if they don't want to do the clean up to begin with.

    if they won't help, I set a timer for five ish minutes on the stove. I tell them whatever is not cleaned up by the time the timer goes off gets taken away. (Not thrown away, just put away for a day in the garage or basement)

    and the key: follow through.

    they are 3 and four. They HATE losing their stuff, so this usually works 

  • image Louiej:

    The game thing and the song thing both do not work for us if they don't want to do the clean up to begin with.

    if they won't help, I set a timer for five ish minutes on the stove. I tell them whatever is not cleaned up by the time the timer goes off gets taken away. (Not thrown away, just put away for a day in the garage or basement)

    and the key: follow through.

    they are 3 and four. They HATE losing their stuff, so this usually works 

    I wish we could do this.  All of our kids have the same interests.  DS1 is excellent at cleaning, he does a wonderful job and rarely ever complains about it (and he prefers to keep his room clean).  His brothers are terrible about cleaning, so DS1 would either get stuck with cleaning up their mess or his toys essentially get taken away because they don't clean.  

    I will say, TO has been working more lately.  I used to just leave them in TO until I thought it was enough time.  Lately I've given them the control, they can come out of TO when they're ready to ________ (clean up for example).


    GSx1 - 05/13/2013
    babybaby
  • I'm not sure what I have to offer will be truly helpful to anyone as I have a much older child than most but since Have asked about "when" it should be expected vs a game to entice them into helping I thought I'd chime in. For me, the expectation wasn't until closer to age 4yrs.

    I tried the songs and making cleaning up a game and it was more of a struggle for me than it was worth. So, around 3yrs, I started making it a requirement before we would do the next thing, like have lunch or go to the park or whatnot. We wouldn't go/do until she cleaned up the puzzle or put the dolls back in the toybox. I wouldn't make her clean up an entire room, just the last thing she was playing with. :)

    When Emily turned 4yrs, she truly understood that her toys were hers, belonged in her room, and WOULD be taken away if she didn't put them away. We still helped as she could destroy her room in minutes; however, we made it clear that if she didn't help at all or didn't clean up certain things out of defiance, she would lose those toys for a couple of days. I would literally go through her room with a laundry basket, gathering up the toys she didn't clean up and take them down to the garage as punishment. 

    Once she turned 5yrs and got into Kindergarten and helping keep her desk tidy was a daily requirement, part of her daily routine, the troubles of getting her to clean up at home (toys, putting clothes in hamper, wiping up spills, etc.) were virtually non-existent. Every once in a while she will whine and drag her feet and I remind her that if she doesn't clean up and I have to do it, it will cost her $0.50 out of her piggy bank (a new tactic that works VERY well at age 7yr) or I'll take the toys away for a week. Both of these punishments/incentives work well at this age. :)

    Anyhow, of course it all depends on your ability to follow-through and be consistent as well as your child's personality as many can do more at a younger age. Good luck!

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