2726 kids to clean up 1
It's important to encourage kids to clean up. Photo: The Spruce

Kids, by their very nature, don’t like to sit still so getting them to focus on important chores can sometimes feel like a burden. Growing up, everyone needs to learn the importance of cleaning up after oneself. So how can parents help encourage and motivate their children to do their part and be proactive in cleaning? With a few simple steps, it’s actually quite simple and easy to do!

Here are a few easy but effective ways to motivate kids to clean up:

1. Keep it simple

Don’t give your child tasks they can’t handle or a long to-do list that will get them overwhelmed. By assigning age-appropriate chores you will be eliminating the need to help them. They’ll also have a sense of accomplishment when they complete each task on their own, as said by The Latina Homemaker.

2. Allow one toy at a time

2723 kids to clean up 2
Photo: The New York Times

The rule in our house is that each child can have one set of toys out at a time; before he can go on to another, he has to clean up the first set. If the kids aren't in the mood to clean up, they don't have to--they just have to keep playing with the same toy. With this approach, we've been able to head off a big mess in the kids' rooms and the constant "clean up your room" lecture.

3. Offer incentives but punish non-compliance

Behavior works both ways and it is vital we can be consistent when it comes to a child’s behavior development. If a child has tidied their room or area of destruction, offer a reward – perhaps some screen time or similar. Food bribing is an easy one to offer and we are all guilty of it on occasions but offering food or restricting food because of positive or negative behavior is not ideal. However, it is important to punish non-compliance, according to Gigibloks. Take away a favorite toy. Have a firm chat with them and encourage them that in life we sometimes must do things we do not like to do.

4. Make it fun

2941 kids to clean up 3
Photo: 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty

This one truly works with little ones. Create a game around the cleaning chore to make it fun for your child. For example, you can set the timer and challenge your kids to fill up a basket with as many toys as possible. Whoever has the most toys when the time runs out, wins! It doesn’t have to be complicated, use your creativity and have fun.

5. Introduce negative consequences

Some parents might be against negative results or punishments, but doing so in balance with positive rewards helps enforce the results. Let’s say a child is asked to clean up their toys. If there is a reward for doing so, they will see this as an option that’s open to them. However, if there’s also a consequence – “clean up your toys or you can’t play with them later” for instance – then there’s extra motivation. This way, children will start to see cleaning as something that needs to be done, not just when they want something, Everyday Power cites.

6. Add an element of surprise

2722 kids to clean up 4
Photo: Cambridge Independent

When it's time for chores, I write jobs on small pieces of paper and an equal number of fun activities: read a short book, do five jumping jacks, dance to a song. I fold the papers in half and put them in a hat. My two kids take turns pulling pieces, and together we do whatever is chosen. We have a better time by mixing things up.

7. Create and maintain routine

A big part of cleaning is doing it on a regular basis. After all, it’s easier to clean up a little at a time then wait for things to get out of hand, right? Children rarely understand this concept – especially at a young age – so it’s up to mum and dad to implement something. Keep a chart of cleaning routine duties, ticking them off when done. Not only does this show what a child has which responsibilities, but it can also chart ongoing progress to ensure they are still being completed!

How can tidying benefit a child?

Mess doesn’t always have to be seen in a negative way, it can represent a very imaginative and creative mind from the kids. The way a child plays can give us an insight into their personality; it can also be used as a form of expression and communication. There does come a point, however, when a little bit of discipline is required to keep children within behavior boundaries, and unacceptable mess may be required to be brought under control and order. It can also help establish or re-establish strong communication between parent and child.

For more useful tips in life, please check out our KnowInsider!

7 Ways to Teach Your Kids about Smart Money Management 7 Ways to Teach Your Kids about Smart Money Management

With extra time at home with your kids these days, now could be a great time to try your hand at starting a conversation about ...

7 Natural and Effective Ways to Get Rid of Morning Sickness 7 Natural and Effective Ways to Get Rid of Morning Sickness

Nausea during early pregnancy, sometimes called by the misnomer “morning sickness,” is very common and completely normal. More than half of women experience some degree ...

7 Ways to Stop Cravings for Junk Food 7 Ways to Stop Cravings for Junk Food

Food cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy. The types of foods that people crave are highly variable, but these are often processed junk foods that ...