In large families, everyone must clean or chaos takes over quickly. It’s always a challenge to get our youngest to clean. I have some tips and tricks to get my toddlers to help clean. However, these only work when enforced consistently and expect for there to be plenty of days when it doesn’t happen.
Tips to get toddlers to clean:
Preclean- organize the mess
I take a quick few minutes (<5) to put all the laundry in a loose pile, any dishes, toys, trash, shoes, etc all go in one area. Ensure each child can focus on one simple task at a time.
Show exactly what is expected
I will provide buckets or a trash can to gather whatever needs to be put away. Then I demonstrate or just tell them what to do depending on their age. Younger kids need simple skills.
While everyone is cleaning (or not), help do the dirty work while cleaning. I say things like, “Cleaning is hard work, but it makes our home so nice and tidy so please put this laundry in the dirty laundry. It needs to be washed.It keeps our home smelling good; put this trash in the can so I can take it out. It keeps us from tripping on or breaking toys so put these toys in this box so I can put them away. It keeps clean dishes ready for us so put these dishes in the sink. It keeps us safe and well.”
Take every opportunity to talk about being clean, keeping things clean, putting trash in the can as soon as possible, putting things away. Let them see you pick up trash in parking lots or restaurants that isn’t yours. Make it clear that you understand cleaning is work, but that you want to do the work to enjoy the cleanliness. This is also a good idea to reinforce the ideals of diligence (with a phrase like, “When you clean diligently, you get done much faster), responsibility, work ethic, etc. This is how you develop a home culture.
Here few tips in general for kids and fostering cooperation:
Well fed and rested kids are easier to direct
Look into their eyes to make sure they are listening
Most kids need a warning before a transition (“We are going to clean in a few minutes”) and a reminder
Give short, succinct direction with gestures
Leading by example helps keep kids engaged and focused
Touch helps keep kids engaged and focused
Talking about how and why you do it reinforces the need for work
Last, I want to reiterate that there will be days your kids don’t clean. It happens. Clean and get on with your day. This is building a habit, and that means there will be set backs.