Getting the kids to help with cleaning up

Playtime invariably involves mess. For tired and weary parents, this can cause dread knowing that it is going to take time to clean up and put away. With many other tasks taking up precious time and energy, it is no wonder parents gulp at the toys strewn across the floor. Many parents wish their precious children would pick up after themselves and tidy up at the end of play. However, in reality, this doesn’t often happen. With a little control and guidance, you can have you children tidying away after each play session.

How can you get the kids to clean up?

Start out tidy

If the toys are in a jumble and there is no organization, it can make it all the more difficult to tidy up at the end of play. An untidy play area and unorganized toys isn’t conducive to getting the kids to be neat and tidy. To start out, have a good sort out. This is a good task to do with the children. Use boxes, baskets or drawers to organize toys into categories which can save time when tidying away. This also helps the kids find the toys they want to play with, and avoids all the toys being tipped out. Group toys together and in the process, look for broken or outgrown toys to make space.

Teach children to tidy

Children love to play, but don’t understand the importance of tidying away after. If toys aren’t picked up and put away, explain that they could get lost or broken. This teaches children how to care for their belongings. Take the appropriate box or basket and announce “It’s time to tidy up!” Instruct your child to pick up and put away. Make it fun and refrain from helping. Helping gives your child the excuse next time to get out of it. If your child took the toys out, he has the skills to put them back. Once the area is tidy, give praise and appreciation.


A good way to make children compliant with tidying up is to have a routine set in place. When there is a routine children know what is expected. The day has various activities that follow one after another. If children understand that another activity is followed after play, it allows your child to be more compliant. Ensure that enough time is allotted for each play session. It is a good idea to give a 5 minute warning to prepare your child, and announce the following activity. If your child has carefully set up a play scenario, it doesn’t hurt to allow it to remain if the game is to be continued at a later point.

Make it fun

Most importantly, make clean up fun and never seem like punishment, otherwise the children are going to be reluctant to tidy away. Remain positive each and every time, and offer lots of praise, even if it doesn’t look perfect. Never criticize or redo what your child has done, as this is very discouraging. It may not be up to your standard, but your child is learning. To make it more fun, use a timer to make it a challenge or play upbeat music. Tidying can be fun, too.

Routine clean

Once a month, set aside some time for a good routine clean. Take a bowl of warm soapy water and some clean cloths. Have your child help clean all of the toys, toy boxes and play area. This keeps the toys in good, clean condition. In addition, it allows the toys to be checked over, and for old and broken toys to be removed. The play area can be put back in the same way, or rearranged to give it a new feel. Washing and drying toys is a game your child can do alone after he or she learns how. This teaches your child independence and respect, as he or she is caring for his belongings.

With guidance and a new approach to cleaning up, your child will soon be putting away without a fuss. If the right attitude is adopted and the play area is neat and tidy to begin, it encourages your child to be tidy and care for his or her toys. Be encouraging, give guidance, but make this your child’s responsibility.