How do I get my kids to CLEAN UP?

Getting kids to want to clean up after themselves or do chores can be the biggest chore of all. It’s super important to teach your kids to take good care of their things and to help you with the household chores. It’s much easier just to do the cleaning yourself, but this doesn’t teach your kids how to care for their own things.

Doing everything for children is not a favor to them in the long run. Having responsibilities is an important part of teaching kids self-discipline. I promise you, they will be thankful in their adult years if they learn self-discipline as a child. Responsibilities build character.

getting kids to clean up


How can we teach young children how to want to take responsibility for their own messes?

  1. ROUTINE! Consistency is key with any part of teaching children good habits. Are there things you wish you were more consistent with in your adult life? Routines taught to children help them to keep routines as adults. Cleaning may be boring, but it gives you pride in a job well done, helps you maintain order for the other parts of your life, and helps you find the things you need.
  2. Modeling. Kids learn what they live. It’s imperative if you want them to be responsible, that you show them responsibility. Make sure you get your work done before you play and you will teach your kids to do the same. You may think children are not listening, but they are listening to your actions LOUD AND CLEAR! When I was young, my room was sty. Pig pen was the most common term used to describe it, but our house was always neat and picked up and my sister and I had chores and responsibilities. When I moved out on my own for the first time, I was so proud, I always wanted my house to look nice so I kept it neat and tidy. No one would have ever believed I would be neat, but I was. I wanted that because my mom always gave that to us growing up.
  3. Make cleaning fun. At Little Sprouts, we sing silly songs when we clean up, race to see who can clean the fastest, set a timer and see if we can beat the clock, get excited about what’s coming up when we get it done. Everyone is willing to clean up if they get to go outside when they get done or something else fun.
  4. Expect kids to do their part. If you expect little of your kids, that’s what you will get for sure. Make sure kids know you expect them to do as much as everyone else. When we all work together we get the job done. I used to keep a boy who always said, “Many hands make light work”. I remind the kids of that often. It takes everyone working hard so one person doesn’t have to do all the work. If Ms. Christina picks up all the toys by herself, we won’t have time to go outside, but if we all pick up, we can go out right away.
  5. Don’t expect them to be perfect. If they don’t put everything in the exact right places, show them where the toy goes again and let them try a second time. If they miss a few things, show them where they are and give them another chance to get it right. Don’t make it a difficult chore by expecting them to do it on their own. Lend them a helping hand.
  6. SIMPLIFY! If your kids never finish cleaning, maybe you have too many toys available to them. I also find that my kids get bored faster and display more difficult behaviors when we have too many toys out at once. You may need to downsize to just the kid’s favorite toys to find success. When I find it hard to get the kids to cooperate with cleaning, I will just sort the toys and put some of them in storage and it usually solves the problem right away. Too many toys can be overwhelming.
  7. Show them the consequences of the messes they make. If you don’t want to pick up so many toys, don’t dump them all out on the floor, just get out what you need. If you don’t want to pick up all the food off the floor, make sure you get your plate over the trash can before you dump it. Picking up a million green beans is not a lot of fun, so help them pick them up and show them a better way so they can feel successful next time.

kids cleaning up

Ms. Christina does not pick up toys unless she plays with them. All of my kids know that. If I play with them, I pick up my share, but if I don’t, I’m not going to pick them up. If children leave a mess when they leave my house, the next day they come, they will find a mess. I do my part and clean up more messes than you can shake a stick at, but I will not pick up toys I didn’t use. If they don’t pick up, I put the toys that are out in storage and they can’t play with them again. It’s a natural consequence.

My preschoolers and toddlers do not whine and complain about cleaning up. It does not take them forever to get it done either. Some of them need to be occasionally reminded that we all have to help, but they are very responsible workers for the most part. Of course the older kids get more done than the little ones, but as long as everyone is trying, I’m happy. When all the toys get picked up and we get to do something else we want, the kids are happy too.

Once your kids are used to being responsible for the messes they make, you will be surprised at how willing they are to do it. It’s never too early to teach responsibility. It does take work, but consistently expecting them to care for things shows them that is what’s always expected. Don’t give up, it will get easier. Don’t give in and do it all for them. That is not what’s best for them.

Do you have any great tips to get kids to clean up?

untitled (3)Christian-Fellowshp

8 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this!! I have a reminder that goes off every night at 7:30 to do a 10 min pick up. It is a Life Saver for me. I usually finish cleaning up the kitchen and everyone pitches in to put away toys, clothes, anything lying around. It is amazing what you can get done in 10 mins when everyone chips in!

    • Isn’t it crazy how we dread something so much that doesn’t really take that much time. I’m amazed at what we can get done in 15 minutes. Just making sure to do it is all it takes. Your timer is a great idea! Thanks for reading!

  2. Shelah says:

    This is a great post with so many great tips. Creating good habits when kids are young is so important.

  3. This is a great post and resource. I agree that it is important to teach responsibilities to children. Routines are sometime hard for moms to get into, but it really does help the kids and even mom. It is easier when you can map out your day and know what to expect.

  4. Julie says:

    I absolutely love this post, Christina! Very inspiring and helpful. We need to institute several of these ideas in our home. The concept of fewer toys contributing to happier kids is counter-intuitive but oh, so true!

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