When Should Children Begin Cleaning Up After Themselves

Let’s face it. Children create mess. From toys on the living room floor, to clothes scattered across the bedroom, it’s as if they were specifically designed to make more work for parents. Many people dutifully follow their kids around cleaning up after them, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

When Should Children Begin Cleaning Up After ThemselvesWhen Should Children Begin Cleaning Up After Themselves

Children can and will clean up after themselves if you educate them early enough and follow these few simple tips:

Start early. It may seem strange but you can begin teaching children from a very early age to put ‘their toys back in the box’ after playing or if it is time for bed. With a carefully considered plan of encouragement that incorporates clapping and whooping, even a 1 year old can begin to learn and enjoy the benefits of keeping the floor tidy, it becomes a game!

The earlier you start the better. The longer you leave it the more a child is less likely to get into good habits. Your 1 year old may not understand why he or she is putting those bricks back into the tub but, if they enjoy doing it, the more likely it is to become a set behaviour in future years.

Don’t give in and do it yourself. As your children get older they may become more forgetful and leave a room without clearing up. That doesn’t mean you should take over the mantel and start doing it for them. Be strong and get them to do it even if it means a little tantrum here or there.

Of course, children are not predictable automatons and neither would you want them to be. As they grow older they will go through different stages from the terrible twos to the grunting teens. At least, as they grow older, they will be able to understand the world around them and understand what you have to say.

Once that happens, it’s time to set ground rules. You decide what they are. You can be draconian and stipulate that they only have one or two toys out at a time, or you can limit them to a certain area of the house.

Develop a list of consequences. If the toys aren’t put away your children can’t play with them for a while, say three days. Or the toys go to the charity shop because your child obviously can’t look after them properly, slightly harsh or perhaps no pudding until all the toys are away!

Of course, you can’t expect your children to be tidy if you don’t follow the rules yourself. Research shows that parents who clean up after themselves have children who are more likely to do the same thing.

If you have been working hard at putting food on the table, there will come a time when your children are more than capable of clearing the plates away and eventually doing the washing up. Either set it as a rota or make it a communal event, but getting them into the right habit can take a lot of the workload away from you as a parent. Some of the best childhood memories are of spending time in the kitchen with mum!

Making cleaning up part of the daily routine early enough should mean that your children get used to doing it and see it as a normal part of everyday activity rather than a chore that is being imposed on them all of a sudden.

Of course, they will very shortly grow into teenagers and take that mess into their own rooms, creating a new, sacrosanct and often disturbing place where parents may well fear to tread.

When that finally happens, a gentle threat to go in there and clean it yourself should make your surly teenager tidy up a little.

What do you do to encourage your children to clean up after themselves?

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