For all you frustrated parents out there who think that the playroom will never be clean unless you do it all yourself, I have good news.
As a preschool teacher, I have learned that children are entirely capable of cleaning up their own toys (and not just by dumping them all in a hidden spot). This is the secret: you must first teach them how. The earlier you start, the bigger the favor you are doing for yourself.
Organizing skills are learned. Children do not pop out of the womb knowing how to sort, containerize, and assign homes for groups of objects. They need to learn these skills and to practice. That’s where you come in.
Here are some tips for teaching your children to clean up their room (or playroom):
- Break the project into small tasks. Just saying, “Go clean your room!” doesn’t work. Help your children by giving them more specific directions, such as “Find all the doll clothes,” “Put the doll clothes in this drawer,” and then “Pick up all the matchbox cars in this bucket,” “Put the bucket on this shelf.”
- Make it fun. Let them collect all the legos in a toy dump truck and then “dump” the legos into the bucket. Ask them how many blocks they can pick up at one time and carry over to the shelf. For more tedious tasks like picking up crayons off the floor, play some fun music and challenge them to put all the crayons back in their bin by the time the music ends.
- Show them by example. I’m not saying that you need to clean up for them, but to clean up with them. Show them how to pick out all the action figures from the ginormous pile on the floor. As you put the pretend food in the pretend refrigerator, tell them why (answer: so they always know where to find it). If they want to help you in the kitchen, show them how to sort the silverware into different compartments. Their greatest teacher is you.
This blog post is the first in a series of how to help your children succeed at cleaning up their own toys and being responsible for their own belongings. Next week: Giving Your Children a System to Succeed.