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Ways to Get Your Children to Clean Up Their Playroom Together

September 19, 2013

Getting children to clean up their playrooms can be challenging. These little individuals with their unique personalities do not always want to cooperate. Nevertheless, children can be taught to be responsible for their mess.

According to child psychologists, children are most receptive to learning in the first five years of life. As soon as children are able to select toys, they can be expected to tidy them away. The following tips have proved helpful to parents:

  • Use rewards such as stickers/stars or favorite treats to encourage cooperation.
  • Set rules such as no television until the playroom is cleaned-up.
  • Make a game of it: See who can pick up the most items, or play silly games by pretending you do not know where to put something. For example, should the toy truck go in with the soft toys? Label bins with the names or pictures of the toys to be placed in them and ask your child to teach you where to put things. Children are tickled when they have to teach adults how to do something. Let them show “silly mommy” how to tidy up.
  • When one child is unwilling, draw up a schedule and let children take turns tidying up. The unwilling child will soon see that it is better to do things as a team, rather than having to take on the task by himself. Stress how much easier and quicker it is when everyone works to clean up the playroom together.
  • Purchase a new dustpan specifically for use in the playroom. Children will prefer to scoop up a number of items at once, rather than picking toys up singly. This is especially useful if toys do not have to be sorted.
  • Harness their love of raking leaves: Purchase small carpet rakes for them to rake toys closer to storage bins or into neat piles. Doing so will aid their hand-eye coordination as well as improve their muscle development.
  • It is better to provide many shallow storage bins rather than a few deep ones. Children will pull out all the items from a bin to get to a favorite toy at the bottom. With shallower bins, toys will be within easier reach.
  • Rotate toys: Pack away unused/outgrown toys to prevent undue clutter.
  • When friends come over to play, ask the visiting child to help tidy up when play is finished. He helped to make a mess, so it is important to teach your child that everyone is equally responsible for cleaning up. Children have a keen sense of fair play. Your kids will resent being asked to do all the work while their friend sits out.
  • When purchasing toys, bear in mind that toys with lots of small parts will make tidying up more challenging. For instance, Legos — while fun and brain-building — can be murder when it’s time to pack everything up. As such, spread out a clean, old sheet when children play with Legos or other small toys. When play is over, the Legos can be enclosed within the sheet and placed in a bin until the next time.

Things to Avoid

  • Do not expect perfection. Your playroom doesn’t have to pass a military inspection. As long as the playroom is reasonably neat, accept it.
  • Do not nag! Children will learn to block you out. Their blood pressure will not skyrocket, but yours certainly will. It is better to negotiate with your child. Negotiation gives children a sense of control and involvement in the decision-making process.
  • Do not show favoritism. The children who use the playroom should be held equally responsible for cleaning the room.
  • Do not expect tidiness from your children if you do not tidy up after yourself. Is your “playroom” — kitchen, home office or garage/workshop — a perpetual mess? Children learn what they live. Teach by example.

At times, it might seem like too much trouble to get children to tidy their playrooms. It might even be tempting to clean up yourself. However, engaging in free play is vital to a child’s wellbeing and to the development of an inventive brain, and cleaning up after themselves is a skill they’ll need to master as they grow. Getting them into the habit of cleaning up can be tough, but it’s worth it.


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