We’ll say at the outset that no method of encouraging children to clean their bedrooms is guaranteed to give you a kid who always keeps their room tidy and does chores around the house without complaining. I wish there was one. There will still be days when you feel as though the children go around behind where you’ve tidied up making the place nice and messy again as soon as they can. And there will be days when it seems as if the only way to get kids to do jobs is to threaten them with hanging and flogging if they don’t get those socks and dirty undies off the floor and into the washing basket NOW!
But there are things that you can do to encourage children – even pre-schoolers – to help keep their rooms tidy, as well as other parts of the house. Here are a handful of suggestions
If your child is old enough to tip blocks or toys out of a medium-sized box, he or she is old enough to put them in again. Make this part of the routine and something that must be done before moving on to the next activity (this is a sneaky tip pinched from Montessori classrooms).
Easy access storage
Have easy-access storage and label it clearly. Old-fashioned toy boxes fit loads of stuff but they are tricky and even dangerous for kids to use. Better to have pigeon holes, shelves and stacking boxes. Label your system so children know what goes in where. If your child can’t read yet, put a picture symbol of the contents on the appropriate box/drawer/shelf along with the word (e.g. a picture of a teddy bear on the soft toy box, a picture of a car on the toy car box, etc.).
Do tidying little and often. Small amounts to tidy up are a lot less overwhelming than one big weekly (or fortnightly) session. Incorporate tidying bedrooms into part of the daily routine. It’s best if the tidying session is done before something that your child enjoys doing, so if he or she does get a bit grumpy about tidying up, there is some motivation built in. You get to watch Dora the Explorer or whatever the favourite programme is once everything in your room is tidied away because that is the way we do things around here. You dragged the chain and now there’s only five minutes of the programme left? What a pity – you’ll have to tidy up more quickly next time.
The more stuff you and your child have, the more stuff there is to make a mess with. Children can find decluttering
amusing to do.
Outdoor play is important
Encourage outdoor play wherever possible. Most mess that children tend to make outside tends to be of the biodegradable sort that washes away in the next rainfall (leaves, mud, sticks, pebbles). Beware of toys getting lost outside – a good rule of thumb is that it’s not allowed outside unless it’s bigger than an adult’s hand. Have outdoor toys that can stay out there safely – swing sets, buckets, playhouses, balls, tricycles, etc. If you don’t have a garden, then look for a nearby park and go there often.