Encourage a Toddler to Clean Their Room

Friday, March 27, 2009

So your kid, or your niece or nephew, or your friend's kid, needs to clean their room, and either they just sit in there and play or watch TV, or complain that they "don't know how"? Well, here's how to get them motivated.

Ask the child to identify the largest thing in the room which is out of place. They might not select the largest thing, but chances are they will go for something big. A stuffed animal, a truck, a dollhouse, something like that. Ask them where it goes. Tell them to move it there. If something's there, have them move the offending item toward the center of the room. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the room is clean.

This method works in mathematics. No matter how messy a room is, it starts out mostly clean. The furniture is where it's supposed to be, and that probably takes up 20-30% of floor space. After only a few of the biggest things are put away you will start to see improvements. (More importantly, the kid will too, and it will boost their self confidence.) This is also a game of speed, in a manner of speaking. Keep the flow going. After a toy is put away, immediately grab the next one.

If there are two or more kids, start off having them take turns. If they don't take turns well, they're likely competitive. Make it seem like a game, but at the end, when they want to know who "won", tell them they both won because their room is clean. If there are two or more kids and two or more rooms, do not separate them. Have both/all kids work on the messiest room first. When that room is clean, move onto the next. The reason is because the kids you're not supervising will come watch and will distract the kid you're working with. Besides, as long as they all get along relatively well, they'll work faster as a team than individually. Sacrifice speed for cooperation. If you have two kids who want to share in the effort of moving one toy, allow it. It's better to allow them to work together than to encourage them to compete or work separate, even if they get a little less done. They'll work faster together later.

Turn off their TV, radio, and/or stereo. Game systems should not be on, either. For best results, these should not be heard from another room, either; they will be a distraction. Only allow a light and fan or heater, as far as electronic devices. Bring in a box, and for every toy you don't see the child playing with on a regular basis, ask them how often they play with the toy. If they can't remember, explain that some children don't have toys and they could make another child happy. If they're willing to surrender the toy, put it in the box and take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. (Granted, they'll sell it, rather than give it away, but they'll sell it cheap and the money will go to a good cause.)

Also bring a bag, and if the item selected is trash, have the kid throw it out. Buy long and wide but low plastic containers (e.g. Rubbermaid) which will slide under the bed. Use these for small toys such as blocks and action figures or dolls. If your child does not want to neatly display their toys, they can round them up and throw them in this container. Stow it under the bed, out of sight. Ensure that toys are not left in the hamper or basket. (Bonus tip, put an air freshener stick-on under the lid or whatever - kids' dirty clothes can smell as bad as adults'!) Also to keep the pace up, have the kid throw dirty clothes on the floor at, rather than into, a hamper - they can be picked up and put in the hamper later when they're all in one place. Reward the kid or kids with at least a thank you when they're done. Everyone likes to feel their work is appreciated.

If your spouse or sibling or friend or other caretaker of the child realizes how effective you were in getting your/their child to clean their room, you might be asked to help more often. Never, ever actually help the child. They are clever and may take their time with one toy, and then ask you to put away the next-largest thing. Before long, they will be watching you do all the work.


Anonymous said...

Ooh this is fabulous! Cool Toddler Furniture and decoration ideas

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