June 1, 2018
How to Teach Your Kids to Clean their Rooms (so you don’t have to!)
With summer upon us, kids and clean rooms (or lack of) is an often talked about topic. So let’s talk about it and start off with clean rooms from the beginning of the summer, shall we?
I am a former art teacher and mom of 3 – this is merely my approach but you know your kids. I’m going to make suggestions and they are merely that – do what works for your home situation and your children.
A consistently clean room has a lot of factors:
- the age of your child(ren)
- amount of toys and belongings
- where the toys and belongings are stored (in the bedrooms or another area)
- how much reminding and helping you’re okay with
- if your kids do their own laundry (I have kids helping with laundry from age 2 (putting socks away, helping to ‘fold’, etc.) and once they are in 3rd or 4th grade they can pretty much do the folding and putting away themselves – decide what works for you!)
Regardless of the age of your kid(s), there are a couple things that will help your kids learn how to clean their rooms on their own.
Less is always more.
Keep toys to a minimum – too many toys are overwhelming to choose from and they are overwhelming to keep picked up. If you have a lot of toys consider a toy library system, where you keep some things put away and pull out a bin at a time. This keeps toys and choices fresh and it also ensures that kids will play deeper and longer with the smaller amount of toys and choices. If this sounds strange, try it for a week – keep out three main items and see how differently your kids play with them. The book, Simplicity Parenting, was a game changer for us – I read it last year and just loved the approach and love what it’s done for my kids and how they keep things and play.
Teach if you do this, then you get that.
Logical order works with kids – once your bed is made and your room is picked up you get to choose what you do. In the summer this is easier to manage and it’s a great time to reinforce good habits. I like using simple daily task lists in the kids’ bedrooms – they can check off their tasks and then they can choose to read and play and maybe do a little media time.
Work with them to clean their room
This is more work and definitely can be time consuming, but it’s the best way to encourage them to put things away the way you want them to be put away. Learning the ‘right’ way to put things away alleviates questions and confusion in the future. This works especially well with laundry. If you want some ideas for how to help kids do laundry head to this post.
Teach kids to make their beds AND have them make it daily
A made bed helps to give the bedroom a picked up appearance and it’s a simple task that even preschoolers can help with. DO NOT go back and re-make the bed – look past it if you have to but let the job be completed by them.
Give them one thing to do at a time – and don’t just say, “Go Clean Your Room”
Just like us adults, kids like specific directions. If you tell your child to “Go clean your Room” and come back in an hour and it looks the same, it’s probably because your directions were unclear. Unless you’ve taught them what a clean room includes, they will most likely give you the deer in the headlights look and they are going to be overwhelmed with the mess. Instead give them very clear directions, one step at a time. For my older kids I will write or print up a quick checklist with boxes and put it on a clipboard for them to work through. For my little guy I am most likely working with him or giving him one task at a time. I’ll usually be hanging out in the laundry room outside his room folding clothes and keeping an eye on him, ready to assist if needed. A common conversation would be, I’m going to be right here folding clothes, why don’t you pick up your Legos (so I don’t step on another one) and tell me when you’re done. Then when he’s done, I’ll say, “Great job, that looks so much better. Can you pick up your books too? Then we can head outside and have fun.” One thing at a time is so much easier for everyone. I have a couple checklists on my free printables page that go over age-appropriate chores for pre-school aged kids and school-aged kids if you need some direction and ideas.
Model good behavior
This is going to be an unpopular one but if your room is a mess or if you don’t make your bed, asking your kids to make their beds or put away their laundry is going to fall flat. Work with them. I’ll say something like, I’m going to make my bed and pick up stuff on the floor in our bedroom – why don’t you do the same and then we’ll head outside. OR I need to fold and put away these clothes, why don’t you put your fold and put your clothes away too. Modeling good behavior is always a good idea and I promise you, your kids are watching and paying attention.
Use a timer
I use a timer all the time for myself to stay on task but it’s especially helpful with kids too. We’ll race the timer, do a quick before meal pick up, or just set the timer for 5 minutes and see what we can get done in that little spurt. I’ll use the timer on the oven or on my phone. Make it quick and simple – don’t set the timer for 60 minutes, keep the time to 5-10 minutes to keep their attention.
Have cleaning supplies handy if needed
During the summer I keep my daily and weekly cleaning routine (here’s June’s free calendar if you’re interested) running like clockwork BUT I also get my kids involved in the process. Kids like to clean with real tools. If you want them to dust their room, give them a duster. If they are able to vacuum, let them! Keep a small caddy available for them to use – this works especially well with little ones. Even baby wipes can be used to clean with!
Need some ideas? Here’s what a list typically looks like for my kids (ages 6-12):
- put clothes in laundry basket
- put toys away on the floor
- stack books up
- put books away
- make bed
- double check – is there anything on the floor?
So…..do your kids clean their rooms? Have a tip to share? Share it in the comments!
I’m all about a simple summer – check out this post for even more ideas!
Darlene Kelly Says
My summer plan is to teach my girls to clean properly. They are 8 and 10. I will put together 2 of your cleaning caddies and my plan is to follow your monthly cleaning calendar. We will all do it together!
Thanks for all of your wonderful posts!! I love them!
Quick question….do you think that they should just use microfiber cloths to dust or should they also use furniture polish? I never really know myself if I should be using polish.
b r SaysPost author
I would use just microfiber 🙂
I put the tasks to clean the room on 3×5 cards, one card for each task. Along with the task I drew a really bad drawing showing what needs to be done. This was helpful for when he couldn’t read very well. The tasks consist of
1 make bed
2 put clothes in bathroom to sort
3 throw out trash
4 put away toys
5 put away books
My son is 7 and he does really well at it when I hand him the cards one at a time or show him how to lay them all out and flip them over when he is done with a task. He calls them his “levels” (like a video game? idk) so I say “time to do your levels”. I taped an envelope for just these cards to the back of a door in my office, so he goes and grabs them and takes them to his room. He usually wants me to help him sweep but the rest he can do pretty well by himself.
I started another level for his bathroom and he is doing well at that too. I need to make more…my goal: he can clean the house over the summer, not me 🙂
Viktoria | Awesome Alice Says
I love the tip about modeling good behavior! I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite by asking my kids to clean their room when the rest of the house is full of chaos. And while I do think they should learn to clean their own room, I also believe in helping each other out. When I know they’re really tired, I’ll help them out and we’ll clean their room together. And when there’s a lot of clothes that needs to be folded, they get to help out too, even if it isn’t their own clothes 🙂
Sue @ Home Heart Harmony Says
I always tell my kids to first make their bed, then pick up anything on the floor and put it on the bed, then put away everything on the bed. It’s 3 easy steps for them to follow and just giving them a simple guide like this seems to really help them. Thanks for all the tips!