Tidying up with kids is a breeze, right?! They’re just so excited to clean up and organize… or NOT. Sariah wants to help make it a little easier with 5 suggestions today!
Hey friends, it’s Sariah Tate from tricks of the MotherhoodTrade.com blog. I’m exciting to be a shiny new contributer here at OSSS, what a pleasure!
As a mama of three crazy busy little men (6, 4, 1), I totally know the joys of encouraging littles to pick up their toys. For me it usually means I get to hear their favorite responses: “I CANT!! (as they dramatically throw their whole body on the ground), “It’s too many toys!” “Pleeease HELP ME!” (by that they mean, I just want to WATCH you do it all for me) “It’s too hard, I feel too weak!! (another dramatic drop on the floor.) Yeah, they sure didn’t seemed fatigued only moments before while the mess was being made.
I’m really just trying to figure it out as much as the next mom. Here is what been working for me so far, hope it can inspire hope and ideas in your own clean up adventures with little peeps.
1. Create motivation with what they naturally want
Let’s be real, not many littles are motivated by the thrill alone of picking up their toys. However, there is a natural order to life and I have seen that when they exhaust their unstructured toy playing they eventually come to me and chime in that they want to play Mario Cart, watch a show or they want to go outside. “Great,” I say, “make sure your toys are cleaned up and jobs are done”
My day is a dance between a general schedule, their own desires, their needs, my needs and needs of the home. So before moving on to the next desired or needed activity, we need to clean up first. Doing the next new, exciting, desired thing IS the motivator and cleaning up is just an inherent step before going on to the next activity. I try to highlight what they WANT to do next. “Yay!! Let’s go outside!! Oh, we gotta get this all cleaned up first, let’s see who can do it the fastest and who gets to go outside first!!” (It’s always a competition around here with boys). It’s all about creating and allowing that natural momentum so they do the job without too much thought (or complaint).
The BIGGER WHY and why it’s important to them
One point I try to drive the little ones is the WHY behind all things. I want motivation to come from more than just because mom said so, or because there is a consequence or a reward. I try to highlight the importance of the act itself and help them see the inherent benefit of it. Asking questions are a great way to help a child come to his own understanding and gain greater personal awareness of a concept. That way, it is more than just another nagging lecture from mom. Instead, hopefully it can be more like guided thinking to help kids to come to their own reason as to why THEY WANT to do something that is ultimately for their own benefit as well for the good of those around them. Here are some questions that I have used:
“Why do you think it is important to put clean up?”
“Is it nice to walk around and play in a messy or a room that has things in its place?”
“How do you feel if your toy gets lost or stepped on and broken because it wasn’t in its place?”
“Do you like the way it feels when things are in their place?”
I believe we parent best when we are calm and willing to teach instead of in a frantic, anxious, rush to push or manipulate. These don’t work as hot when you are a hot mess but can be incredibly sweet and connecting moments when you are in a place to love and gently teach.
2. Set-up natural consequences for clean-up time:
Have you noticed that kids will start playing with toys that they took no previous interest until you asked them to clean it up? I’ll admit, I have taken advantage that they got distracted and are out of sight playing again, because it means more time to finish whatever I was doing. But sometimes there isn’t time for that or maybe, just maybe, it is important to have the kiddies learn that you mean what you say. Here is how I chime in when that happens:
“Did you actually want to keep playing, or go _____”
“Would you like me to take that toy away to help you focus on cleaning up?”
“Looks like you want to keep playing with that, how about we set it aside and when we are done cleaning everything else you can keep playing with it.”
Another scenario is that kids simply won’t participate in the clean up and I end up picking up most of the things myself. To which the response is, “When you don’t clean-up a toy it shows me that you don’t really care about it. I will put it away in timeout if I need to pick it up.” Which they can redeem at a later time if they show that they can be prompt about clean-up and show care for their things.
But even with all that in place, kids are kids and still need a boost of fun and excitement to get them them moving. Well, it turns out, fun and excitement can escape the parent mind during crunch time. So I’ve put together my go-to ideas that get the tidy-up blood pumping (cue Eye of the tiger).
3. Clean-up Boat
It only takes a couple hours and few kids to create monster mess like this:
And the thought of cleaning it up is overwhelming for everyone. Deep inside you fear it will take even more hours to motivate your kids to clean it up than it did for them to make the mess.
Here is a little trick of the motherhood trade that’s been super helpful for the kids and me. We call it the clean-up boat. All it is is a laundry basket or big box that we push around the room and literally put everything into.
We even came up with this little rhyme (‘Row, row, row your boat’ melody)
Row, row the clean up boat
all about the room
Put all the things inside,
all will be clean soon!
It is amazing how quickly the room cleans up when you are just throwing everything into one pot! It’s encouraging to see a clean space!
Then.. you DO have to deal with it. Here is a fun and quick way to handle it. I say, “Ok, this little boy gets to fish out all the cars and put it in this box. You get find all the books and put them on the shelf. You find all the Legos in the pick-up boat and put them in this basket,” etc.
We have baskets and containers for many of our things, which helps organize. I like to include little doodles of what belongs in each box for the non-readers so even the littlest can help put toys back in their homes.
They are just mailing labels (that I use to label everything in my house!).
Here is a printable of the rhyme to if it helps you remember. A great a idea is to print and stick on a designated ‘clean-up’ boat.
Download: clean-up boat
4. Beat the clock
Here is a fun game that my friend Alicia from the Creative Vault came up with. Set up a timer and have everyone rush to put everything away before time runs out. Make it a fun and exciting challenge. Everyone chants, “Beat the clock, Beat the clock!” It’s all about creating thrilling momentum that kiddies cannot resist!
5. Keep it Silly
That brings me to my last secret weapon. It is called: make sure sheer silliness is involved. Children go nuts with delight when the adult is doing something goofy or out of the norm. This also helps me not take myself and my agenda so seriously and prevents the ugly parental work-up!
I’ll say something like, “Ok, go crazy and put everything in the pick-up boat like a crazy person.” I give an example by making a goofy face, shaking my head around and tossing toys in all crazy-like. Kids laugh and they can’t wait to do it themselves.
I believe it is all about making daily things a bit more fun, and tasks less daunting!
Hope these idea help! Please let us know what you love doing to make tidying up with kids less difficult; we all want to know!
Got that Spring-Cleaning-Itch? Try some of these posts to help get the job done: