Messes, chaos, clutter are all words associated with children. Who among us parents has not found Lego pieces under the sofa cushion or tripped on a toy car in the dark or found a doll in our clothes drawer? So how do we teach children to clean up and put away things. Here are some tips.
Start at an early age
There is no need to wait for your child to reach a certain age before asking your child to cleanup or put away a toy. If they can take a book from the bookshelf, then they can certainly put it back.
Make a rule - Put away one thing before taking another
Enforce this rule consistently. If you see it not being followed, insist on it. Also show children how you practise this yourself.
Associate cleaning up now with the next activity - "No other option"
State clearly that the child's next activity depends on their cleaning up the mess now. For example, you can say "We will go the mall after this room has become clean". This makes it clear that there is no other option but to clean up rightaway.
Cleanups take time - be patient
Often we get impatient with how long children take to cleanup and we just jump in and do it ourselves. Resist the temptation or you will teach them that doing things slowly will relieve them of their responsibility. Do help them a little bit to show that your understand their effort but do not "do it for them".
Make cleaning up fun and competitive
Why does cleaning up or putting away their things have to be a chore? Make up some game during cleanup to make it fun. Like seeing how long it takes (use the timer on your mobile phone) or count how many toys they can pick in a minute etc., If you have multiple children, you can also insert some competitiveness factor so that they vie with each other to cleanup.
Put children in charge of organizing their things
Usually, what we parents do is to organize children's things like books, toys etc., in the way we want to make it look very very clean. But often this type of organization is not understood by children and they get confused about where to put things. Instead, let the children decide where to put their things (books in this shelf, toys in this basket etc.,). Show them the space and help them organize it. This will give them a sense of ownership and they won't use the reason "I did not know where to put it" !!
Compliment a job well done
And don't forget to say thank you and a job well done when you see your children cleanup.