Two girls cleaning up
When and how to teach your child to clean up

After a whole day of playing, cleaning up is probably at the bottom of your child’s to-do list. However, if you do not want to spend the next day tripping over all the toys, Legos, crayons, and who knows what else, your little one will need to learn the basics of cleaning. Cleaning up is very important for a child’s development too. So, the sooner you start teaching them how to clean, the better. By cleaning up after themselves, children learn about responsibility. However, if you constantly clean up after everybody, children will learn to expect your ‘effort’, not theirs. And they will grow up slacking off. Luckily, cleaning up does not have to be one of those tedious chores. There are plenty of ways to make it fun for your child. And, today, we will share some of those ways with you. So, if you want to find out when and how to teach your child to clean up, keep on reading.

The Words You Choose Will Play a Major Role

If you say ‘Hey, clean up!’, your toddler will get overwhelmed, your preschooler will start crying, and your teen will get angry. Thus, be careful when choosing your words!

Be gentle and creative. Try saying ‘Let’s do this together’, ‘Why don’t we clean this up real quick and then we can do something else’, or ‘Do you mind putting your items where they belong’.

Moreover, be careful with your tone too! If you sound angry or upset, chances are your child will start acting up. Remember that your little one is new to this – you are the one that needs to teach them how cleaning is done, and the best way to do that is with the right words and a pleasant tone. A father and daughter talking

Explain Why Cleaning is Important

You, as an adult, understand the importance of cleaning. That is why you force yourself to clean even the toughest areas in your home every once in a while. But your child does not understand why one has to clean up every day. For children, cleaning is just ending the fun.


Again, with a friendly tone and kind words, explain why cleaning is important to your child. You can, for example, say that somebody can get hurt if there are toys on the floor. Or, say that some toys might get lost if the room is untidy. Do not mention bacteria or dirt, especially if you are teaching your toddler or preschooler how to clean. Use things that they can relate to.

Fun Storage Always Does the Trick

If your budget allows it, invest in some kid-friendly storage solutions. Those can be shelves with colorful drawers, or some exciting toy boxes, or even plastic bins. Moreover, you can print out or draw pictures of things on each shelf and in each container. These will tell your child what goes where and even make a fun game of it.


However, if you bring all these extra boxes and bins inside your child’s room, be prepared to have a couple of cleaning projects for yourself too! Namely, all these items tend to collect a lot of dust. So, be sure to have a quick little spring cleaning event every weekend – vacuuming and dusting in and around them will be a must. Start with smaller projects, and eventually, you can teach your child to clean up even bigger things – like shelves.

A child surrounded by toys

Play Some Music

Music makes everything better. So, use it to make cleaning more fun. Put some of your child’s favorite tunes on the stereo and turn the tedious clean-up into a fun game. Try saying something like – How many toys can you put away while this song lasts? – most children react well to these questions as they see them as a fun, challenging game.


Playing music while cleaning is something we recommend to adults too! It turns even those most boring tasks like cleaning the entire house before moving in into something a bit more enjoyable. So, put some of your favorite music on the next time you have to do a move-in cleaning project or even a spring cleaning project. And, who knows – maybe your children will join this project when they see you having fun.


However, do not mix up music with videos (either on TV or YouTube). If you play cartoons or whatever your child likes to watch, hoping that that will have the same effect as music, trust us, no cleaning will be done that day.

If Something is Not Perfect, Do Not Fix It

Let us get something straight – cleaning up with your child is nothing like cleaning up with your partner, for example. That is, you cannot expect the same results. The toys will be mixed up in those bins, the sheets will be lumpy, the clothes in the closet will be mismatched, etc. This is all okay! As long as your child does what you told them, just leave it be.


If you say that the job was not done correctly, or if you redo everything yourself, your child will feel discouraged and offended. Remember that a toddler or a preschooler will never be able to clean as an adult.

A father and daughter playing

Always Reward a Job Well Done

It does not matter whether you are teaching your 2-year-old or teen how to clean – always reward a job well done. Giving compliments and praises on a job well done is always encouraging. Always mention how the room looks impressive or how the dollhouse never looked better, and you will soon see your child wanting to clean everything all alone.

You can also create a chart for all the cleaning chores that must be done. And, as soon as your child finishes even one thing from that chart, put a sticker on it. Maybe you can even offer some kind of a reward after having a certain number of stickers – this usually does the trick. Teach your child to clean up in a fun and encouraging way, and you will not have cleaning problems when they are older.

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