By Jeannine Laubner
Tidying up is often considered a dull chore by children. For the very young, tidying up after themselves may not be a concept that naturally occurs to them. Nevertheless, children of preschool age and even younger are able to help with tidy-up-time, if they are given encouragement and guidance.
#1. Help by Giving Simple Instructions
Young children may be unsure as to how to approach the responsibility of tidying a room or space. They need to learn techniques and gain an understanding of ‘how’ to tidy up, before being expected to complete the task independently. In order to help your child learn how to tidy up, start by giving them small tasks to complete. Give simple instructions with one element such as, “Pick up the books” or “Put the blocks in the box.” After completing each step, ensure you praise your child; helping to build positivity and confidence. It is important to be patient. Small tasks can take time for young children to master.
#2. Make Tidy-Up-Time Fun
There are many ways in which you can turn tidy-up-time into a fun activity.
A game of ‘Race The Clock’ or ‘Countdown’ can encourage children to tidy things away quickly. To play, simply use a sand-timer or stopwatch or simply start counting down and challenge your child to tidy up before the time runs out. Turning the task of tidying up into a game can eliminate any negative associations and make it a more pleasant experience.
Providing your child with an item of clothing to wear such as a crown or cape is a fun way to signal that it is time for them to do some ‘super cleaning.’
Some children respond well to a tidy up song or music which they can enjoy whilst they put things back where they belong. You can also challenge your child to finish tidying up before the song finishes.
Encourage gentle competition between siblings, instructing them to count how many toys they each pick up.
The language you use when requesting your child to tidy up is important to consider. For example, instead of saying, “Tidy up the dolls” think about adapting the instruction to sound playful, using a phrase such as, “Let’s put the dolls to bed.”
#3. Ensure the Task Is Achievable
Young children may consider the task of putting small objects away in specific places, unachievable; meaning they lose patience. To help your child feel confident about tidying up, provide them with large boxes or baskets, with clear labels with images to show them where each type of toy should be placed. Not only will this make the task of tidying up achievable, but it will also mean that the toys are easily accessible enabling your child to develop their confidence in selecting play activities independently. Bonus, your child will also build sorting skills!
#4. Set a Good Example
If your child sees you tidying up and putting things away after you’ve used them, they will learn from your behaviour. Try to approach cleaning and organizing chores with positivity, helping your child to develop a positive relationship with housework and responsibility.
#5. Provide Incentives
If your child is reluctant to tidy up, it can be effective to provide them with an incentive to complete the task. Examples of incentives include the promise of a trip to the park or more time to do something else like to help with cooking or start a new activity. It is important to consider the incentive carefully, ensuring it is personal to your child and addresses their interests. And of course to follow through with your promise!
When encouraging your child to tidy up after themselves it is important to remain patient. Young children need to learn ‘how’ to tidy up, and this takes time. Ensure you give them lots of praise and be consistent with expectations and with time and repetition, it is possible for even the youngest of children to take part in tidy-up-time. Lastly, don’t forget to stop and acknowledge with admiration and gratitude when you catch your child tidying up on their own.
About the author:
Jeannine Laubner is the Academic Director of Kipinä Kids Nurseries and Preschools, the world’s fastest-growing international Finnish preschool franchise. She is a fourth-generation teacher, and mother of two Kipinä-educated children. Hailing from San Francisco, USA, she is a successful leader in education with over 18 years of experience. Jeannine holds a Masters degree in Teaching, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development certification. When she is not developing teaching tools for the Kipinä Enhanced Finland Curriculum, she is supporting green initiatives, animal welfare and Girl Scouts Overseas.