How to Get a Child to Clean Up After Themselves

Do you ever feel like your child is a tornado wreaking havoc on your home? Are toys, books, clothes, and other items scattered around everywhere? If this situation sounds all too familiar, then you’ll be delighted to know that there are ways to help get our children to do their part in tidying up.

How to Get a Child to Clean Up After Themselves

It may seem overwhelming at first, but with consistent effort and patience from parents and kids, it’s possible to teach your children the importance of picking up after themselves! In this blog post, we’ll show you some simple strategies that will help make the process easier for everyone involved.

So read on for an overview of helpful techniques on how to get a child to clean up after themselves to start teaching self-cleaning skills today!

What Will You Need?

Before diving into the strategies, let’s first go through some basic materials you’ll need to get started. These items are essential in teaching your child how to clean up after themselves and will make the process much more straightforward:

  • A cleaning schedule or chart
  • Cleaning supplies (child-friendly)
  • Storage solutions (bins, shelves, etc.)

With these materials on hand, you’ll be well prepared to start teaching and encouraging your child to clean up.

10 Easy Steps on How to Get a Child to Clean Up After Themselves

Step 1. Make Cleaning Fun:

Turn cleaning into a game. Set a timer and see who can pick up the most toys the fastest, or sing a special cleanup song while tidying up. By making the activity enjoyable, your child will be more willing to participate. It will also help establish a positive attitude towards cleaning in the long run.

Step 2. Simplify the Process:

Ask First to Pick Up All the Toys

Break down the task of cleaning into more straightforward, manageable stages. Instead of instructing your child to clean the entire room, ask them first to pick up all the toys, then the books, and so on. This makes the task less overwhelming and encourages a more systematic approach to cleaning. Be careful to assign only a few tasks simultaneously, as this can lead to frustration and lack of motivation.

Step 3. Lead by Example:

Children often imitate their parents’ behavior, so ensure you also keep your space tidy. Seeing you clean up will make them understand the importance of neatness and encourage them to do the same. If you make cleaning a daily habit, your child will learn to do the same. Don’t forget to thank and praise them for their efforts, too!

Step 4. Encourage Ownership:

Teach your child that their toys and belongings have a ‘home’ where they should return after use. Clearly labeled bins and shelves can be very helpful in this regard. This sense of ownership over their belongings and their ‘homes’ can inspire children to be more responsible and diligent in cleaning up after themselves. Allowing them to participate in organizing their things can also make them more invested in keeping things tidy.

Step 5. Positive Reinforcement:

Acknowledge and praise your child’s efforts in cleaning up, even if it’s not perfectly done. Your positive reinforcement can motivate them to repeat the behavior. Consider setting up a reward system, like earning stickers or extra playtime for every successful clean-up. Remember, the goal is to make cleaning up a positive experience, not a chore.

Step 6. Consistent Expectations:

Maintain a consistent standard for cleanliness that your child can understand and follow. If you ask them to clean toys, make sure they know what a cleaned-up room should look like. Kids might not fully grasp vague instructions, so clarity is crucial. Over time, they will learn to meet your expectations, making clean-up time less difficult.

Cleaned-up Room Should Look Like

Step 7. Involve Them in Purchasing Decisions:

Allow your child to make decisions when buying storage solutions for their toys or belongings. They are more likely to use the bins, boxes, or shelves they helped choose. This can also be an excellent opportunity to discuss why having a place for their things and keeping their spaces tidy is essential. Moreover, this encourages them to take responsibility for their belongings.

Step 8. Teach Them Early:

Start teaching your child to clean up after themselves as early as possible. Young children can pick up their toys and place them in a bin or onto a shelf. The sooner they start, the more likely they are to form a habit of cleaning up after playtime. Remember that children learn at their own pace, so be patient and supportive throughout this process.

Step 9. Be Patient:

Don’t expect your child to become a cleaning expert overnight. It’s a process, and it’s okay if they don’t get it right the first time. Be patient, guide them gently, and celebrate their progress, no matter how small. Don’t use threats or force, as this can create negative associations with cleaning. Try to make it a positive experience for both of you.

Step 10. Regular Check-ins:

Regularly review and discuss the importance of cleanliness and the expectation of cleaning up. This keeps the topic fresh in their minds and reinforces the habit. Consistent reminders and discussions about cleanliness help them understand its importance and adhere to the practice.

Following these simple steps can help develop your child’s sense of responsibility and independence while creating a more organized and tidy household.

5 Additional Tips and Tricks

Make Cleaning Up Fun
  1. Make it a Game: Make cleaning up fun rather than a chore. You could set a timer and see who can pick up the most toys before it goes off or sing a cleanup song to make the process more enjoyable.
  2. Implement a Reward System: Offer small rewards as incentives for cleaning up. This could be an extra 10 minutes of playtime, a favorite snack, or a sticker on a chore chart.
  3. Set a Good Example: Children often emulate adult behavior. Make sure you’re practicing good habits by tidying up after yourself and keeping your belongings organized.
  4. Start Small: Don’t overwhelm your child with a big mess. Start by asking them to put away one or two items at a time. Gradually, they will build the habit of cleaning up after themselves.
  5. Consistency is Key: Make cleanup a regular part of your child’s routine. This could be before bed, after playtime, or at the end of each day. The more consistent you are, your child will likely follow suit.

With these additional tips and tricks, you can help your child learn the importance of cleaning up after themselves in a fun and effective way.

6 Things You Should Avoid

  1. Avoid Nagging: Constant reminders or nagging can make children resent cleaning up. Instead, gently guide them and offer positive reinforcement when they clean up.
  2. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations: Don’t expect perfection, especially from younger children. They are still learning, and their idea of tidying might differ from yours. Praise effort rather than results.
 Their Idea of Tidying Might Differ
  1. Avoid Using Cleaning as a Punishment: This can create a negative association with tidying up. Instead, aim to make cleaning a regular part of your child’s routine.
  2. Avoid Doing it All Yourself: While it can be faster and easier to clean up yourself, resisting this urge is essential. This does not help your child learn responsibility.
  3. Avoid Inconsistent Rules: Your child may understand when and what they should clean if you’re consistent with your rules. Stick to a routine and make the rules clear.
  4. Avoid Making it Boring: If cleaning is considered tedious, your child will be less likely to do it. Make it fun, engaging, and rewarding to encourage them to participate.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can foster a positive attitude towards cleaning and help your child develop good habits that will benefit them in the long run.

Why Won’t My Kids Clean Up After Themselves?

It’s essential to understand that children are not naturally tidy, and it takes time to develop good cleaning habits. It’s also normal for them to resist doing tasks they don’t enjoy, such as cleaning up after themselves. However, with patience and consistent effort, you can help your child learn the importance of cleanliness and develop responsible habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Remember to make the process fun, set realistic expectations, and reinforce their efforts positively. By following these tips and tricks, you can empower your child to take responsibility for their own space and belongings.

Is It OK to Be a Little Messy?

Teaching The Value
 of  Cleanliness

While teaching your child the value of cleanliness is important, it’s also essential to recognize that a little mess is okay. Allowing your child to explore and be creative can lead to clutter and disorganization, but this is a natural part of childhood. The key is balancing fostering their creativity and teaching them the importance of maintaining a clean and organized space. So don’t stress too much about a perfectly tidy house, and instead focus on teaching your child the skills they need to become responsible and independent individuals. 

Overall, remember that every child is different and will have a unique approach to cleaning up after themselves. Be patient consistent, and offer positive reinforcement, and you’ll be well on your way to raising a responsible and tidy child. 


In conclusion, how to get a child to clean up after themselves is not as hard as it may seem. It just takes time, patience, and consistency. Start by breaking down tasks into smaller pieces and setting realistic expectations. Encourage your child throughout and be consistent in enforcing house rules. Have a reward system in place, or use positive reinforcement to make cleaning fun!

With a good strategy in place, you can slowly develop habits that will instill responsibility and stick for the long haul. Lastly, remember to take time for yourself as well — being an educator and enforcer of the rules can be tough!

So make sure to seek methods for de-stressing, too. Everyone deserves a little break – both parents and children alike!

Photo of author

Loren Jones

Hi, my name is Loren. I live with my husband and 4 lovely kiddos in the Eastern part of San-fransisco. I have a smart beautiful,curious 6 year old daughter, a handsome 11-year-old son, an intelligent and tech geek 15 years old son and a creative, artistic 12-year-old stepson. With each of my kids being five years apart, I feel that I’m now continually phasing in and out of each stage of parenting! I’ve learned a lot about the way children learn and behave, especially in a school setting with regards to curriculum. I enjoy sharing that insight through my writing and hope that it can help others.

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