I can’t stand a huge mess. I can, however, happily deal with controlled chaos. You guys are always asking me who does the majority of the clean up over here. Truth is…It depends on a lot of factors.
A lot of times, I ask the kids to clean up the materials that are scattered on the floor and let them leave up their building so that they can return to it later. This means that all of the blocks that didn’t get used, the random peg people scattered on the floor and the crashed magnate tower all need to be picked up.
The tower or fort that they’ve created can stay up. Once I notice it’s getting stale, meaning no one has come back to it in a day or two, I’ll ask them to decide if they want to add to it or clean it up. But they have to do one.
When the playroom is a huge mess I ask them to work with me to clean it. I also ask that it get completely tidied on Sundays so that we can start the week fresh. I need that for my own personal sanity. It has nothing to do with their play.
Nate and Ruby are rockstars at the big clean up. In fact, Ruby can style those shelves better than I can. Sloane is the master of the magnetic tiles. She spends ages stacking them in rainbow order.
You know what else I do? I bribe them. Yup, sometimes the playroom is a huge mess and I don’t want to deal with it or even look at it. It is on the main floor and if you are in our home, you can see the playroom. So, sometimes I’ll make a deal and trade cleaning for screen time allowance or candy. #honestmotherhood at it’s finest.
Like anything, the clean up process around here is flexible. We all kind of pitch in and then I make any necessary tweaks to arrive at the final outcome.
I usually don’t have playmates help with clean up. I’m way too controlling about the playroom for that. My kids and I know how we like it, but most other people could never decode the system. Oh, and my husband kicks butt at cleaning up and organizing the block shelves. He’s. SO. Good.
Ideas For Young Children:
When my kids were younger, the approach for having them help me clean up in a way that I found useful was very different. Here are some prompts I might use with young children around clean up time. I find that the language you use has a marked effect on the outcome.
Prompts For Clean Up Time:
Let’s clean up everything that is red. On your mark, get set, go!
Great! What color will we pick up next? How about I do blue while you do green.
Can you pick up the triangle blocks while I work on the units?
Let’s see how long it takes for us to clean up the trains, trucks and cars, but not the blocks. I’ll set the timer.
I am going downstairs to start a wash. How many items can you put back while I am gone. Surprise me!!
What if your children have a really hard time with cleaning up?
First, think about the age and developmental stage of your child. What is appropriate for them to clean up? The play is the important part as well as instilling good clean up habits. BUT, you do not want to overwhelm them.
Ask yourself these questions:
Does everything have a clear defined place? If not, clean up is going to be a disaster most days.
Are there just too many things to clean up? If it is too overwhelming, have them start with only a few small things to clean up.
Set them up for success. If they feel like they are good at cleaning up, they will be more likely to want to do it.
Make sure you give ample warning. I like to say, “We have about five more minutes. Now is a good time to finish something up or choose a very last thing to do.” This also works when you want to leave a playdate or the beach!
Here’s another way to talk about clean up:
“Let’s get this room ready for the next time we feel ready to play. It will feel good to come in to a clean space!”
In the classroom, you could say, “Let’s ready the materials for the next children who come in and want to play. Won’t they feel happy when they see the room is all ready for them?”
Finally, remember that it takes a lot of time and patience to raise children who will want to contribute and help you keep their space nice. When you value something and you talk about it and model it often, your children are likely to follow suit. It takes work.
Do you have any other tips or tricks regarding clean up time in the home or classroom?