How do you get kids to help you clean up their mess.

Amanda - posted on 08/20/2009 ( 49 moms have responded )

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I have 4 kids (ages 9,6,5,4) and they will not help me clean the mess they make. I've tried giving rewards, and that work for 2 weeks. Now its like pulling teeth to get alittle help. Open to suggestions

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Andrea - posted on 08/26/2009

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We do not give rewards for doing what's expected of them. Instead, they know that mom's idea of cleaning up means throwing everything on the floor into the garbage. So, when it's time to clean up, I say "you have two options: either you clean it or I do". It generally takes only one or two times of watching mommy throw out their favorite toys to learn the lesson.

Renee - posted on 08/26/2009

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Okay so read several and no one that I read mentioned that you should make sure you don;t have tooo many toys. Too many toys is too much to take care of. Tough one I know but really helped my boys when I cleared out a bunch of their toys. They had more room to play and sooooooo much easier to clean up.

Lubna - posted on 08/24/2009

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I'm a kindergarten teacher as well as a mother and have found that using tangible rewards (stickers, treats,etc.) works for a short time and the effects are not long lived. To get my kids to clean up, I play one particular song (select something with a beat and play that song only during clean up time). The kids were challenged to pick up their mess in a team effort before the song is done. It has worked like a charm. I don't even need to say clean up time anymore. I just play the song. Good Luck.

Jaimie - posted on 11/06/2011

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well my son and specail needs nephew probablly have the cleanest room in the kid world if they refuse to pick up and i have to they have to sit on the couch while i clean there room for as long as it takes and if they refuse to sit there things go in a bag until i decide they are responsable enough to have there things wether it be a day or two or a week they will get bored of having nothing to do and next time they will know theres consequences of not picking up there thing my boys are 15 14 10 and 4 and my niece is 5 my house is never a mess and there rooms always stay clean i wish i could send pics to prove it i tell them im not the maid im the mom i have responsabilitys but so do you i have to cook i have to wash dishes and i have to do laundry but u have to pick up your living space to or i will throw things away and i have good luck hope this helps

[deleted account]

Let them know that they need to clean up before they can do anything else (play w/ anything else, go outside, watch a cartoon, etc...). Encourage them by saying, "Come on..let's get this cleaned up as fast as possible so we can go do this/that" Give them a consequence for not helping clean up and a reward for helping clean up.

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[deleted account]

There a couple of steps to this:
1. Education - what are the rules for our house? What is each one of us expected to do?
2. List - of responsibilities and when they need to be done
3. Rewards - this will be different for each child. My son loves computer games, my girls ice cream and tv.
4. Get the routine down. I'll share our Sat morning routine: wake up and change and put on new bedding. As soon as they are done they can watch TV till breakfast. After breakfast pick chore combo (e.g. Vacuuming hallways goes with sniffing front hallway). When chore combo is done fold and put away their own laundry. Whoever is done by noon they get to watch tv till lunch and pick where we they go for ice cream. We then spedn the rest of the day outdoors till dinner. After dinner - movies and popcorn for all kiddos that did their chores.

We also have a jelly bean jar they fill for chores like setting the table and cleaning up. They then pickwhatever (withinh reason) they want as a reward. You would be surprised what the prizes are: having dad walk them to the bus, night out with one of the parents, family night out, playdate.

I am happy to share more ideas if you would like.

Jaimie - posted on 11/06/2011

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i also say u pick up 10 toys u pick up 10 toys and u pick up ten toys it works and say after u pick up ur toys i will help u

Michelle - posted on 08/26/2009

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I always make it a race..... if they don't participate from the start pretend to be winning them or tell them one of the kids that is helping is winning them and you'll see that 'ol competitive streak come out and thay usually won't want to lose. Maybe even show them a prize if they win. of course you can have a reward for all os them when they finish. Hope it helps

Kara - posted on 08/25/2009

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Wow! My 2 yr old loves to put stuff in the trash (like our phones and remotes) and my 6 yr ol just gets upset when I take her stuff away when she wont pick up.

Julie - posted on 08/24/2009

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I run a daycare plus have three children of my own. The best way i have learned to get them to help out especially when they r young is to make it a game. Let's see how fast we can pick these toys up. Then encourage fast, fast. Who can pick up the most toys. Also make it easy to put away nothing complicated just a big toy box.

Jami Aka JamiQuan - posted on 08/24/2009

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First never back down. Make it a game and give a time limit works for me. Additionally don't make it over whelmeing (sp) meaning perhaps they have to much stuff and they dont feel like they can do all the work. I make a habit of removing broken unused and unneeded toys they no longer play with. This has helped a great deal in keeping things easier to clean up. I have a 14 yo a 4yo, 13 yo and all boys

Erica - posted on 08/24/2009

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check out www.flylady.net i have found it works miracles for me and my children. The site will seem overwhelming at first but just remember BABYSTEPS

Vickie - posted on 08/24/2009

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My kids are 5 and 3 1/2. If they will not clean up then they know that the toys go in the trash. I will grab a trash bag and throw everything that I have to pick up into it and out the door it goes (to be stored in the garage for at least 2 weeks, that is when I went through all of their toys and got rid of the stuff they don't play with). Since then my 5 yr old knows to clean up or it is getting thrown away and my 3 1/2 yr old if I make the threat will start throwing toys away as he picks them up :).

Rosemary - posted on 08/24/2009

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I have 15yo boy 12yo girl and 7yo boy along with a stepson of 15.i am having the same problem. Things have gotten tossed out and they don't seem to care.Rewards have been given. Does not work for long. We have "family talks" they just don't seem to care.

Arwen - posted on 08/23/2009

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My daughter is 19 months, and is starting to learn about picking up. I take her to the mess, sit her down with it, and tell her to help pick it up. She usually will. =) If she was older, and didn't want to help, I would make her sit in time out to watch me pick it up, and stay in it a little longer after I was done. My mom only did this a couple times with me, and I remember learning real fast to pick up toys.

Lauren - posted on 08/23/2009

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first of all, it isn't your mess, it is theirs!!! you shouldn't have to do anything except supervise with the 9 year old! the 6 & 5 year old should be given simple instructions on a little area at a time. you will have to show them what is expected of them. and for the 4 year old you may need to stay in the room with them and keep going back and forth between the 5-6 yr. olds too to make sure they are working. i always put a timer on mine! a reasonable time!!! say 10 mins. for a little part and then another 10 for another part of room. the 4, 5 & 6 year old you could see who gets done 1st and give that person a special treat maybe. it's up to you. and then when they all finish give them all another kind of treat. the main thing is it's their mess and they have to learn to keep their area cleaned up. you don't have to be mean about it but be consistant as in everything with children!!!

Aileen - posted on 08/23/2009

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p.s. failing that take the hard line approach and get a roll of black plastic bags. If its not cleaned up it goes in the bag and disappears. Return items as rewards when they do clean up.

Aileen - posted on 08/23/2009

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Get involved yourself and make it a team effort - make up a family song and try to make it as fun as possible - try throwing games to get toys into boxes or arranging on shelves by size...... This takes focus of the task being 'work' and challenges them. You have to be consistant and keep at it over a long period of time - months rather than weeks. Set routine times for them to clean up like before meal times and before they go to bed. That way they don't feel like they are constantly being made to 'work'.

Anita - posted on 08/23/2009

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forgot to say i did this to my almot 2yr old and now if an when i ask him to cean up his toy and he doesnt all i have to say is i will throw it away and he will say"no.. jett clean..mummy help"...he does put 95% his toys away...If it a relly big mess i suggest u get a metre long rope...tie the ends together and throw it over someof his toys...whatever toys fall inside the circle (rope) ask them to put those away an u do the rest...sometmes too much toys fo them to clean my be a little overwhelming...

Anita - posted on 08/23/2009

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buy a bin..line it w gabbage bag,,if they dont clean their mess throw evthing in it and "throw it away" (keep it out of sight)..keep doing his and they'll eventually realize u mean business...

Monica - posted on 08/22/2009

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I have a 4 1/2 yo and when she was younger we did the clean up song as well.We would clean up together. But as she got older she became alot lazier. So when I ask her to clean up her toys and she doesn't, I grab a plastic shopping bag and start putting all of the toys in there and I tell her that if she doesn't like these toys enough to clean them up I'll get rid of them. Somedays I tell her I will throw them away other days I donate. Usually she will start picking them up. But on the days she doesn't, I have no problem pitching them in the trash. She knows I'm serious and it's not just a threat. You don't have to actually throw them out if you don't want to, but let me tell you they definately get the picture.

Cheryl - posted on 08/22/2009

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We sing songs and make a game of it, I have a 7yr old and 3 yr old, when my kids were younger they loved helping out all the time now I have to play the games and sing the songs.

Alot of the times tho my kids want to do something but their mess has to be cleaned up 1st they don't want to clean it up so I tell them if they want their activity the mess has 2b cleaned up or they have to go 2 bed. With that they clean it up.

Karlyn - posted on 08/22/2009

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I only have a 4 year old, but when its time to clean up we make it a game!!! We race to see who cleans up the most toys the quickest! Worked on my 2 younger brothers also :D Good luck!!

Tessa - posted on 08/22/2009

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Hi all, i have 4 kids and the only 1 that was a nightmare when it came to keeping his room tidy was my 3rd son who is 9. I made him a chart with pictures on of all his things, books, cars, art stuff etc which i then laminated. Then i made up some circles with ticks on which were also laminated. The pictures and ticks then had adhesive velcro attached to them. Now when he has to tidy his room he chooses a picture from his chart, tidies that away an puts a tick on that picture when complete. moving through the pictures until his room is finished. A lot of preparation work i know but his room has never been tidier.

Good luck Tess.

Bonnie - posted on 08/22/2009

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Hi Amanda. I have 2 girls, 11 and almost 13. They've been helping me clean up their stuff since they were babies. Now they empty and refill my dishwasher (the younger one even cleans the stove for me) when it's time for the dishes; they do their own laundry (very well, I might add) and they vacuum. I think it's because I didn't do it for them right from the start. If they get used to you doing the chores for them, they will expect you to do it as they grow up and you get tired of it. It's hard to break a bad habit, including you cleaning their messes. I've always had them working with me as we cleaned up a mess and they learned early on that you mess it, you clean it. How much respect do you require of them? If they fuss when you ask for them to help and then give in, they are learning not to respect your authority. I hope this helps a little bit. You, as the mom, need to stand firm in your request and dad needs to back you up when their is a start of an argument from the kids. Just remember, you are the mom and you make the rules. Best wishes and hang in there.

Tina - posted on 08/22/2009

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I have 5 kids with a large age range so I understand. I get so frustrated when I feel like all I do is clean up THEIR mess all day. My oldest 2 have to unload & load the dishwasher (both of them together). My oldest actually asked me why they had to do MY work? I told them it's my responsibility to teach them how and they need to practice for when they grow up. What kind of chores are they not doing?

Amy - posted on 08/21/2009

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I have only one child. He helps me when he wants too. We are on fixed income. So I can not give him money. My Mom and Dad gives him money when he helps them around the house,

We can not do this nor do we want to start. This is hard for us too. My husband throughs toys away and it does not bother him. This is a good subject.It is worse when his friends come over. We have called the kids back over to clean the messes up.

[deleted account]

We've tried everything with our 7 yr old son. The one thing that finally worked here was if it is left out at night, it goes disappears the "magic bag". Usually, he doesn't even miss what has "disappeared", but it certainly has him thinking twice about what he doesn't clean up and our house has been much tidier since we started using this method.

Lisa - posted on 08/21/2009

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This is a constant problem but we are always talking about how our family is a team. I usually try to phrase my request in such a way that they feel they are adding to the success of our family. I also try to point out any possible reward such as time left for a family tv night, trip to the pool, or just a non-cranky mom! Keep working at it--it is important.

I also have a "Job Jar." This is a plain canning jar that I have filled with little strips of paper. The papers have jobs written on them that constantly need to be done. Examples are, sweeping, vacuum, changing the centerpiece, picking up trash. Then there are several pieces of a different color of paper with rewards written on them. On "Job Jar" day (whenever I choose) the kids pull out a job. They then have to go do it and when inspected, they get another. They keep this process going until they have done as many jobs as they are old. (my 9 year old does 9, my 6 year old does 6). I do this too, but don't count mine! When they have completed all their jobs and they have been inspected by me or my husband, they can pick a reward paper. The rewards are things like a trip to the park, 20 minutes of internet time, a sleepover, etc. I don't use money or toys as a reward. The three of us can usually finish cleaning the house in an hour this way. This works well as long as I don't do it all the time. Good luck!

[deleted account]

Hello Amanda.I have a son he's 3yrs old.I bought things that look like cleaning products made for kids.For example he helps me vaccum with his lawnmover or he dusts with his own car cloth.He likes making his bed I told him big boys do it all the time.Plus seeing me do it he wants to follow me.He sweeps the floor get the dust pan.I made him feel like he important.He loves folding laundry with me help put clothes in dryer.I let him help put things up thats his level.I never give treats when cleaning because my found will do everything for a treat.I ran out of treats had to stop that lol.Anyway make it fun to seem less like a chore.

Misty - posted on 08/21/2009

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Quoting Amber:

Start with a chore list. You can print free off the internet. And it's age chore list. Try that and they are still young you still can teach them. Be very specific with your demands and have a "family meeting" so ALL the kids see that not one is different, that EVERYONE must pick up after themselves. Good Luck



Do you know the website where I can print off the chore lists?  I would like to try that. thx.

Misty - posted on 08/21/2009

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Do you know the website where you can print off the chore lists? I would like to try that.

Misty - posted on 08/21/2009

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I want to know the same thing. I have a 5 yr old that can destroy a room in 2 seconds flat. He attempts to clean up and it just gets worse. I have tubs and containers and everything has a place but nothing makes it there. It drives me crazy. I will eventually go in there and do it myself and I know that isnt helping the situation but I have to vacuum the floor eventually. He will help if I get in there with him but we have gone over the whole when you get finished with a toy put it up thing and it still doesn't work. I am about ready to just start boxing everything on the floor up.

Tricia - posted on 08/21/2009

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I tell my three year old everytime I have to put his toys away I get to take one and keep it. I did it one time and when he woke up and one of his favorite toys were gone he helped me pick up all the toys every night from then on.

Amber - posted on 08/21/2009

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Start with a chore list. You can print free off the internet. And it's age chore list. Try that and they are still young you still can teach them. Be very specific with your demands and have a "family meeting" so ALL the kids see that not one is different, that EVERYONE must pick up after themselves. Good Luck

Ronke - posted on 08/21/2009

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Thats y they are kids i guess. my 3 yr old cleans up willing. i think it all depends on d kid

User - posted on 08/21/2009

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repetition and perseverance is the key. it does require alot of patience and repetitiveness but it does work in the long run!

Frances - posted on 08/21/2009

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Not an easy thing to get kids to do. I have a 3 year old and by god I know the feeling of pulling teeth and will have the same joy with my lil girl when she gets there. I do tell him that if he doesnt pick his toys up then I am putting them in the bin it does work but with a lot of whinging from him.. We have also just started with his new toy which is a football that if he doesnt do as asked we take the football from him for a day and that is deffinately working... All kids are different tho arnt they.. Good Luck

User - posted on 08/21/2009

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without having read any of the responses, I would say firstly, have patience and show them how to tidy up (without tidying everything up yourself!). Each time you help, help a little less and when everything has been tidied each time, give ALOT of praise for what they have done.
Also, what helps is to remind them when things are still in their original tidy place that whatever is messed will need to be tidied afterward, by them! It may take a few times but they 'cotton on' pretty quickly

Anita - posted on 08/21/2009

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We have a box and we ask for team work and what is not picked up and put away gets put into the box and as far as they are concerned it goes in the bin. In reality we put it away and only bring it out 6mths later and by then they have totally forgotten about every having the items they lost. we have twin 4.5 and a 2.5 yr boys.

Michelle - posted on 08/20/2009

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I offer an incentive such as if you clean up your room we can go play outside... or if you keep your room clean we'll go to walmart and buy a toy this weekend... worked so far :)

Tessa - posted on 08/20/2009

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There are several options you could try. I definitely agre with Ms. Bunce that being very specific in what needs to be done might help. I would recommend being very honest with them. Tell them how much you need thier help and explain why. Let them know that this is a big responsibility and how proud of them you are (and not just because they cleaned up thier mess). Treats and prizes are nice, but I think that we undervalue a good "pat on the back" and honest appreciation.

Erica - posted on 08/20/2009

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One thing that has worked for me with children of their age is to be very specific. Tell on to pick up the blocks, one the books, one the cars...this way they stay on task and don't get overwhelmed. It seems more difficult because you really have to stay with them and talk them through it, but it actually gets it done faster and in a better way than you just yelling. Good luck.

[deleted account]

Play hardball, ask them to have their stuff cleaned up by bedtime, or everything will be gone by morning. Make sure you follow-up by packing the toys away or donating them. My 5 & 6 year old have seen many boxes donated. I now have a clean floor at the end of the day.

Danielle - posted on 08/20/2009

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make it as fun as possible. I remember the way my mom did it with the 4 of us was she would make it a challenge. whoever picked up the most toys and made things look the best got a reward. And we all hurried and scrambled to get everthing picked up as fast as we could.

Alisha - posted on 08/20/2009

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Hello. I have a 3 and almost 2 yr and well i let them know before hey make their mess that it will have to be cleaned up. They are still learning but if its like pulling teeth then they can go sit out (time out for not listen) If the other is cleanign up fine i leave some for the other one to clean up and this may take time. . oh it does but in the end its worth it.

Tammie - posted on 08/20/2009

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Hi Amanda...I have a 9 yr old & a 5 yr old & when they make a mess & it's time to clean up we sing a song. Clean up clean up everybody clean up & we sing this until we are done, but before they start I say to them.... lets sing our song & see who can clean up the fastest & then who ever cleans the most will get a prize or a snack. This works @ home & @ our church....good luck....Tammie

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