Your little tot can be like a human tornado, making a huge mess wherever he goes. From scattered toys, spilled milk on the table, to organizing a drawer of cloth diapers, we can approach cleaning with a teaching attitude. There are so many lessons your child can gain from cleaning.
Many times, letting our children clean up can be more than just taking a load off our shoulders. We can have the time to either put away the washed cloth diapers, fold the clean clothes or wash the dishes. However, we should see it more than that because making your child clean up can have so many benefits. Take a look at some strategies I used with toddlers to make cleaning a more enjoyable time while making the most out of it to teach concepts and skills.
Make sure there is a place for everything.
If all the child's toys are in one box all mixed up, you are pretty much going to end up with all of it scattered around during play time. It's frustrating especially when they end up not playing with most of the toys they set out! When you organize your child's things in boxes, trays, baskets, or drawers, you are less likely to have a chaotic room. Your child would only need to get what he wants as opposed to having everything scattered around. When necessary, you can always reinforce rules. For instance, you can say, "Please keep these before you play with those."
Use labels or visual aids
Labels or pictures on bins or baskets will help the child sort his or her toys. You are also fostering independence because when they know where something is, they can get it on their own. Just make sure it is safe and that getting toys on their own isn't hazardous for them.
Labels will also reinforce the first rule that there is a place for everything. To add to that benefit, this will also help your child's reading skills and math skills. Even if your child doesn't read yet, teaching them that a label stands for something is a reading skill. For math, they can sort the toys accordingly, count how many toys there are, compare size, etc.
Teach social skills
It's always nice when a child helps you with cleaning up. With or without prompts, when a child gives a helping hand, affirm his actions. You can say, "Thanks for helping me clean up! With your help, I was able to finish cleaning faster." Words of affirmation encourage your child and give them a sense of accomplishment. Helping also reinforces teamwork and kindness, whether it's them helping you or you helping them. Model this for them by helping them with their toys once in awhile. Show to them that working together can have a positive outcome.
Give them time
Time boundaries can help your child follow rules and teaches them that there is a time for everything. Even if they don’t know how to read time, give them a timeline. You can say “You can play after we’ve changed your cloth diaper” or “You need to pack away before dinner.” Warn them when the time is almost up so they can wrap up. Say, “Let’s pack away in ten counts.” Telling them without warning might give them a negative attitude towards packing away. Don’t rush them too. If there is a lot of packing away to do, you can break the work up. For example, you can tell them to pile up the books first, then put away the blocks. He or she will feel less overwhelmed if you give him one task at a time.
Sometimes a child might not be done with playing yet. If they’re building a city with blocks, or haven’t finished a puzzle, encourage them to continue later on or the next day. You want to respect your child’s wish to keep on playing but don’t let “I’m not finished” rule you. Approach this situation in a way that doesn't discourage play. Value their play time because it play is a child's way of learning too.
If it is a place where it can be toppled over, assure him or her that they can always build it again. If necessary, take a photo of what they built. Reassure them that they can try to create the same thing the next day. You can also reinforce the idea that they can set it aside next time. Assign them a place where they can keep toys untouched if they plan on continuing the same thing.
Assign other tasks
Aside from packing away their toys, you can include your child in other simple tasks. Have your kid set the table, wipe the counter or any other simple work. Depending on your child’s age, you can assign them chores. Chores give them a sense of responsibility for their home and not just their personal things. It gives them a sense of belonging and a sense of family. As early as toddler age, with a simple chore you can teach them to value family; that you need each other to keep a happy and clean home.
Depending on how you approach cleaning up, your child could either develop a positive or negative attitude towards it. When you start at an early age, chores won’t seem like a foreign idea as they grow older. Remember to keep it interesting. Don’t force the idea into them. Kids also learn by watching you, so be a good role model to them.
You can learn from as many tips online, but you won’t find the “right” way anywhere. You know your kids best so switch it up as you feel to keep them involved and interested. The “right” way for you will unfold itself.
Involving your children in cleaning is something that can help us with the load that we have as parents. As it is helpful for us, cleaning also helps them in so much! Children can learn a lot from cleaning – social skills, cognitive skills, and physical skills. This article talks about some strategies to make a child enjoy cleaning while learning a lot from it too.
I’m Sarah Morgan, chief editor and striving mom-extraordinaire. Here at WellBeingKid.com, my mission is to inform and connect groups of like-minded parents.