We have been blessed mostly in our daycare by having children who are old enough to know how to clean up by themselves. That is, until recently. The daycare that has consisted mainly of older three to four-year-olds now is overrun with toddlers that average about two years of age. Our cleanup times have gone from 5 minutes or less to 10 minutes or more. So, how do we encourage our little ones to clean up after themselves? I’ve decided to compile another list that will be split into two parts to tell you!
When I say it takes 10 minutes or more for our kids to clean up, I am not exaggerating. It is one of our jobs to help teach these kids how to clean up after themselves and they can make quite the mess. What I used to have to do is just say to clean up and it would get done immediately. I had time to go do a couple things like put away coats or use the bathroom before we moved on to the next activity. Now? I have to hover. I have to watch the kids like a hawk because the second I turn away (or even if I hover) they will ignore you and keep playing, what you say be damned. Patience is a great trait to have as a teacher and a parent. Use it right now. Never let that go because you will be practicing patience during this whole ordeal.
Lead by Example
Especially when kids are learning how to clean, this is something that is required. We currently have no child that can clean up perfectly. We have to help the children pick up, not only so we aren’t there cleaning up all day, but so they can see how we clean up. Sometimes I feel like they are playing me like a fiddle, but hey, at least they’re learning, right? I hope.
Turn Cleaning into a Game
Kids love games. They are constantly in competition with each other to see who can sing the loudest, run the fastest, or build the highest tower. Turning cleaning into a game can be a great tool to get the room cleaned fast. Which kid can pick up the most toys? Who can clean up five toys the fastest? Put on your best sports announcer voice and get ready to rumble. This can quickly turn into chaos so if you have a lot of kids, be sure to monitor them for cheating tactics or brawls.
We haven’t used this technique in a while, because you will not stop hearing the song and listening to 12 kids repeat the same song over and over can get grating. Do you remember as a kid listening to Barney and friends sing “Clean up! Clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your share!”? Ya, it works. Make up your own songs if you want. Sing it whenever you need to put toys away. Kids will most likely always be encouraged by singing their version of a cleanup song.
Take Age into Consideration
Don’t expect your 1-year-old to clean like a 4-year-old. Also, don’t expect your 4-year-old to clean like a 1-year-old. When your 1-year-old reaches the halfway mark, I feel like they should be ready to start cleaning up after themselves with guidance. By two, they should be able to clean more with some guidance and by three they should be able to clean with very minimal guidance. At 4, they should be able to clean all by themselves. Don’t expect your child to automatically know how to clean up, show your child how to clean from a young age. Always encourage cleaning and it’ll be easier to teach them!