4 Ways to Encourage Preschoolers to Get a Kick out of Cleanup

How many times a day do you pick up after your little ones? All day, right?

I’m excited to introduce our guest blogger, Liz Greene who has some wonderful tips in to encourage preschoolers to cleanup after themselves.

4 ways to encourage cleanup

As a child, I would have a mini meltdown whenever my mother told me to clean my room. The task seemed so much larger than me. Where did I begin? Where did everything go? How was I supposed to do it all on my own? These early experiences led me to feel anxiety every time I was asked to do any chore – large or small.

As an adult, I am organized enough to handle any mess, and I keep a spotless home. However, I still dread cleaning. From washing the dishes to vacuuming the floors, my abrupt introduction to cleaning has left housework feeling more like a burden than a benefit.

I always imagined that all small children approached cleanup with the same apprehension that I did – that is, until I became a preschool teacher. I watched as my co-workers directed the children’s cleanup efforts like a well-tuned orchestra, and the kids happily played along.

So how exactly did the teachers get the kids to join in cleanup without as much as a complaint? It was surprisingly easy!

Make it Simple

You know that old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”? Yeah, that’s a big deal for your little ones. Make sure every toy, game, and piece of clothing has an easily accessible home, and then make a label for it. Pre-readers will need graphic labels, but I recommend including large type words as well to encourage early reading skills. When children know where things belong, it eases the cleanup process immensely.

Make it Fun

No one likes tedious tasks – not adults, and especially not children. Little minds need stimulation, and cleanup time shouldn’t be an exception. Here are some fun ideas to make cleanup a game they’ll enjoy:

  • “Let’s See How Fast We Can Clean Up!” — a speedy competition to see how quickly kids can clean a room while working together.
  • Categorized Cleanup – Issue challenges to each child such as:
    • “Put away everything that is shaped like a rectangle.”
    • “Find toys that are red and put them where they belong.”
    • “If you can wear it on your body, put it away.”
  • Mission: Impossible – Give each child a mission to cleanup certain toys or complete specific chores. Play the Mission: Impossible theme song to make it extra fun.

Make it Musical

One of my favorite ways to make my own housework pass quickly is to put on some of my favorite music. The next time you ask your kids to clean up, throw on one of their favorite songs and race to finish cleaning before the song is over. It’s a lot easier to get moving when there’s an awesome beat to get moving to. You can even create a playlist specifically for cleaning!

Make it Rewarding

Sometimes kids need a little more incentive than games or music to get their work done. In those cases, a small reward can be incredibly motivational. I’m not talking about anything major here, just a little something to sweeten the deal. Here are some of my favorite cleanup rewards:

  • A picnic lunch in the newly cleaned space.
  • Half an hour of a favorite TV show or video game.
  • Cuddle/story time with three treasured books.
  • Choice of dinner (let them pick a favorite!)
  • A trip to the park

Cleanup time doesn’t have to be a hassle if you make it enjoyable for your little ones. By adding a little fun in with that elbow grease, you can instill a love of cleaning that will last a lifetime.

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

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