7 Ways to Teach Your Toddler to Clean Up

How do you get your toddler to clean up? Here are 7 tips for teaching toddlers to clean up after themselves & to help clean the house.

The fact is even young kids can learn to clean and help. By teaching them early, we’re actually doing them a favor, as cleaning is a life skill.

The challenge is that not every toddler wants to help clean, and it also takes kids time to learn to clean properly. But our efforts will definitely pay off.

So here are the 7 things you can do to get your toddler to clean up.

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1.) Set the example yourself.

It’s essential both for your toddler to observe you maintaining a clean house, and to watch how you clean things.

Research has shown that children will imitate things they see adults do, as this article from Psych Central points out.

I personally do a cleaning routine each day using a daily cleaning checklist. So my toddlers observe me cleaning up and sometimes copy what I’m doing.

2.) Don’t turn down help when your toddler wants to participate.

Try to find some version of helping they can safely do (even if it’s not actually ‘helping’ you.) I don’t want to discourage our toddlers from helping clean the house, because it’s a good learning experience for them, and it will turn into actual help as they get older.

Note: You do want to make sure they’re not doing anything that would put them in harm’s way. This includes making sure they are not accessing or using cleaning supplies that have harmful chemicals. Which brings us to the next tip…

3.) Get your toddler their own safe cleaning ‘supplies’.

When my daughter was younger she want to help sweep, do dishes, and vacuum.

I got her a handheld broom & dustpan set (like this one.)

My mom also gave her a toy vacuum (similar to this one.)

And we let her use a cute little pig scrub brush to help with dishes.

4.) Remind your toddler of the benefits of cleaning up, and make it fun for them.

I try to sing clean-up songs with the kids when we are picking up toys.

And thanks to a suggestion from a friend, we have recently made it a game of who can clean up their part of the room first. My 2 & 4-year-olds have responded well to this so far.

5.) If your toddler doesn’t listen when you say it’s time to clean up, stop them from playing or watching TV until they listen.

Today when my daughter didn’t clean up her toys right away, I paused the TV until she listened. (This works with our older kids too.)

I don’t use this intentionally as a punishment, but simply for the sake of removing distractions. Kids- especially younger kids- have a short attention span, so they can only focus on so much at once.

6.) Put one activity away before getting out the next.

2 toddlers playing with only a few toys at a time so the house doesn't get messy

Just as we clear off the table before we eat, I try to have my toddlers pick up their toys before moving onto another activity, such as painting.

7.) Praise your toddler whenever they help clean up, and reward good behavior.

Tell them it makes you happy when the house is clean, when they listen, and when they help you clean up. Let them know what an amazing job they’re doing!

I still remember when my daughter was under 2, she always wanted to help with dishes. (This was before we got our counter-top sanity-saver- um, I mean counter-top dishwasher.)

I told her she did a good job helping me, and I will never forget how she was *beaming* with a huge ear-to-ear smile.

Toddlers love to know they are doing a good job, and they like to be rewarded.

Using a reward chart is a great way to visually remind toddlers to listen. And they can watch themselves earn rewards for cleaning up, listening, going potty, or whatever else you want to praise them for.

Get our free printable sticker reward chart here.

So those are 7 ways to teach your toddler to clean up. By setting a good example, accepting whatever amount of help your toddler willingly gives, giving them their own safe cleaning supplies to use, making it fun, enforcing order and rules and home, and praising them for good behavior, you can be successful.

P.S. Don’t forget to grab our free printable toddler sticker reward chart before you go!

Thanks for stopping by & have a great day!

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