Teach your kids to tidy up

Wendyl has tips for that well-known parenting dillema – getting kids to clean their rooms

Keeping the kids’ bedrooms tidy can be the cause of much stress in a household. How many times have we yelled, “Tidy your room!” and later found everything shoved under the bed or the rug. Mr maybe that’s just in my house. And while you can simply blame genetics for your untidy children (my house again), putting the time into teaching them to keep their rooms uncluttered and organised can actually give them valuable skills for running their own homes later in life. Here are some tips for creating tidy kids:

  • Start early. Even a toddler can pick up some toys and put them in a box. So establish an everyday routine for picking up their toys and putting them away.

  • Have clear places for the toys to go, otherwise your child will just become overwhelmed and confused about how to tidy them up. Have a box for Lego, a box for soft toys, a box for books etc. If you just have one big toybox things inevitably get lost.

  • Establish clear areas for your child’s various belongings and make sure there is enough room to store them. Have a hook for their schoolbag, a homework area, a place for shoes, somewhere to hang their coat. once they are given the responsibility for ensuring everything goes into the right place, it will become a habit.

  • Lead by example. If you can’t see the floor in your own bedroom for the clothes on it, then you can’t expect your child to have a tidy bedroom. Get in the habit of tidying your room when they do theirs.

  • Be prepared to dig in and help a child clean up their room, particularly if it has been wrecked by a sleepover. one child can get overwhelmed and be unable to organise themselves to clean it all up. Show them how to start at one end and work through to the other. Make sure they take regular breaks every 20 minutes or so and that there’s a sense of fun involved.

  • Be realistic about how your child’s things are stored. You may like them to fold everything neatly and stack their clothes on shelves. But some children might be better off just shoving the clothes in drawers. As long as they are in the right drawer and off the floor, surely that’s enough? If you insist on your way it’s unlikely the system will last very long.

  • Don’t be afraid to label things. Younger children can’t always remember where everything goes, so – even though it may wreck your interior decorating sensibilities – do label each drawer, maybe even draw a picture, so they know where to put things.

  • When organising their room, think about what items they use most. If the Lego is constantly being dragged out, then keep it handy in a plastic storage box. It should be just sitting on the floor or under their bed, not tucked at the back of a closet where it has to be dragged out every time. Things like beach toys that only get used in the summer could perhaps spend the winter in the back of the closet instead.

  • Get your child involved in their room. Take them shopping for plastic storage boxes and let them choose their favourite colour. The more you include them in how their room is organised, the more likely they are to keep it tidy.

  • Don’t expect your child to live in a room with one picture on the wall just because it suits the rest of the house. Kids love posters- the more the better. If your wall coverings can’t take pins or Blu Tack, provide a large corkboard for posters and pictures.

  • Help your child do a six-monthly clean out. Have three boxes labelled Rubbish, Paper Recycling and Donate/Sell. Kids do grow out of toys so they will often be happy to send them off to a charity for another child to use or to sell some on Tradeoe and make extra pocket money. Clearing out unwanted toys and clothes will make it easier for your child to keep their things organised and tidy.

  • Don’t forget to reward them. If you’ve set up the room properly, with designated areas and sensible storage systems, then challenge your child to keep it tidy for a certain time. If they succeed, reward them with cash or buy them something they want for their bedroom. They’ll learn the habits and skills they need to be tidy for life.

Related stories

Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.