Oftentimes, things get taken out before the first is put away. Toys begin to pile up…on top of the clothes, shoes, stuffed animals that were kicked out of bed in the middle of the night; and before long there is a mountain instead of a molehill. Once this happens, the prospect of picking it ALL up can seem very overwhelming. Where to begin? What to do? It is too much… “I’m just going to play with my iPad instead.” 🙂
Here are some tips that may help your child pick up their room AND teach them executive functioning skills (aka organizational skills):
- Give a warning. Say, “Okay guys, in 15 minutes we are going to start cleaning up our rooms.” Coming at them cold, “It’s time to pick up NOW!” never turns out well. Think about when you get an email from your boss that says, “I need you to make this spreadsheet before the end of the day” and you already have your own agenda. Makes you pretty peeved. Kids are the same. So giving them that warning can help get their head around the task before they start.
- Being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start can make starting difficult. Show them how making lists, even with cleaning, can make the job fun and manageable! Give your child a group of items to clean up. For example, ask them to pick up all the Legos. Once the Legos are all picked up they can pick up all the red items, then dirty clothes, then stuffed toys… get the idea? For the older kids that can read, make the checklist with them before they start. Then they can go item by item, checking each magical box as they complete the tasks.
- Clean up with them. This sounds counterintuitive- “Won’t I just be cleaning everything up while they stare at me?” I find that if I sit in my child’s room and work with her to clean, she keeps working. Also, I’m right there once one group of toys is cleaned up to give the next instruction. I can also work on her self-dependence by asking her, “What should we pick up next?” Most importantly, this can be a good time to strike up a conversation; ask about their day, who they played with, what they learned, etc. Interaction and cleaning! Win-Win!
So let’s say you’re past this stage of cleaning and you want something more.
- Give your child a list. Depending on their age, you could use words to describe what needs to be cleaned up or, for younger children, you can use colors; for example, red on the list signals cleaning up everything red. Or you could divide the room into color sections, so the dresser is yellow, the bed is blue, etc.
Think about your expectations – Do they match with your child’s age? For my younger daughter, she’s very able to pull books off the bookshelf, but when she tries to put them back, she ends up sticking books inside other ones and then we can’t find them when we want to read. When I ask her to pick up her books, her job is to stack the books then I’ll either help her put them on the shelf or while I do it, I am telling her how to make sure the books are leaning a certain way, etc.
What are some of the ways you have your children clean their rooms or help with chores?
–Lee Sizer, M. Ed