Maintaining a neatly organised home with toddlers is challenging, but it can be a fun family time with educational benefits. Many parents and homeschoolers wonder how they can stay on top of the chore mountain, while juggling the disparate needs of younger children. Perhaps standards need to slip a little, until the kids are older, but here are some ideas to keep your home tidy with preschoolers in the family!
We can’t expect complex cleaning achievements from toddlers. The first thing children can learn, once they’re confidently toddling around, is simply to drop things – to drop toys in the toy box, for example. At this stage of development, you can’t expect more. After a few weeks, start telling your child to pick up the ball from the floor, then to pick up the doll, and to put them away. At the beginning, your child may not recognise all the instructions; be patient and repeat the activity every single day.
The next step of the cleaning education is teaching children to clean up their room. This involves only picking up and putting away the toys scattered on the floor. Show your child where the toys reside, and they will quickly learn to do this simple activity.
When teaching young children, it helps to make the lesson into a game. Toddlers really love to assist their parents, so tell them they are your “helper” when you sort and fold the laundry, for example. For them this will be a fun and interesting activity, so they will gladly help and learn. Organise a colour game – have them pick only white, blue or yellow items and then bring them to you.
Another important thing to consider when getting toddlers into home cleaning is the fact that their attention span is really short – they will be easily distracted and bored after 15 minutes, or less. It’s harder for them to concentrate for longer periods, so do at least one or two shorter cleaning chores a day. In the morning they can help you with beds, while in the afternoon they could be responsible for clearing up the mess they’ve made with their favourite puzzle. Make sure they are constantly supervised – you don’t want your kid to re-organise the kitchen cabinet by mixing the salt and sugar on the floor! Disasters like this can happen in a matter of a minutes.
In order to encourage your toddlers to clean up after themselves, you need first to facilitate it – clutter will confuse them, so too many toys is a bad idea. Always clean up together, especially if the toy chaos is a really serious one. The point is not to overwhelm children with too many tasks but to teach them basic cleaning activities, as well as concepts such as natural consequences. Explain that they won’t be able to play with the trucks and cars tomorrow, unless they pick them now and put them where they belong. If they don’t clean and organise, their room will be messy; they won’t be able to find their toys and there will be no free space for playing. Instead of punishing them for not being able or not wanting to do something, help them understand the consequences of their actions.
Teaching toddlers basic cleaning and organising skills isn’t purely to have someone help with the household chores; these activities help children learn life essentials and the importance of responsibility. The earlier you teach them, the better – regular cleaning will become a routine, and then it will develop into a habit.
Article by Josie Pimm of Fast Domestic Cleaning W13, and edited by SLOAH. Photography by SLOAH.