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Amongst the mound of dirty clothes, the half-folded piles of clean clothes, the smelly gym bags and the empty candy wrappers lies a beautiful place we call “the kids room.”

Messy bedrooms and kids usually go hand in hand.  Unfortunately, messy bedrooms don’t sit well with most parents.  That’s why you should get your kids excited about cleaning early on in life.

Start Early On

When children are about two or three years old, they can begin learning ways of keeping their room clean, such as putting away a toy before taking out another.  Setting limits on the amount of toys being taken out at once also helps.  At this age, kids can learn to store toys in certain spaces, like bins or baskets. They also get a sense of organization early on.

Sometimes when a messy bedroom gets out of hand and the toddler needs help cleaning, it is the parent’s job to make cleaning a fun experience and not a chore.  Be specific about each chore.  For example, “putting all the cars in the cabinet,” works well at this age.  Praising the child for being helpful also goes a long way.

When children are about four or five years old, they can learn how to make their beds.  An easy way to teach them is to have them lay in their bed under the covers like they were sleeping.  While under the covers, have them flatten and straighten the top covers.  Then, have your child slide out from under the covers, and voila!  The bed is made!

Keep Things Fun

Here are some other ways to make cleaning your room fun for the kids:

  • Pick a color and have your children pick up and put away all the items of the same color.
  • Time yourself and try to beat last weeks’ time, or challenge your kids to see who can make their bed faster and neater. If you have a floor full of toys, give each child an empty bucket, set a timer for a minute, and see who can collect the most toys. The winner gets to pick the snack for the night, or the next family movie to watch.
  •  Involve all family members in cleaning.  Give them the proper tools needed to do a good job cleaning.  Give them one-on-one instruction and let them learn from you.
  • Put on some kid friendly music while teaching them how to fold laundry.  Make it a game and see how much laundry can be put away in five minutes.  Work, then dance!
  • Find out which jobs your children like to do the most and assign that chore to them.  Maybe one child is better at washing dishes than dusting furniture.
  • Make a list of things that need to be accomplished from each child by the end of the week.  Write a list for each child and put it in their rooms.
  • Make an interesting chore chart by making cleaning a part of the Olympics, where each child gets a medal for cleaning.
  • Make a habit of daily cleanups, about fifteen minutes each night, instead of longer cleanups which tend to be tedious.
  • Reward your children for doing their chores.  Be as supportive and encouraging.  Thank them for their efforts, even if their efforts aren’t perfect.
  • As hard as it may be at times, don’t redo their work.  Don’t let your child walk away thinking their work wasn’t good enough.  If you don’t like how they folded the laundry, for example, assign them a different chore next time.
  • Have places to store things like important homework, toys, and books.  Place a laundry basket in the bathroom or in each of the kid’s rooms.
  • For both teens and younger children, use the “work before play” rule if needed.

Above all, have patience.  Good cleaning habits don’t happen overnight.  Start young and establish fun cleaning and “picking up” skills that your children can learn and accept as part of making the household run smoothly and neatly.