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Teaching Toddlers Cleaning Tasks: Tips for Success

Encouraging your child to assist with small cleaning tasks builds independence and teaches a valuable life skill from a young age. While they are likely not ready to clean an entire area themselves, they can start small.

You can begin to introduce the idea of cleaning up with these entry-level tasks:

  1. Throw away trash

  2. When finished eating, put the dish in the sink or on the counter

  3. Wipe off tables after meals

  4. Clean up one activity before beginning the next activity

  5. Pull up pants in the restroom or during dressing times

  6. Washing hands in the restroom and before meals

Introducing this idea to your toddler may seem overwhelming, but here are some tips that will make the transition go more smoothly:

  • Model it from a young age! Children often imitate what they see. Rather than waiting until nap time to clean up their toys, make it a part of our day that you do together.

  • Start small by asking for one task at a time: asking to clean up the puzzle before moving on to play with legos. If you are doing the activity together, help them clean up as well.

  • KEEP IT FUN! The more fun you make it, the more your child will enjoy it and the more likely they are to continue to do so in the future.

"How many purple blocks can fit in the basket?"

"Let's race! Who can clean up the fastest? Ready, set go!"

  • Be mindful of your phrasing. Instead of "No snacks until you clean up!" try saying, "First we're going to clean up our toys and then we will go have a snack!" It is also helpful to give a warning before ending the activity. "We have 4 more minutes then it's snack time! Do you want to help me set the timer?"

If your goal is to encourage your child to enjoy cleaning up after themselves, it helps to have a specific place for everything. Bins and baskets are a great way to organize child's toys and it is easy for children to throw items in. Regardless of age, you can set clear expectations for your child to clean up after themselves. It will likely take a lot of practice and patience, but you will get there if you keep at it!


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