Maintain Order

Children as the clean-up crew!

…I see some problems with that philosophy

 “You expect children to clean up after themselves?  Get real!!”

I absolutely do!! And you can as well.

 Have you ever witnessed a 2yr old at daycare?  They put the toys away, there shoes in the cubbies, their jacket on the hook, they push in their chair and toss their trash in the garbage!  And those two and three-year-old's do it every time without being told to do it! 

Teachers expect children to complete certain tasks independently, they praise children when the task is completed and follow through when it isn’t.  Admittedly, at first it’s a daily, hourly, minutely battle to instill these types of behavior but once the routine is established it runs itself. Often a chore or clean-up chart can make your life a lot easier. I’ve found that a bit of praise and pride goes very far.

 “I am far too busy, & it’s too much trouble to follow through and have children cleanup”

Is it easier to clean up after your child every day?  I’ve got news for you…they are NEVER going to wake up one morning and say, “ya know what mom?, today I’m going to do this by myself!”  We need to reassure children and help them along the way to foster feelings of self-satisfaction and achievement for completing tasks independently.

 I believe the main goal of parents and educators is to help children grow into responsible, confidant, independent adults who will be an asset to society. Teaching them all we can teach them in the short time we have their attention and giving them the tools needed to continue improving and learning throughout their life.

Weekly touch-ups, Monthly Overhauls 

Go Through your newly order space every so often and focus five or ten minutes on the areas that seem to be having some trouble staying neat.  Make note of it, and contact your organizer for a re-evaluation.  If the system we created isn’t functional we want to fix it before it gets out of hand.  On a monthly basis go through the space and see if anything has changed, can we part with anything, rearrange anything to make the space more functional and easier to maintain?.  Maybe there are new toys taking up floor space, try to decide on some older toy that can be replaced.  A good rule to shop by is to Acquire only to upgrade!  If the new item isn’t better, faster, lighter, more fun than what you have at home, don’t bring it into the house.  If it is, bring it in with something in mind that it can replace.


Ideas for easy maintenance

  • *get children to “not hate” cleanup …make it a game
  • “Who can clean up the fastest?”  Tip: always let them win this one!
  • “Do you think you can put away the cars before I can clean up the dinosaurs?” again…Let them win!!
  • *Simply pair cleanup in a “First-Then” situation

- your first is always the undesirable task or item

-your then is always what they are requesting


  • First clean up the books and then we can go have a snack.”
  • First put the wrapper in the trash and then we can paint a picture”

Children can and will choose to do neither, that’s fine! Another opportunity will arise, and eventually they will realize that “until those books are put away my life is on hold”.

*work clean- up into the act of playing –by encouraging children to clean up the blocks before they take out the play-Doh we instill the expectation that they are the one who needs to clean up. 

Children often have trouble with the idea of putting away the block tower they just created. Which I understand!  By asking them to clean up the blocks we offer the opportunity for the child to voice their opinion and reluctance to do so, in turn giving us the opportunity to negotiate the situation. 

Child- “ But I wanna keep it!!!!!”

Adult -“Alright, you can leave the blocks while you play with Play- Doh but after play Doh I need you to clean up both”

 Children appreciate being heard and having their concerns understood. Adults will need to follow through on the clean- up later on to ensure that expectations are met.  Children are experts at finding how far they can push limits and will do just that.  Adults need to be consistent in their expectations and trust that their children can meet them.  Additionally, we need to deal with children on an individual basis.  If cleaning up all of the play-Doh pieces is overwhelming for your little one consider taking out fewer choices or offering them some help at clean up.  We are not trying to launch them into hysterics at every turn.

Sometimes you just don’t want to do it now…that goes for kids and adults…& that’s FINE!

Sanity Savers- Place “permanent” baskets or bins at the top and bottom of stairs, by front door or in playroom.  Baskets with handles are great for this as well; children can walk around with basket tossing toys in and place the basket by the door to be emptied later. Stationery baskets will work very similarly.  Kids and parents can toss items into baskets that need to be “filed “or stored later.  For these to work, Children and Parents MUST empty baskets later in the day, on their way to the space or before going to bed.  For the ones located near stairs, never go up or down empty handed if your bin is full. Clutter- busters are a great place for toys that turn up after the kids have gone to bed, parents can toss the toy into the basket and the kids can deal with it in the AM, its off the floor and parents didn’t clean up for the kids.

Mystery box-  "I don't know where it goes...but someone may..."

By having a designated place for unknowns, not the counter, it makes it possible for the rightful owner to reclaim that tiny silver ball, the sword that the knight has been hunting for and the ring from dads keys. 

The mystery box needs to be relatively small and needs to be gone through on a regular basis.  If something has been a mystery to the entire household for a month its time to throw it out.


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