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If your house is anything like mine, it can often look like a toy store exploded in it! And, if your children are anything like mine, cleaning up is not their favorite thing to do. Here are some tips I’ve found to make clean-up time a little bit easier.

Keep it Simple and Organized

Do the toys in your house have specific places to go? A designated area for blocks, books, stuffed animals, musical instruments, etc. can minimize the chaos of throwing every toy in one place. Having bins with labels will make cleaning up easier for your child, too. Make simple labels with a picture with the word underneath, or you can use a toy’s packaging to create a label. This is also helpful for when your child wants to play with a specific toy (And with pre-reading skills! Environmental print!). They don’t have to dump out the entire toy box to find their favorite dinosaur if you have a bin assigned to dinosaurs. Another great decluttering tool is to rotate your toys. Notice something your child isn’t playing with much these days? Pack it up to bring out another time—it will seem like new in a few weeks.

Time is of the Essence

Clean-up time is not going to win you any popularity contests with your kids. But giving them fair warning and helping make the chore go quickly will alleviate some of the complaining. Give your child some notice before it’s time to clean up. Simply saying, “We are cleaning up in five minutes,” and setting a timer lets your child know what is going on and when. Some people suggest setting a timer for cleaning up as well. I suggest something a little more fun—music! Find an energetic song and set a goal to clean up before the song is finished. Sometimes, you may have to play the song two (or three, or four) times. But music can be a huge motivator!

Start young

My toddler is an expert at making a mess. In his defense, he probably comes by it naturally. Toddlers are not too young to help out with cleaning—after all if they can make the mess, they can help tidy it up. The key is to keep cleaning simple and be direct. Usually, I simply hand Christopher the toys I want him to pick up. Telling him to pick up his toys doesn’t work. Handing him some blocks and showing him where to put them; however, is very effective. It’s also helpful to get right down on the floor and clean up with him. And what child doesn’t love cleaning if you give them some soapy water with a washcloth? Even the youngest of children will scrub away if given the opportunity!

Set Clear Expectations

Raise your hand if you’ve ever told your child to clean their room and left it at that. Um … guilty! Communicating your exact expectations is important. Cleaning up to one person might mean toys put away, bed made and shelves dusted. Another person might think of cleaning up as toys put away, laundry folded and floors vacuumed. When you tell your child to do specific tasks, they are more likely to be done. Sounds simple enough, but it’s much easier to say, “Go clean your room!” and wonder why the room isn’t up to your sparkling standards.

These easy tips can help keep your life (and house) a little more organized in the chaotic world of raising children. Remember to be a part of the cleaning process with your children and lead by example. When you show your kids how to tidy up, they will naturally follow in your footsteps.