Getting Children to Tidy Up


Do they shout 'I'm busy' when you ask for something to be tided? Then you think - "Why get into an argument for ten minutes when it is so much quicker to do it myself?". This is the 'quick-fix' parenting that we all slip into. I'm by no means perfect in this domain but I do know that holding firm, biting your tongue when the job isn't done perfectly and teaching children how to do things really does pay off.

Tidying up is often a real sticking point with children so here are a few ways to get children to tidy up:

Firstly we are rarely going to get anywhere by saying 'Go and tidy your room' - it is just too overwhelming for children so it is much better to break it down. Go to their room or their play area and assess what has to be done.

  • Start off with a cheerful tone of voice and some empathy - "uh ho. The fun part was playing and creating the mess. The tough part is the clearing up isn't it?"
  • Hold something back for after the job is done like - "once you have tidied up then you can watch your programme/have a snack/I'll read you a story"

Then break the task down

  • I can see puzzle pieces, lego, dolls clothes and playmobil. Which do you want to tidy first?
  • Put some music on - it makes the task seem much more fun
  • Use a timer
  • Praise tiny steps in the right direction. "You have picked up five pieces of green lego. That is a good start"
  • Wait and DO NOT be tempted to say "Move out the way I can do it faster myself!"
  • Nothing happens till the job is done so even if your child refuses you can wait, say nothing and they will soon ask you for something at which point you smile sweetly and say "Of course, as soon as you have done xx"
  • Make things easier by having labelled boxes or baskets which contain different toys. This is also easier for monitoring play. You can have a rule that one type of toy gets tidied away before the other comes out.