The tenets of tidiness: Teaching your toddler about cleaning up

Chances are your home doesn’t look that much like it used to from your pre-baby days. Between the fact that life with a baby, and then with a toddler, is an exercise in never having enough hands or time in the day, and the abundance of toys, gear, and activities that come along with your little bundle of challenges and joy, cleaning can become difficult at best. The good news is that Baby is probably eager to help you out if you can give them clear-age appropriate ways to do so. Even if they are more reluctant, cleaning with them can be turned into a game if you keep things light and fun. Now is a great time to start these figuring out how to get Baby involved in keeping things a little neater.

A place for everything

Making sure everything Baby will be helping you put away has a specific place that it goes, that they can eventually learn and count on, is a great place to start, and will set you up for success when it comes to keeping a tidy home with a toddler running around. Toddlers learn through routines, and having consistent, easy-to-reach places where toys and other household object go when they’re put “away” is a great routine to get into. Bins for toys, bookshelves, drawers, containers, and trunks can all help make life easier this way.

It’s cleaning time

Having a consistent time of day when cleaning happens and making it part of the routine is another way of working cleaning into what Baby is learning about the world. At Baby’s age, they are noticing patterns throughout their day. Some children even start to anticipate expected events before they happen. Depending on your routine, you can make cleaning up a part of it, whether it’s getting ready for dinner, winding down before bed, or getting the day off to a productive start. By consistently making cleaning a part of the family ritual, they will start to understand when it’s coming, and it will be less of a shock every time.

Share the work

Cleaning alongside Baby not only shows them how it’s done, but also encourages them to want to clean. Not only that, but while they are still this young, they will need your help cleaning up. Toddlers this age are distracted easily and need guidance. The plus side is that this is another activity you can do together.

Enjoy yourselves

No matter what you’re doing, making a point to make it fun is often the best way to keep activities you’re doing with Baby running smoothly. If you’re having fun, they'll have fun, too. By keeping this light and easy there is less pressure to do things right and tidying up may not turn into a dreaded chore. You can frame it by talking about stuffed animals going back to their home so they can sleep at night, or do countdowns for getting the job done. Cleaning songs are also a great way to keep things light – and any song can be a cleaning song if you substitute in words about cleaning. Even cleaning up can be made into a game.

Keep expectations low

Baby is only just starting out, and it’ll be helpful to keep reminding yourself that teaching them how to clean, like most parenting challenges, will be a work in progress throughout their childhood. Right now, try to get Baby to understand that at a certain time of the day, it’s time to put all of their belongings back where they belong. Keep it light and fun and sing when possible. It won’t be perfect but even another set of very small hands can help keep the workload a little lighter.

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