Ever need a magic wand to get your 3, 4, or 5 year old to clean? Or better yet, a great bribe? Sometimes you will need a big bag of tricks to get your child to clean up…without the tantrum. It can be quite exhausting trying to negotiate, coax, or threaten and often you just end up giving in. Say no more, here are some tricks and trades from a preschool teacher. However, before we begin with the list, some starter points are necessary to remember. With these in mind all the time, cleaning up should be an easier transition.
~Incorporate it as a house rule. Therefore, it is a known expectation. Children thrive on routine and schedule.
~Always be consistent with logical consequences (if it comes to that).
~Never, ever bribe. It just doesn’t work. Cleaning up after yourself is a responsibility.
~On the flip side, it is appropriate to use positive incentives. At times, children will need a little reinforcement.
~If a tantrum ensues, ignore it. Afterward, reinforce to your child that they will still need to clean up.
Now that you have the basics, let’s get into some fun and true ways to get your child cleaning and organized!
• Sing a song. I once knew a teacher who taught three yr olds and she told me that at the beginning of the school year she would have to sing all directions just to get them to listen and follow it. Some children respond better to music.
• Use a signal…as a warning that clean up time is almost near. This could be verbal (saying “Five more minutes to play!”) or visual (the number 5 written large on a piece of paper) or even physical (a touch on the shoulder with a whisper reminder).
• Use a timer-they come in various displays for different learning styles. There are timers that show a red light and a beeping sound. I have found that a regular beeping timer works well. I also use a square timer that shows in red that time is running out…..great for visual learners and children who are hearing impaired.
• Use a favorite song. Your child can try and finish before the song ends or even sing along as they clean up.
• Dance to a song. Improvise; make up a clean up dance. It could be either fast or slow or alternate. You could even use cultural music.
• Have a clean up race. Who can put what away the fastest. Remember to encourage and praise each child involved for its accomplishment. If your two year old puts away three blue things, that’s great. This also goes for your 4 year old who puts away five green things.
• Use a clean up chart. Some children respond well to a behavior chart. With the chart, after a certain amount of stickers, they earn a special treat, thing to do, or special parent time.
• Have things clearly labeled with pictures and words. This is key in order for your child to get organized. They need to be able to see and read where things are supposed to be placed.
• Play “I spy”—–for example, you say, “I spy five books that need to go on the book shelf.” Your child then seeks out the books, picks them up and puts them away on a labeled shelf.
• Vary the methods! It will yield more results and keep the children engaged.