Have you ever heard of a child who liked to clean? Tidy up time for toddlers can go one of two ways. It can either be loads of fun and super productive or…not so much.
With five children, and recently starting to work from. home with my toddler, I’ve had plenty of trial and error when it comes to getting my children to enjoy cleaning up. Some of them don’t mind it at all, while others can’t stand it.
I’ve had a few years to perfect my tips and tricks and I’d love to share them with you. In hopes that your toddler turns into a happy to clean child instead of one of the others, LOL.
What Is “Tidy Up Time” and Why Is It Important?
When you start to teach toddlers how to tidy up it’s important to make it as fun as possible. If you’re like me and working on how to be a better mom to your toddler then this is going to be especially true for you.
The first step is telling your toddler the tidy up meaning. Seeing as this can be different for different household, I’ll let that up to you. But I will say tidy up to us means cleaning up. I shouldn’t say a deep clean, but definitely not a quick straight up either. It’s somewhere in between.
One of the first ways we implemented this was by talking about the importance of clean up after playtime. Since that seems to be the hardest time to get toddlers to tidy up, I always like to start there. The more practice and communication there is around it, the easier it becomes for them.
I mean, I get it though. Who wants to stop playing to clean up? No one.
How to Make Tidy Up Time Fun and Productive
Any time you can make something fun for a toddler the chances of it being a success go up significantly. I often have to remind myself to stop being so serious and let loose. Once I’m able to do that, it’s easier to be creative and have fun in the moment when trying to think of tidy up time ideas on the spot.
Use a Tidy Up Timer
My second to youngest son is super competitive. So I try and use this to my advantage as often as possible. Which is how I came up with the tidy up time timer. He loves to race against the clock to tidy up. And it’s the cutest thing watching him zip all over the room to put his toys away while asking how much time he has left. He’s beaten the timer quite a few times too!
You decide what time you want to allot to tidying up, but some common timers include 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes. The amount of time will vary depending on the size of the mess. If you do decide to try the race against the clock method, just make sure to remind your toddler that everything needs to be nice and neat. As well as in its place.
Be Specific About What Is Expected
Since working on being more intentional as a parent I’ve been putting in extra effort to be a better communicator. Stating my expectations before, during and if needed after a situation has helped tremendously. I am able to gently remind my children what it is that is expected of them and how we discussed that being achieved.
I’ll admit I’ve had to let go of a little control in the process and remind myself of a few things. One being that as long as the task gets done, how it goes done (within certan guidelines) does not specifically matter. But again that all goes with being more specific about what I am looking for.
Our children can’t read our minds and I believe that we often forget that. I’ve found myself saying “now they know better” about things that I just assumed my children would know. But when asked about it later, they in fact, did not know any better. So now I like to err on the side of caution and over-explain versus under explain.
Show Them Where Things Belong
Clean up time is always easier when you know where stuff goes. And its much easier to keep something clean when everything has its place.
Take the time to show your toddler where his toys go. Maybe even have labeled bins (using images of the toys) to serve as a reminder.
Display Pictures of What Each Area Should Look Like After Tidying Up
You can do this in a few different ways. If you plan to use labels on the toys bins, use pictures of what each bin or that area should look like as the background. This is a great way to help your toddler remember what things should look like once tidied.
Keep a picture on your phone. I like to use the term nice and neat when it comes to cleaning. I tell my kids to make sure you leave it nice and neat. Since nice and neat can me something different for different people I started showing them what I meant. This cut down on a lot of confusion and also acts as a visual reminder of how I expect things to look once they have been cleaned up.
I grew up waking up on Saturday mornings to my parents playing their favorite music while we did our chores. It was a family ritual almost. We’d spend most of our Saturdays deep cleaning our home and tending to our yard all while my dad’s favorite jazz or R&B played in the background.
Too bad they didn’t have tidy up songs like they do now. I’m almost positive that had we listened to songs about cleaning up, it may have actually made some of those moments a little funner.
My kids love listening to music while we all clean up and I’ve listed some of our favorites below:
My Top 3 Favorite Tidy Up Time Songs That Make It Fun
A quick search on Youtube for tidy up time songs for toddlers will yield quite a few results. Some of which are great, while others not so much. Seeing as I’ve done this five times over now, I’m happy to share what we like to use in our house. These songs are great for two reasons. Of course, toddlers love them. But they also aren’t super annoying for the parents.
1. The 5 Minute Clean Up Countdown Song
This is a great song for when I need to use a timer for cleaning. Sometimes I play it as a warning to when tidy up time is about to start. Or when I need to give my toddler a visual timer for how long we will be tidying up.
2. The Classic Clean Up Clean Up Everybody Everywhere Song
Everyone knows this one. It’s a classic and a favorite in my home for years. It’s funny, because none of my children ever really liked Barney but they love this song.
This is a favorite to use with in the beginning. When I first start introducing cleaning up to my toddler this is my go to play. Takes the stress / anxiety out of having to tidy up. Plus it makes it a lot more fun.
3. The Tidy Up Song by Singing Walrus
I like these tidy up song lyrics because it reinforces not leaving a mess. I was taught to always clean up before you leave an area or place. And that’s the same thing I am trying to teach my kiddos. The lyrics in this song are perfect for that.
How Long Should Children Spend Tidying Up Each Day?
One thing that is important to remember, toddlers have a short attention span. Asking them to clean up for longer periods of time is asking for trouble. Assuming they can clean big messes with minimal assistance is asking for meltdowns.
Its the same with any adult. Walk into a cluttered room and you’re bonded to shutter at the thought of cleaning it up alone.
If I’m cleaning I’ll ask my toddler to do a simple task that will empower him and help me get done faster.
If we’re cleaning up a mess he’s made, I’m happy to jump in and help. Ultimately I try to keep things to less then 10 minutes at a time. With no more than 3 – 4 times of cleaning total per day.
Yes, they need to learn how to tidy up but keeping in mind where they are developmentally will go a long way in making tidy up time fun for everyone involved.