Teaching Kids To Clean Up After Play Improves Their Health

messy room toys

We all know how important it is for us to play with our kids, right? We have to get down in the floor with them, build those LEGO sets with them, and work up a sweat running around the park on nice days. It's also important that we instill a sense of responsibility in our kids from a very young age, teaching them how to clean up after themselves and contribute to the household (age-appropriately, obviously!).

Playing with your kids and teaching them the value of cleaning up after themselves are key elements of child development. But according to a new study, there's another benefit that may be even more important! Research shows that kids whose parents play alongside them and encourage them to clean up after play are more likely to gain the skills they need to maintain a healthy weight as they get older.

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Researchers at Penn State observed 108 mothers and their 18-month-old toddlers during the course of the study. The children were weighed, then asked to complete tasks to determine their temperament and skills. After they finished the tasks, they played with their mothers for five minutes. After five minutes, the kids and moms cleaned up, and researchers recorded the child's behavior during the clean-up period, as well as the guidance of the mothers.

boy playing with blocks
Credit: iStock / AGrigorjeva

When the children turned 4 1/2, they were weighed again, and their BMIs were calculated. The data showed that children whose moms were involved in playtime and encouraged their children to clean up had lower BMIs overall. Human development and psychology professor Cynthia Sifter of Penn State was involved in the study.

She believes that the study highlights the importance of parents being positive and gentle in as many situations as possible, because that kind of parenting can teach valuable skills early on that the kids can apply later in life, such as waiting to eat or eating food that is less desirable to them.

It's certainly an interesting study, and we'd love to see more research in the area. In any regard, playing with your kids and teaching them skills like cleaning up after themselves will benefit those kids in many ways.

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