10 Ways To Encourage Your Toddler To Clean Up After Themselves

Young children are like sponges. Often, you teach them one thing only for them to retain the information well enough to repeat days later. However, when it comes to tidying their mess or picking up their toys, it can (at times) seem like a waste of an argument.

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Toddlers are incredibly smart, creative and fun little humans. This is why it's important to incorporate a playful nature when teaching them tasks that will benefit both parent and child; especially when it comes to tidying their messes. This is why we've collected 10 fun ways to encourage your toddler to clean up after themselves. Read ahead for some insight.


Singing a song that you've just randomly put together (whether it rhymes or not will likely be unnoticed by your toddler) or humming a tune you both know will likely encourage your child to clean up.

If this specific song or tune is sung or hummed every time it's 'tidying time,' your child will likely recognize it and know it's time to tidy their mess. Whether it's tidying their toys or wiping down their table after their snack, if you are consistent with your 'clean up song' they will surely sing and tidy along.


Though it may be hard in the moment, dancing may be one of the best ways to encourage your toddler to tidy. Yes, dancing. If you dance while you clean/tidy, the toddler will likely follow suit. Sometimes all you must do is show how fun and entertaining tasks can be.

Do a little dance and make up some moves while you put their blocks away. Clap once each ball gets thrown into their correct basket. Tap your feet while you fold their blankets. Any little dance move with a smile on your face will make this chore seem silly and fun.


The best way to encourage your toddler to tidy up after themselves is by showing them how it's done. We understand if you'd rather play with your child than do the dishes all day and leave them to clean for when baby's asleep, but we also see the value in washing those dishes after every meal. Not only for convenience, but for your toddler to see how important it is to clean up after ourselves.

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It should come naturally. Toddler see, toddler do. So, assist the child when it comes time to tidy up. Demonstrate your expectations and see the magic unfold.


Ensure that the toddler knows every action has a consequence, whether perceived as a positive or negative one. It's okay to leave their water spilt on their sandwich, as long as they know it won't clean itself up. It's okay to leave their books scattered all over their bed, as long as they learn that if they do not pick them up, there will be nowhere to lay at nap and/or bed time.

When they learn these small lessons, they will surely pick up after themselves when reminded what could and would happen if they do not.


Reminding the child why it's important to clean and tidy up after ourselves is very important. Be honest, blunt, and show examples. Explain to them that they must respect their rooms, play spaces and homes in order to live happily and healthily.

Reasoning with toddlers may seem very difficult at times, especially if your toddler does not communicate that well just yet. Keep in mind your child's skill level and age. Reasoning does not have to be with complex sentence structures. You can simply explain by using an example.


Sometimes, discovering the root of the issue is easier than teaching a lesson that could have been avoided from the beginning. In this day and age, many children are bombarded with things. From toys to technological devices, children tend to receive multiple items from multiple people for multiple milestones.

Not only is this harsh on the environment, but it can also be hard on the child's home and room. If you choose to minimize their toys and/or things, this will avoid the major mess from the start.


Toys seem to pile up like it's their day job. No matter the amount of effort you put into not purchasing your own toddler things, they'll likely be gifted new toys and hand-me-downs quite often. If this is a situation you face, you may want to consider swapping out and/or rotating their collection.

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Every few weeks, take half of their toys away and bring them back for their rotation. This ensures that they will not become bored of their collection and they will also appreciate the items they do have, considering it's technically half of what they originally had. Practice this technique to lower their mess.


The more you clean in front of them, the more they will want to copy you. They will likely want to help you if they notice your hands are full or if it's fun, like if you're spraying the window to wipe their sticky hand prints off the reflection.

Toddlers love to watch you clean. They are like sponges and suck everything in. So, when you are tidying, ensure they know what you're doing and how to do it.


Once they've mastered the ability to clean, ask them for their help. If they haven't asked you already to join in, toddlers love to feel needed. They love to learn and they absolutely adore when it's a lesson from someone they love.

It's also a very rewarding feeling when they've accomplished something that will benefit their own lives in the end, like wiping their messy plate clean after a yummy meal. Ask your toddler for help and they will be grateful you did.


Children thrive on schedules and routines. If you have set a specific time each day to tidy their mess or clean their rooms, they will learn it like the back of their hand.

Each day, you can simply write out on a calendar the time you'll do each task. Then, read the times and tasks off to the toddler. Though they may not be able to comprehend times and dates, they will naturally know what to do as you guide them.

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