How to Encourage Your Child to Clean

How to Encourage Your Child to Clean - Playgarden Online
BY Miss Julia February 15, 2024 Montessori, parenting tips

Clean-up time is not everyone’s favorite time, and for little ones who seem to struggle the most with cleaning up, this likely comes from overwhelm; not knowing where to start, not knowing what “clean” looks like, etc. It can be even more challenging to encourage them to clean when they have gotten used to their grown-ups and Montessori parents cleaning up after them. But grown-ups have their own messes to clean up too! Adults experience the satisfaction that comes from having a clean space, but little ones don’t quite understand that yet. What they do understand at this stage in their early childhood education are games, tasks, and clear directions!

Cleaning Up at Playgarden

At Playgarden Prep, we have a large elephant hamper where we keep our multi-purpose rainbow balls. When it is time to clean up the balls from the ball pit or from playing soccer, I bring the hamper over and say “alright friends, it’s time to help feed our elephant all of the rainbow balls!” Once they start putting the balls away, I open and close the elephant mouth and make some eating sounds, which the little ones really enjoy. I’ll ask them what foods we are feeding them, assigning fruits and veggies to different color balls – blue balls are blueberries, red balls are strawberries, yellow balls are lemons, etc. Working together and asking them questions about the task at hand keeps them engaged and gets the mess cleaned up quickly. After all the balls are away, I offer high-fives to all the friends that helped out and tell them, “thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it!” Sharing gratitude for the help can also encourage them to help out in the future. 

Here are some tips to help encourage your little one to clean: 

Be Specific: 

The clearer the directions are, the quicker a clean-up will happen. Not understanding a task can lead to overwhelm and disinterest for children, so asking for exactly what needs to be done is very helpful for your little one. For example:

  • Please pick up your toys. vs. Please put those blocks away in this basket. 

No More Cleaning Alone: 

Set your boundaries as a Montessori parent — if your little one chooses not to clean up, they will not be able to participate in the next activity. Always be willing to help clean up with them because they may just need some support, but let them know cleaning up takes teamwork, showing them the importance of working together.

And here are some early childhood education games to try at clean-up time:

Clean by Color

This is a great way to encourage cleaning while practicing color recognition as part of their early childhood education. When it’s time to clean up, ask your little one to pick up everything that is a certain color and put those objects away. Then ask them to pick a color and you put everything of that color away, and so on, until everything is cleaned up. Cleaning with your little one as a Montessori parent gives them the support they need to complete the task until they feel confident to do it on their own. 

Clean by Number

Especially if your little one is starting to count, cleaning up a certain number of items at a time may help your little one get involved at clean-up time. If you have multiple little ones that play together, you can split up the work (you can do this with clean by color as well!) 

Clean-Up Dance Party

Put on some of your family’s favorite tunes and start cleaning! See if you can work together to clean the room before the end of the song, or maybe incorporate freeze dance. Being a Montessori parent is often about making something we do every day more fun and less of a point of tension.

Cleaning is a practical life skill that we all do in some form every day. Learning how to clean is an essential part of early childhood education — building a healthy relationship with cleaning allows our little ones to develop the skills to take care of themselves, the spaces they live in, and the places they visit. And seeing your little one engage in their blossoming independence will make you a very happy Montessori parent!


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Miss Julia Pencil

Hi, I'm Miss Julia!

Miss Julia has been an early childhood educator for 5 years, with over 10 years of experience working in childcare. She has been teaching at Playgarden Prep since 2017, and is happy to share ideas on some of her favorite early education topics with you! Miss Julia has a BA from UC Irvine, and uses her experience in performing arts to inspire little ones every day in her enrichment classes at Playgarden. In her free time, Miss Julia loves enjoying nature, cooking, and creating with friends.

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