What is the secret to raising clean kids? Is it luck of the draw or does it require bribery and threats? Luckily, neither! Childcare experts, professional organizers and real parents weigh in on how to raise well-groomed, organized and clean kids.
Start them young
Start teaching your child the basics of being clean and organized at an early age so it becomes a habit.
Dr Donna Thomas-Rodgers said she started teaching her child to pick up after herself at age five, and now she has an 8-year-old daughter that she rarely has to pick up after. “I have set the expectation that she needs to keep her bedroom, playroom and bathroom neat and clean. Anytime that it is not in order, I make her stop whatever she is doing and clean up her areas,” says Thomas-Rodgers.
Teach them to clean as they go
Many kids (and parents!) balk at the thought of cleaning up a room that is strewn with toys and clothes, which is why it is important to teach kids to put away items when they are finished with them before it turns into a giant mess.
“Teach everyone (kids, dad, sitters) to ‘clean as you go’ by putting away a toy before another one is taken out,” says professional organizer and mother of two Sarah Giller Nelson. “Teach your kids that everything they own has a ‘home,'” she says. “By the door, give each child a bin for hats and gloves and a hook for their coat. Get them in the habit of hanging up the coat and putting away accessories when they walk in the door.”
Have storage spots available for kids to keep their toys and clothes – which leads us to the next tip….
Everything has a place
Marie Stegner is a mom of three active kids and the consumer health advocate for Maid Brigade and she recommends you contain the children’s toys and other items to their rooms and/or playroom.
For toys, get bins that children can use to put toys away when they are finished playing with them. “Bins and baskets are the best type of containers for children’s items. They also help make clean-up simple and easier for the kids. Label each bin, or use picture labels if your child cannot read yet,” she says.
For clothes and other items (socks or hair bows, for example) use cubbies. “Try adding small plastic 3-drawer organizers, or cubbies in the closets or in children’s rooms. This will allow them to have a place to put their little odds and ends that would otherwise be all over the place.”
Practice what you preach
Children learn by watching – which means show them, as well as tell to them, about being clean and organized. “Keep it easy for them and start them young,” says mom of three Michelle Morton. “Have them [clean and organize] along with you and keep the systems easy so that they can maintain it themselves. If it is too complicated, then they are not going to keep it up.”
Let your children help you put away groceries, sort and fold laundry and pick up toys. “Start out small and incorporate other things as they get older — but it all starts with teaching and leading by example,” says Morton.
Keep a grooming calendar
Teaching your child the importance of personal grooming is an important part in raising clean kids. They should be instructed on how to wash their hands, bathroom hygiene (wiping, keeping toilet rim clean), brushing teeth, washing face and brushing hair.
To reinforce these habits, Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire, recommends a grooming calendar. “Keep a grooming calendar posted on their bathroom wall. Mark days in which grooming was carried out successfully. Grant rewards for successful grooming,” says Wingate, citing stickers, extra story time or hair accessories for girls. “Most kids who are consistently exposed to these steps will come to appreciate good grooming.”
Let them learn consequence of being messy
Sarah Fulghum says she is a “neat freak” now, and she credits it to the fact that her mom taught her the consequence of having a messy room.
“While there was order and rules to be kept in the rest of the house, our bedrooms were our own,” says Fulghum. “There was no requirement to ever clean our rooms. We learned first -hand the consequences of having a messy room. When a toy was broken it was not replaced, we either had to buy a new one ourselves by doing extra chores or wait to have it replaced as a Christmas or birthday gift. We quickly learned we needed to take care of our possessions.”
Stegner says kids will make a mess – and allow them to do it on occasion. “Kids are not perfect. They will inevitably make a mess. You have to allow them to do this. Then, when they’re done, ask them to clean it up.”