As a mom, you have a million and one things to do every day. If you work, it’s twice as hard to keep up. While I fully believe young children should be free to play and learn, there is no reason they can’t begin learning some small responsibilities.
Three is probably too young, but if you have a four or five year old, they can help you out by cleaning up their room. This will teach them to contribute to the family, and to respect and cherish their belongings.
The biggest thing to remember when asking a young child to clean up is that a wrecked room seems overwhelming to them. If you just say, “Go pick up your room,” you are likely going to see a pained expression and a whole bunch of inaction. The problem seems overwhelming to them, and they just can’t do it.
If you really want them to clean up their room, you have to make it very simple for them to do. Break up cleaning into very small tasks, ones that are easy to handle, and ones that will not seem overwhelming.
Pick one specific thing and focus on that. You may even want to help them do that specific chore so they can see how to do it. For example, ask them to pick up all of their stuffed animals and put them where they belong. They should all go in the same place so your child is not confused.
After that chore is finished, choose another. If you have shelves that hold toys, ask them to fill one shelf with toys from the floor. Reward them with a ‘good job’ and a hug after each accomplishment.
Continue with small tasks and praise until they are finished. Don’t overwhelm them, however. Take it slow and remain positive and encouraging. You can also use a reward chart. Give them a star or a sticker for each task they complete.
At this age, your child will probably not be able to make their own bed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t assist you. Ask them to help you find the clean sheets, and show them how they are changed. They can help you smooth out the blankets, arrange the stuffed animals, and plump the pillows. Don’t forget to reward them with a cuddle when you are done. Children love to help you, no matter what you are doing.
You can help them avoid the room cleaning all together by showing them how to clean up toys after they are finished playing. This is a tough one, at least in my house, because children seem to skip from one activity to another very randomly and very quickly. If they have Legos, remind your child to clean them up as soon as they are finished. You may have to repeat yourself, but they will catch on after a while.
Remember to watch your child carefully. Some children at this age need a lot of guidance, while others will pick it up and do it on their own. You know your child best so go with your instincts. Not only will this be one less thing on your list, it will give them a sense of accomplishment that will help with their self-esteem. Just like anything else in life, small steps get the job done.
There is, of course, the child that simply is not ready. Don’t be too pushy. Much like potty training, all kids go at their own pace. If it really seems to be a struggle, give it up for a while and try again later.