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Cleaning Up After Play

Honestly, I find it really difficult to make my kids clean up after their play. I am always on a lookout for suggested tips and activities to get them to keep their toys but those don’t work most of the times.

Occaaaaaasionally my kids do clean up when I’m not looking. So when I returned to a NEAT playroom, I try my hardest to hide my “What the **** just happened” face.

I used little fun strategies such as singing the cleaning-up song, or playing games like pick up toys by colours or toss them into box, but these “classroom” ideas just don’t usually work with their mum. I want to instil in them that it is EVERYONE’S responsibility in the family to ensure our home is clean, tidy and safe.

I started reading up parenting books, and also observing their play patterns, so as to figure out why sometimes my kids clean-up and why most of the times they don’t. It all boils down to RESPECT.

Respect their toys and materials. Respect their work space.

They should know where to take and keep their toys and materials. If you haven’t start decluttering, cutting down the numbers of toys might be the first step. An organised environment encourage independency, even for the young toddlers.

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Respect their need for longer playtime

Respect the duration of the playtime they need, just like how you needed that chunk of time to complete your work. My kids need a HUGE chunk of free play time. When they play enough, they are so much more willing to clean up, even without me telling them to.

Respect their need for security 

This is rather difficult for me since I am always rushing around, but I have to constantly remind myself that they are not puppets for me to move around just so as to fit everything to MY schedule. They need to be part of the plan! We can help them to count-down and let them know what to expect next. They want to know what activity comes next to willingly stop and move on to the next activity. Also, they need some time to have a closure with their play so I will give them a 10-minute and 5-minute countdown before we move on to the next activity. They might not know how to tell the time on the clock yet, but eventually with this count-down habit, they have a rough sense of what is the duration for 5 and 10 minutes.

Respect their big emotions

Respect that they have big emotions too, which they might find it difficult to verbalise. I remember there are times I was so stressed-out by the amount of work I needed to finish by the tight deadlines, I just cried and cried and I just couldn’t do anything till I worked out my anxiety. They might feel overwhelmed by the amount of toys scattered around. Sometimes, they don’t even know that they needed help! You can offer them help or ensure them that they can always come to you when things get difficult. Once that anxiety is gone, they might be more willing to clean up the mess.

Respect that they are capable, and they need to know they are!

If they are capable of making a big play scene with their toys, they are capable of putting them away. I try not to make a big deal of them cleaning up by giving them generic praise. I mean, nobody at home praise me for mopping the floor everyday. However, I still want to acknowledge their feelings and effort. When my kids accomplished the tasks on their own, I want them to remember that happy feeling that they are feeling, that sense of accomplishment, that pride that they have made a good decision on their own. I praise by just stating what they have done “You put back the toys to where they belonged. You made the room tidy.”

Seeing them smile, I might add on describing theirs and my own feelings “You feel really happy about keeping the toys on your own. It makes me really happy too, now that we have finished our work, we can have MORE time to enjoy reading the books later.” The next time they say no to cleaning up, I try to help them recall the feeling, “You felt really happy the last time you clean up the room on your own.” This might probably start the conversation why they don’t want to clean up.

 

Showing them respect once or twice will not immediately instil the value of responsibility in them like magic, or that they will always clean up after play as long as you think you showed respect. It has to be ongoing and mutual. When we show respect to our needs, our time, and our feelings, there is a deeper awareness of how one’s decision can lead to a positive or negative consequence. Eventually this awareness will lead them to be responsible and independent children.

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