Good Habits Start Early: Teaching Kids to Clean

Good Habits Start Early: Teaching Kids to Clean

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Teaching responsibility requires time, effort, commitment, and consistency. When it comes to teaching kids how to clean their rooms, the same principles apply. In fact, cleaning up after oneself is a great example of personal responsibility that each and every child should begin to experience at a young age. As with many skills that parents and teachers seek to teach children, the earlier the learning begins, the sooner the child will begin to consistently display the good habit.

One of the best ways to teach kids how to clean is to serve as an example. When parents and teachers don’t keep their areas clean, it can be hard for children and students to understand why they need to keep things neat and tidy. With kids, it is tough to keep a home or a classroom pristine, but if things are put back where they belong most of the time, and the clutter is kept to a minimum, it sets an example for the kids to follow.

Along with providing an example, it is important that adults lay out clear expectations. Telling a child to “clean the room,” isn’t specific enough. There is no doubt that the adult’s version of a clean room is not the same as a child’s. The goal should be to clearly display what a clean room looks like. For older children, it can help to break the process down into smaller steps and create a checklist to ensure that the work gets done correctly.

Above all, when teaching kids to clean, parents and teachers need to provide positive feedback and encouragement. At first, things aren’t going to be done correctly. There may still be clothes hidden under the bed or books stashed behind the bookshelf. When possible, the goal is to allow children to take pride in their work by pointing out everything that was done correctly. Teaching kids to clean up a classroom, a playroom, or even a bedroom doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistency, steady improvements can be made in the condition of a child’s area at home and school.

To learn more about teaching kids to clean, consult the following links.

  • Growing Healthy Minds: Cleaning Up– This tip sheet focuses on kids aged 2-5 years old. It provides details on starting young, setting a good example, and setting specific directions for the task at hand.
  • Getting Kids to Wash the Dishes – Cleaning up after a meal means more than just putting the dishes in the sink. By teaching kids to actually clean the dishes in the sink, they learn the concept of responsibility and working as a team.
  • Better Classroom Cleanup Results – This project details tips for getting students to take responsibility for their mess in the classroom and clean up after themselves. This site mentions assigning specific tasks to students and maintaining accountability.
  • Helping Children Clean Up After Themselves – Sometimes the definition of cleanup is different for children and adults. Part of teaching children to clean up after themselves involves creating clear guidelines and expectations that everyone can understand.
  • How to Get Kids to Clean Their Rooms – While it isn’t worth a power struggle between parent and child or teacher and child, there is value to teaching a child how to clean his or her room. Because this can be an overwhelming and daunting task, parents should breakdown the process into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Children and Chores: The Basics – Parents and teachers have lots of questions when it comes to chores and teaching children to clean up after themselves. This site lists out how much a parent or teacher should expect from children of different age ranges and also lists suggested chores that kids can do on their own.
  • Children and Chores – A sense of self-worth comes along with completing chores and taking personal responsibility. Chores are often a first step in taking the lesson of cleaning up after oneself to the next level.
  • Examples of Promising Practices for Clean Up Time – There are different ways to encourage children to clean up after themselves. Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity on the part of the parents and the teachers to get the kids engaged in the activity.
  • Inventory and Clean Your Room While Teaching Counting and Estimating – Sometimes cleaning up is about more than just learning a new skill involving personal responsibility. It can also be used as a way to teach children about other subjects, including math.
  • Responsibility: Raising Children You Can Depend On – Part of learning responsibility is taking on the task of cleaning up messes in both the classroom and at home. There are ways that parents and teachers can work to bring about responsibility by talking to kids about commitment to a task and providing the right type of motivation.
  • Implementing Desk Buddies in the Classroom– This paper details how to keep students accountable for cleaning their own workspaces. As with many programs designed to teach kids how to clean, it provides rewards for those that continue to keep their desks clean and useable.
  • Questions and Answers About Children’s Chores – Parents and teachers have some of the same questions when it comes to teaching children how to cleanup. 7 FAQ are listed along with the answers.


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