5 Ways to Get Your Kid to Clean Up

Kids love to make a mess, but they don't love to pick it up. To lighten your load at home, check out these ideas for getting your children involved. Whether you have a dancer, singer or speed racer on your hands, there's a way to make your kiddo willingly join in on tidying up the house.

1. Stick to a routine
Pre-schoolers learn that toys are picked up after playtime or that mats must be stored away after naps. At home, you can do the same: "Before I start dinner, we'll put your books back on the shelf" or "After you get into pyjamas, you put your clothes in the hamper."

2. Add a soundtrack to the chore.
On their People.com blog, actresses Ashley Williams and Alysia Reiner write that their children are training to be sous chefs, but it's turning out to be one messy journey. Their advice: "During cleanup, most 2-year-olds will love to sing a cleanup song while they pump the all-purpose spray to the beat. Following along behind the trail of sprays with a dishtowel will leave your kitchen cleaner than when you started. Win-win!"

3. Add some fun.
Kids love contests. If you’ve got 2 kids this one is a no-brainer. Generally, they’ll be pretty competitive as it is. You just need to be careful you’re not de-incentivizing by turning one of the kids into a loser. But if they don't have a competitor, have them race against the clock. On B-Inspired Mama, teacher and blogger Deirdre says, "I set a timer when it is cleanup time and things need to be put away by bedtime.”

Some storage boxes are specially designed to appeal kids so that they can have fun in the process of tidying up.

4. Work at the mess piece by piece.
If your child's playroom looks daunting to you, imagine how your child feels. In her Huffington Postcolumn, writer Susan Stiffelman advises breaking down a big job so the task isn't too overwhelming. She suggests telling your kids, "Start by putting away anything with red on it ... or anything made of plastic ... or whatever is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand."

5. Show them how it's done.
Angela Chang, a Montessori parenting consultant and a member of the TODAY Parenting Team community, is a strict enforcer of getting kids to pick up after themselves knows kids don't always listen to even the most gently put demands. "If you are still having a hard time getting your child to clean up her work, stop talking. Take her hand in yours, put it over a piece, pick it up, and guide her hand to the bin. Repeat. Do not talk. After a few repetitions, the child will usually want to continue by herself," she writes on Today.com.