How to Teach a Child to Clean Their Room as Part of Their Routine

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Published October 11, 2022
Children cleaning their room

While making room-cleaning fun might be a stretch, teaching children to clean their rooms is definitely doable. Like anything in life, for them to do it well, you need to offer kids guidance and support. Clear steps, visuals, and defined expectations can go a long way.

To get started, turn to this easy-to-follow guide on how to teach your child to clean their room.

Organize The Room Together

Start the routine of cleaning together by organizing their bedroom with clear places for clothes, toys, shoes, etc. You want to find an organization system that's going to work for them.

For example, if you have a 3- to 5-year-old, labels with drawings might be more effective than labels with words. You also need to put things in places they can reach; a kindergartener, for example, is going to have trouble hanging clothes on a high shelf, so make organizing accessible. Just a few tips for how to organize a kid's room (even if it's a small bedroom) include:

  • Use bins for toys
  • Label everything (picture labels are helpful for small kids)
  • Make all organization efforts accessible and easy to use
  • Use drawer organizers

One powerful thing about organizing first is that kids start with a clean slate. A dirty room can be overwhelming for a kid to clean since they think it will take forever to get done. However, you also don't want to go overboard with the organization either. A small child is going to struggle to separate out all their toys. Therefore, a toy car bin or a doll bin might be more worthwhile than an elaborate organization system.

Give Kids Direction

The hard part is done. Strange, right? But it actually is. Now it's all about giving direction that will lead to setting down a routine for cleaning their room. Simple is always best when it comes to their cleaning routine. Break it down into small manageable steps to help kids stay on task.

When setting up a routine, it's always good to have a visual. You might want to use a chore chart, depending on their age. You can also provide them with a printable of the different steps for how to clean their room.

Family making a bed all together

Step 1: Clear and Make Bed

There is just something magical about walking into your child's room and seeing their bed made. Therefore, it's a great place to start.

  • Show them how to place the sheets and comforter.
  • Give them a demonstration of how to add pillows and place stuffies, etc.

Step 2: Sort

Most kids have a super short attention span. You can't expect them to spend hours cleaning their room daily. It's just not feasible. But a 5-minute sort is.

  1. Have kids set a timer for 5 minutes.
  2. Set out baskets.
  3. They should go around their room and collect everything off their floor, tables, desks, etc., and put items into clear piles using the baskets.
  4. Trash can go in a trash can or be thrown away.
  5. If they get done early, cheer them on.

Step 3: Put Away and Organize

Now that they've made nice piles of all the stuff cluttering their floor or room, it's easy to put away. Starting with one pile at a time (typically their clothes), have them put everything away using the organization system you developed.

Step 4: Dust and Sweep

This step doesn't need to happen every day, but it's good for kids to get in the habit. So at first, you might want to have them wipe everything down to remove dust and then sweep. Of course, this will vary by age, but you'd be surprised by how many 3-year-olds love running the vacuum.

Create a Routine

A routine is going to be your child's best friend. It allows cleaning at a specific time to become a habit. Set a cleaning schedule for them that works with their daily activities. For example, room cleaning happens every day after school. So, when they come home from school every day, they know they need to go in and clean their room prior to watching cartoons or playing games. After being consistent for a few months, cleaning their room after school becomes the norm.

Boy with basket for toys cleaning his room

Walk Through the Routine With Them

Kids learn by doing. You can't just give them the list and expect it to be done. It would be nice, but it doesn't work. So, for the first week or so, you'll need to do it with them. Demonstrate each individual step for them with clear simple instructions. For example, your toy soldiers go here, and your bears go on your bed. Consider giving them tips on easy ways to make the bed or fast ways to sort their piles.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Kids eat up attention and praise. So, give it to them by talking and laughing together. Catch up on what is happening in their life. Make cleaning a good bonding time and a positive experience and it will make all the difference.

Set Expectations

It's important to set expectations in the beginning. Lay out clear guidelines for what you expect and the consequences for not meeting expectations. For example, if they can't clean up their toys, they don't get to play with them.

Inspect the Room

Inspect their room to make sure they're meeting your expectations. Praise the things they did well with a high five and an "awesome job" so they know that you value their efforts. If you notice something that needs improvement, help them to identify it rather than scolding them. For example, it could be like an "I Spy" game or something similar. It becomes fun when you make it a game.

Add More Chores as Needed

Starting with small actionable steps is the key to successfully getting kids to clean their rooms. But as they show you they can do it, you can start to add more chores. You might add washing sheets (for older kids) or taking dirty clothes to the laundry room to the list. The organization system you use can also increase in intricacy. For example, you might add dividers within your containers for specific items rather than just putting them together.

As you up the chores, you might also up the reward as well. Rather than high fives and "good jobs," you can start to offer them an allowance or an extra hour on the tablet. Not only is this for you, but it helps kids learn the value of work.

Little girl cleaning up the toy box at home

Be Consistent With Rewards and Consequences

Kids are not going to want to clean their rooms unless they really like cleaning. And at first, you are probably going to get a little backlash. Be consistent in your rewards and consequences. For example:

  • Make sure you are continually inspecting their rooms and offering rewards.
  • Be consistent with consequences.
  • Continually offer them praise.
  • Delay things they enjoy, like tablet time or TV, until their room is clean.

Tips for Teaching Children to Clean Their Room

The beginning is rough. Cleaning is pretty fun for them when you are helping, but once they have to start doing it on their own, the whining begins. To stick to your guns, try out a few tips for keeping your sanity.

Mother and daughter picking up toys from container
  • Give them help when needed.
  • Make cleaning fun. Add music or make it like a treasure hunt to sort things on their floor.
  • Make cleaning a family affair. While they clean their room, you do the dishes or clean something.
  • Use baskets to help them sort. That way, they can just take one with them to each area.
  • Tailor chores to your kids. Some kids have a low attention span. So maybe only have a 2-minute sort, etc.
  • Give clear directions and expectations.
  • Avoid being vague about any instructions.

What Age Should Kids Start Cleaning Their Room?

There's no golden age where kids can start cleaning their room. Toddlers can start to help you pick up their room. Kids around pre-kindergarten age can start doing simple tasks alone and cleaning rooms on a weekly basis with little assistance. Typically, around 7 or 8, a kid should be able to tidy their room daily on their own, including putting everything away. The younger you start them cleaning and explainingcleaning expectations, the easier they will take to the chore.

How to Get Kids to Clean Rooms With Ease

You can shake your magic mom or dad wand all you want, but your kid is probably not going to be thrilled about cleaning their room. Chores and responsibilities take away from play and fun activities. But teaching them to clean their room will make them more responsible as they grow up. Just remember to make it fun when possible, keep it positive, and be consistent.

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How to Teach a Child to Clean Their Room as Part of Their Routine