Pick Up Tricks

Bigstock Cleaning Up 4236587


Imagine toy soldiers marching themselves into the toy box. Or how about clothes that fold themselves at the snap of your fingers? Any parent who has watched the Disney classic “Mary Poppins” likely desires the same magical abilities to clean up a room. The Banks children certainly knew how to make a mess of the nursery. And if truth be told, so do my kids – and yours. Duplos, Little People, play dishes, dollies, books, dirty socks – you name it – if a kid owns it, it’s bound to hit the floor in chaos sooner or later.

Family life, while full of joy, is also full of messes. By making cleaning easier for children, and even a little bit fun, children may balk less at the jobs to be done. In addition, while learning valuable life skills and a sense of responsibility, they become active participants in the every day workings of the household. Here are some pick up tricks to make cleaning easier and a little more fun.

Divide and Conquer

A room full of toys can look daunting to a little person, especially when the toys are haphazardly strewn about the floor. Help a child divide the task into doable parts by focusing on one type of toy, such as blocks, that needs to be put away. After the child has collected the blocks and put them away, help him to narrow in on the next thing, such as books. This method helps the child make sense of a big project while at the same time providing practice for sorting and identification skills.


Consider ways to organize your home so it allows children to easily help with daily chores. Our son, Judah, 2, helps empty the dishwasher because all the plastic cups, bowls and plates are easily within his reach in the lower cabinets.

My husband recently built and installed a low peg rack where the kids can hang their coats. Before he’d completed the project, someone had already hung up a coat.

Storing each kind of toy in a separate clear plastic box with a lid helps save space and aids in cleanup. The boxes stack nicely and are easily identifiable. Limiting your children to playing with one box at a time is also helpful in heading off messes.

Tool Time

Since my husband is a contractor, we are big on tools at our house. Tools are defined as anything to help do a job better. Provide your little helpers with tools that enable them to help you. A dishpan is great for collecting messy dishes after dinner.

Teach your child to wipe the table and to use a dustpan to collect the crumbs as they fall off the edge. If the budget allows, purchase a rechargeable, cordless sweeper. You push it like a vacuum, but its round brush actually sweeps dirt, dust and crumbs into an inner compartment. This is one of Judah ’s favorite tools and he can even empty it himself.

Make It a Game

As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” While there are many instances in life when chores are chores and you just have to do them, there’s no reason that we can’t endeavor to show children that work can be fun. One cleaning game our boys like is freeze cleaning. I set the stereo with fun, loud music, and the kids begin to clean. Then I randomly stop the music and they freeze in the position they’re in. The positions they end up in are sometimes hilarious.

Calvary, our 4-year-old, loves to play I Spy, which we’ve turned into another cleaning game. I say, “I spy three books,” and he searches the room for the books that are out of place and puts them away. After a recent game when I had spied everything there was to pick up in the living room, he requested to go clean another room – proof that making it fun makes children want to clean.

Consider your own household, family and lifestyle. With a little imagination, you can discover fun ways to teach kids to put a little order in their chaos. No, they won’t do it as nicely as you would, but they learn a good work ethic and you receive valuable help. Don’t worry – you won’t always be tripping on Little People and stuffed animals. Make-up, car keys and greasy auto parts are just around the corner.

Jessica Fisher is a wife, the mother of six children and a freelance writer making her home near San Diego. For more tips on home and family management, visit www.lifeasmom.com.