1. Involve them in the process
Children as young as three are eager to be involved and help you with the task. It may seem like letting them help will just slow you down, but it is important to get their input if you want them to be involved in keeping it tidy. If they are involved from the start then they are more likely to keep the room tidy as they feel ownership over the project and they know where everything belongs.
2. Let your kid give you a tour of their room
Start by letting them show you around and tell you about the areas in their room and the things in it. This will give you an idea of what they feel is most and least important and will help you to understand how they view the space.
3. Everything has a “home”
Talk about how stuff has a “home” and likes to be put back there every day. Children naturally personify things so asking them where they think something should live allows them to be involved and have some choice in the organisation process. A logical place to store their blocks might not be somewhere they think it should “live” so allowing them to choose the “home” for each item means that they are more likely to put it back there after play time. Asking your child to put something back in its home instead of “put that away” is a much more positive way of getting them to tidy up.
4. It is ok to let go of stuff
Give your child permission to let go of things that they don’t really want anymore. Children need to learn that it is ok to say no to things that they do not want anymore. Get a box to put things in for charity – telling your child that another child will love their toy and give it a good home is a much more positive way of dealing with decluttering than asking them to “get rid of it” or throw it away.
5. Start from the ground up
It is a good idea to start from the bottom up when decluttering a child’s room as that is where they spend a lot of time playing with their toys. Getting down to their level also helps to reinforce the idea that they are involved in the process. If children can easily see where the item’s new home is then they are more likely to put it back there after play.
6. Use storage boxes with no lids
Keeping various size storage boxes (plastic, cardboard, old shoe boxes, anything) on shelves in your child’s room will make it easier for them to keep things tidy. If they have to open a cupboard and then take a box that is stacked under another box and then still open hat box to put their toys away then they are far less likely to do it than if they simply pull out the box off a shelf and dump their toys in the top. You can even cover the boxes in wrapping paper and label them or colour code if you like.
7. Count down from ten
Turning clean-up time into a kind of game always helps! Have your kid count down from ten at the end of every day and pack one thing away each time then count down. By the end of the countdown ten things will be put away in their homes and your child will feel a sense of accomplishments. Remember to praise them for good behaviour.
8. Lead by example
As with most things, children learn very well from example. When they see you putting the breadboard back in its home (say the words: “now let’s put the breadboard back in its home”) then they learn through observing.