how to get toddlers to clean

How to Get Toddlers to Clean Up

In large families, everyone must clean or chaos takes over quickly. So we teach our toddlers how to clean up, too!

It’s always a challenge to get our youngest to clean. I used to scream and yell. Getting so stressed out that I eventually gave up on it for a while.

Then I learned about a toddler’s brain development, how they thought, and I came up with some tips and tricks to get my toddlers to help clean. Ho

Because let’s face it, in large families, parents can’t do all the work. And neglecting to teach them these skills isn’t fair to our kids.

Utilize the tips below to start teaching your toddlers to love cleanliness and to show them they are capable of great things!

Actionable Tips:

how to get toddlers to clean
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Preclean- organize the mess

I take a quick few minutes (<5) to put all the laundry in a loose pile, any dishes, toys, trash, shoes, etc all go in their own area.

Ensure each child can focus on one simple task at a time.

Show exactly what is expected

I will provide buckets or a trash can to gather whatever needs to be put away.

Then I demonstrate or just tell them what to do depending on their age.

Younger kids need simple skills. This may be as simple as putting all the blocks in one place then having the child put them in a bucket, then putting the bucket away.


While everyone is cleaning (or not), help do the dirty work while cleaning.

I say things like, “Cleaning is hard work, but it makes our home so nice and tidy so please put this laundry in the dirty laundry. It needs to be washed.”

“Put your toys in the box so we can get them out quickly to play later.”

“Pick up your toys so no one steps on them and breaks them.”

This is your chance to teach the skill of cleaning and plant the seed of self-motivation by teaching them WHY we clean.


Take every opportunity to talk about being clean, keeping things clean, putting trash in the can as soon as possible, putting things away.

Let them see you pick up trash in parking lots or restaurants that isn’t yours.

Make it clear that you understand cleaning is work, but that you want to do the work to enjoy the cleanliness.

This is also a good idea to reinforce the ideals of diligence (with a phrase like, “When you clean diligently, you get done much faster), responsibility, work ethic, etc. This is how you develop a home culture.

Here are a few tips for getting toddlers to clean up:

  • ​Well-fed and rested kids are easier to direct
  • Look into their eyes to make sure they are listening
  • Most kids need a warning before a transition (“We are going to clean in a few minutes”) and a reminder
  • Give short, succinct direction with gestures
  • Leading by example helps keep kids engaged and focused
  • Touch helps keep kids engaged and focused
  • Talking about how and why you do it reinforces the need for work

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Last, I want to reiterate that there will be days your kids don’t clean.

It happens. Clean and get on with your day.

This is building a habit, and that means there will be setbacks. Expect them so you don’t lose your cool when they happen!

12 thoughts on “How to Get Toddlers to Clean Up”

  1. I agree, if you don’t start early it will be so much harder to get them to clean and clean up after themselves later. I’m getting started with my 1 year old and he thinks its so fun!

    1. AliGSoutherland

      Yes! Plus, cleaning shows them that a.) they have some control over their environment and b.) they are an important part of the family team!

  2. I think expecting a toddler to do chores is bit unrealistic, but we do encourage our daughter to help and she loves helping! We don’t have any set things she has to do though. We just ask if she can pick this up or put that a way and she does usually without any fights.

  3. Kari Bjorge Lorz

    I totally agree with all of your bullet point tips! My little one needs lots of reminders that soon we are going to be doing something different or else she goes berserk 😆

  4. Cristina Monica

    I agree 100% that kids need to have simpe tasks around the house. The tips about getting toddlers to help are very useful. Thank you for sharing.

  5. The Happy Mommie

    My 3 uear old loves to help me around, whenever I am on a cleaning spree I hand her a small mop and she cleans the fridge. Lovely tips to keep them busy

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