5 Creative Ways to Make Kids WANT to Clean Up

Raise your hand if you have kids who love to clean up their room and never require any nagging/bribing/threatening.  

If you raised your hand just now, this article is not for you. Congratulations, you already have perfect kids.  

If you’re like most families, however, cleaning up is not your kids’ favourite activitiy. 

I’m writing this post to help give you some ideas to make clean up fun so that no nagging/bribing/threatening is required. And these ideas came straight from my own mother, who used them on me growing up. So I know firsthand how effective they were. 😉  

ABC Clean Up 

ABC Clean Up

Who says education and cleaning can’t be combined? This clean-up method would probably work best with preschoolers who are learning their letters.  

The way it works is you go through the alphabet, and for every letter, they have to pick up all the toys beginning with that letter and put them away.  

For instance, if the letter is “B”, they need to put away their ball, baby doll, and basket. If the letter is “P”, they need to put away their pony, pencil, and paper.  

Get it?  

Cleaning up AND practicing the alphabet! Hurray!  

(by the way, my mom had me reading my own books by the time I was 4, so she was clearly doing something right) 

The next one is…  

123 Clean Up  

123 Clean Up

Education and cleaning really should go hand in hand. 🙂  

The simplest version of this is just having kids count the toys they’re putting away. However, the way my mother instituted this clean up game, it was a competition.  

Who can pick up more toys?  

This can be played parent vs. child, or sibling vs. sibling. No need to offer a reward (unless you’re still in bribery mode). For most young children, parental praise is a modest reward that fulfills their desire for recognition.  

This is a good method to use if you want things cleaned up FAST.  

Next up, we have… 

Delivery Service Clean Up 

Delivery Service Clean Up

This was my preferred method of cleaning as a child. I would hop on the back of my little toy truck (any driveable toy will do), gather as many toys as I could carry, and drive around my room dropping the toys off at their “stations”.  

For example, the dolls would get dropped off at the dollhouse, the blocks would go in the toy chest, and the stuffed animals would go in the closet.  

However you have the room arranged, this can be a fun way to get younger kids to enjoy the cleaning up process. Who doesn’t like an excuse to ride their toy truck/bike/scooter around?  

If you don’t have or allow indoor riding toys, this cleanup method might require a little more creativity.   

For some more parental involvement, try… 

High and Low Clean Up 

High and Low Clean Up

This is a really easy cleanup method, but it does require you as the parent to help out.  

The way it works is the child gets to clean up everything that is on the floor. The parent gets to clean up everything that’s not on the floor. Pretty simple, right?  

If there’s stuff on the bed, table, desk, nightstand, etc., that’s the parent’s responsibility. Whatever is on the floor is the kid’s responsibility.  

This can obviously be combined with some of the other cleanup games to make it even more interesting.  

It typically works best for a quick cleanup, when there isn’t too much mess to overwhelm the child.  

Lastly, we have… 

Your Turn, My Turn Clean Up 

Your Turn My Turn Clean Up

This is another one that requires a parent (or sibling!) to be involved.  

It works on the basis of taking turns, which doesn’t make for a quick clean, but it will teach diplomacy and (hopefully) prevent a typical cleanup meltdown. You know what I’m talking about.  

Simply put, the child takes a turn picking something to put away, then the parent takes a turn picking something to put away. Keep going until all the toys are picked up!  

To make this go faster, you could pick a category of toys to take turns cleaning. For instance, “I will pick up all the legos. Now you take a turn picking something to clean up.” The child may then choose to put away all her dolls.  

Easy peasy.  

If clean up time at your house is less than perfect, this is the post for you! Get some ideas on making clean up time run smoother than ever. | Mom but not a Mom


There you go. Five new methods to try during clean up time at your house!  

Infographic coming soon.  


How do you handle clean up time at your house? What works and what doesn’t work? 

Do any of these methods sound like something you’d want to try? Let me know what works! 

2 thoughts on “5 Creative Ways to Make Kids WANT to Clean Up

  1. These are such great ideas!! I LOVE the delivery service idea. That is adorable, and I think my son would love it!

    I find that having a clean-up song helps, as does turning it into a game. I have also found that focusing his efforts on one type of toy at once (i.e. cars first, then blocks, etc.) helps keep him from getting overwhelmed. If I just turn him loose on a room full of toys, he resists. But when I tell him to pick up all his cars, then he’s MUCH more willing to start. Once I get him started, he’ll pick up the rest! It makes sense – I don’t like cleaning when I feel overwhelmed, either!

    Terrific post. I will be sharing this!


    1. You’re exactly right, the more overwhelmed they feel, the more they resist. Even when the mess isn’t that big. 🙂

      Yes, a clean up song is a great transition into clean up mode!

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Lisa. 🙂

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