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How to Get Your Preschooler to Clean His Room!

Katie Malinski

Responsibilities & Values

Is it hard to get your preschooler to clean up his or her room? You know kids should help around the house, and his own room is a good place to start… but why is it so hard to get it done?  The truth is, for a young child, cleaning up a bedroom or playroom is actually a pretty complicated task.  Consider:

  • There are many different areas that need attention (bed, shelves, closet, wall hooks, bins, floor)
  • Many different locations the misplaced items need to be returned to (This goes in the closet, this in the bathroom, this in the clothes hamper…)
  • Different physical motions required.  (Hang up, set down, straighten a stack, pick up, carry this, tucks this in…)
  • The work is open-ended (or at least it seems that way to a young child.)

This challenge is made even harder by the fact that young children have a hard time completing a series of tasks, and certainly a series of undesirable tasks will be even harder still.  Also, have you ever sat down at your computer to look up something particular, and before you realize it, you’ve spent 10 minutes checking email or Facebook?  That’s what we’re asking kids to do… pick up every toy you’ve enjoyed lately but DON”T PLAY WITH THEM, even for a second!  Pretty challenging!

So what to do?  First off, change your goal.  Yes, a clean room is still ONE of the goals.  But consider that “teaching and reinforcing the lesson of HOW to clean a room” is an equally important goal.

Secondly, young children do better when expectations are clearly and concretely spelled out, and when they can receive instructions in bite-sized pieces.  They also do better when they have you nearby.  (Sure, we want our kids to be able to do the ‘right thing’ independently, but the preschool years are a bit early in this situation.)  So clean the room WITH them.  Your physical presence helps them stay focused, your bite-sized directions help them know what to do next, and your positive attitude makes the whole experience better.

Thirdly, consider playing music while you work, or singing, or dancing!  It helps with having that positive attitude (for both of you!) Turn the experience into together-time, and try to make it fun, or at least cooperative.  You’ll find that this can make a world of difference… and a clean room!

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Katie Malinski

Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at