Understanding Kids and Their Mess and How to Get Them to Clean Up After

Image credit: Pixabay
Why do kids just love to make a mess? In all honesty, most of the reason why I'm such a tired mama now (it used to be from doing so much laundry) is from all the picking up after and tidying up, after my toddler has had his way around the house. It seems like a lost cause. I turn my back for a few moments, and there it is..all his toys are all over the place again. As I'm wiping one spill off the floor or on a table, another spill just magically reappears. So I reprimand him, he laughs at me wickedly- like he's literally trying to drive me up the wall. So, I decided to do some research about toddlers and the reason why they love to make a mess.

As toddlers explore their world one disaster at a time, they are simply discovering the world the only way they know how, by delving into their environment with gusto. Combine that curiosity with the innate desire to be independent plus, of course, their lack of "grace" and you can count on a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment. They need to touch, smell, taste, hear, and observe whatever piques their interest and this helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity thus, supporting language development, cognitive growth, fine gross motor skills, problem-solving, and social interaction as they grow older.

According to research, the messier your child gets while playing, most especially with food,  the more he is learning, therefore, becoming a better learner. For example, to differentiate a cup of milk from a cup of glue, toddlers touched it, smelled it, and even tasted it so they could distinguish the differences between the two things. A messy way of problem-solving, yes, but in the end, they learn.

Children who constantly grab, feel, and taste objects are constantly gathering information and are also better at retaining words forming an early vocabulary-learning that is linked to better later cognitive development and functioning. As they squish through mud and squeeze a tube of clay, they are developing fine motor skills which are linked to the development of writing skills. All the mess they make is linked somehow to learning and as a parent, I want him to learn in any way he can. To be imaginative and creative so he can be innovative and a great problem solver in the future.

While the messy play is beneficial, it doesn't mean that we should allow our kids to run amok. We can set limits without stifling their development. It's always good to teach our kids to pick up after themselves and to help clean up minor messes to teach them a sense of responsibility. Kids love being called a "big boy" or a "big girl" and when they handle certain little responsibilities like that,  they are immensely pleased with themselves. My son has learned to wipe up spills by himself; I leave a small towel which he can reach whenever he needs it. When it's time to store some of his toys (he insists on bringing toys to bed), he helps in putting the toys back in storage. Teaching them those small things don't hurt their creativity, nor their cognitive function; it teaches them responsibility and discipline.
Mom always has to pick up after...
Image credit: Pixabay

Here are some simple ways to get your kids to clean up after themselves:

1. Make cleaning up part of your daily routine.
Before your kids head to the shower to clean up for bedtime, have them help you pick up some of their toys. Do this every day and in the long run, you won't have to tell them to pick up their toys. They'll do it themselves.

2. Have designated spots where they can store their toys.
I live in a small house so yes, there's only one area where I put all his toys away. I asked my son to put all his toys back and while he was storing his toys he kept reiterating "put it back, put it back". Now, he puts toys back in our storage place.

3. Give direction and help as well.
Of course, for bigger toys and for bigger messes, we have to do it. All you have to do is let your child pick up the smaller stuff. At least, tidying up now becomes a family affair.

4. Clean up throughout the day.
I know it's hard but if you make it a habit, the children will follow. Like wiping spills. I make it a habit to wipe spills up right away. Now, he does it.

5. Explaining the importance of cleaning.
Tell them that their belongings are less likely to get lost or broken. Tell them they won't get hurt from tripping over their own toys.

6. Of course, be a role model and model the same habits yourself.

A child's brain is more adaptable and susceptible while they are young. New experiences bring about creativity and better learning. Although Einstein said,"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think about an empty desk?", I still want to keep my home in order. Fewer mishaps (tripping or sliding) and it's a great way to start teaching them responsibility, discipline, and accountability in a small way minus the mess.

Clean and clutter-free house.
Image credit: Pixabay

*credit to source:
"How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up After Themselves" by Nina (www.sleepingshouldbeeasy.com)
"Why Toddlers Make Messes?" by Megan Mattes (www.parents.com)
"Benefits of Messy Play" (www.messitup.co.nz)

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  1. This is my daily challenge with my daughter now. Somehow it's harder to get her to tidy up as she gets older.

    1. I know what you mean. I was like that when I was kid. But my mom always said, a small thing like putting dirty clothes in the hamper is big help.

  2. We should make cleaning up a habit.

  3. We should Keep over surrounding clean for our better health.

  4. Wow...
    And that's what makes kids such lovely beings.

    Nice one here for we aspiring fathers.

  5. Thanks for the positive comments.

  6. I dont have kids now but this helps to see this problem from a nice point of view. Thank you!


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