Teaching Children to be Tidy

One of the things which a child can be taught from a young age is how to keep their room tidy. Children are lovely little people, but they’re also our roommates, and, if we wouldn’t tolerate a particular kind of behavior from a roommate, it seems reasonable not to tolerate it from the ones we made.

There are five things every child needs to learn to do in their rooms. Three of them can be done by a two-year-old in ten minutes, which will tidy eighty percent of the room.

They are:

  • Pick up Clothes

Dirty clothes go in the basket. 

(Older kids) Clean clothes go in the drawers and closet. Clean clothes shouldn’t go in the dirty clothes basket, because when your child washes his clothes*, he won’t want to wash the clean ones, only to have to fold them and put them away later. Children who struggle with being able to open drawers may be better off with low shelves. 

  • Toss the Trash

A child should be offered a trash can (garbage can? Industrial sized drum?) so they have a means to accommodate their trash. Old and broken toys are also trash. 

  • Toys

Toys should be put away. Every child should have a manner of managing their toy collection. A toy box, a closet, shelves, or some other storage facilities will make toys manageable. Toys which can’t be put away need to be thrown in the trash or given to charity. 

  • Books

Children prefer physical copies of books as opposed to Ebooks until they begin reading chapter books. Store these books on a shelf, in a bookcase or drawer where they will fit neatly and are easy to reach. 

  • Hobbies/Sports
Hobby materials need to be carefully managed.

Hobby materials need to be carefully managed.

Children should be encouraged to take care of their sporting equipment, uniforms, and hobby items, such as paints. It is imperative that they have a place to store these items, however, or they can’t be expected to keep them in order. If they are old enough to have a hobby, they’re old enough to store their hobby items away neatly.

Our kids love games and rewards. 

Here are examples:

Everyone doing their jobs

When the child wants a glass of chocolate milk, a bowl of ice cream, or some other treat, tell them you’ll prepare it for them while they pick up their toys. Give them the treat as soon as the toys are collected. This is you 'doing your job as a parent' while they 'do their job as the child'.

The Five-minute dash

Everyone in the family works for five minutes at top speed to gather the toys and clothing and put it away. Some families dedicate the last minute to finding and throwing away trash.  

Family rules which make life easier:

  • No one is allowed to leave any personal belongings in the bathroom. 
  • No one is allowed to leave things in the car.
  • No one is allowed to leave dishes on the table.

As a little aid to help children get organized, they can be taught to get their clothes ready the night before. Everyone is exhausted when morning comes.

Eighty percent of this room could be tidied in a 5-minute dash.

Eighty percent of this room could be tidied in a 5-minute dash.

The earlier we allow children the opportunity to develop their life skills, the sooner they will be able to take care of themselves and their toys.  Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that a parent’s job is not to care for the child’s things, it’s their job to teach the child how to care for their own things. This is not a modern concept. However, children are not raised by popular vote. Children are raised by parents who love them and want them to have the skills necessary to navigate life.


*Children who are too short to reach the knobs on the laundry cannot be expected to wash their own clothes, however, they can help fold and put the clothes away.