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5 Toddler Clean-Up Tips for Messy Play

by Tania Cowling | March 9th, 2015 | Behavior, Infants/Toddlers

toys (400x399)Toddlers love messy play, whether it’s painting indoors or making mud pies outdoors — messes are part of the hands-on experience of life. Helping children learn to “clean-up” is necessary, but sometimes a struggle. Here are five clean-up tips for messy play, making the cleaning time almost as fun as the learning process.

Play music during clean-up time. Tell your toddler he needs to have his toys picked up by the time the song is done (this works well with a song that your child is familiar with). Children also enjoy cleaning with you to classical music that has a lively beat. Encourage them to move with the rhythm.

Make use of shaving cream to clean tables. It’s not just for shaving anymore. Just a squirt of inexpensive shaving cream goes a long way and toddlers love to smear it around, making designs and letters. Before the cream dries, use a damp sponge to wipe up the residue and then have your little helper wash her hands thoroughly. A special bonus to this clean-up material is that your room is left smelling clean and fresh. Please advise your children of the importance of not getting the cream in their eyes – it stings!

During cleaning, give each child in your household a color. Place a colored dot on the child’s hand in the specific color. Then tell the children that they must listen carefully for their individual task instructions. This activity can reinforce concepts such as color recognition and listening skills. As you work together, mommy can dole out chores by color names/or showing swatches.

Let your toddler assist in outdoor clean up tasks. Why not turn a routine walk to the park into an environmental clean up activity? Provide your children with bags to pick up safe litter or to clean up fallen leaves and foliage. It may be wise to have the little ones wear disposable gloves. Even Mother Nature can be messy! At the end of the walk, let the children toss their bags into the trash bin (or a recycle bin according to what has been collected). Make sure they wash their hands as soon as possible. The children can cheer as they have left their carbon footprint for a healthier and cleaner environment.

After a grimy activity, such as finger painting or outdoor activities, have the children clean under their nails with the help of a fingernail brush. This specialized cleaning tool, which can be purchased inexpensively at most drug stores or dollar stores, may be unfamiliar to most children but the novelty of using something new will increase their enthusiasm for what is often a routine chore. Follow up with a discussion of other clean-up items we use daily, like wash cloths for our face and body, toothbrush for our teeth, nail clippers, and so on. This could be the beginning of a health and hygiene lesson.

Cleaning is an everyday chore that we need to teach our children. It’s never too early to start the training, but making it fun is the key to success.

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