The brain-boosting magic of tidying up

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Getting toddlers to help tidy up can often end in tears and frustration: sometimes from a child and sometimes from their grown-ups! Like all everyday activities, cleaning up can be an opportunity for fun and conversation for your little one.

Here are some tips to help turn the tidying process into something your child will want to do as well as boosting their language and learning.

  • Sing songs as you clean up. Try “this is the way we pick up our toys, pick up our toys, pick up our toys, early in the morning”
  • Talk about what you are doing, and you might like to make up a story as you tidy up.
  • Use positional language to reinforce what the words mean. For example: “can you please pick up that toy under the bed” or “on top of the table”.
  • Challenge your child and give their numeracy skills a boost by asking them to pick up a specific number of items and then helping them count them out.
  • Choose a time when your child is happy and well rested. If it’s the end of the day and your child is tired and hungry cleaning up will not be fun for anyone!
  • For young children, start out small by asking them to help tidy up just a few items. As they get older you can build on this.
  • Try turning cleaning up into a fun game by pretending that your child is their favourite character or object of interest such as a truck or robot. This not only helps them concentrate in character and spend longer at the task, but you also provides you with fun opportunities for conversations and sounds while you work! Forklifts are great for getting clothing into drawers!
  • Try labelling the boxes the toys go in and point out the label to your child and ask them to find the matching toys.

The best thing about tidying up is when it's all done and you can curl up with your child and share a book together.

Books to share about tidying up

Inspire a love of tidying in your little one with these fun stories:

  • How do dinosaurs clean their rooms by Jan Yolen
  • Monster mess by Margery Cuyler
  • Clean-up time by Elizabeth Verdick
  • Little oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Maisy cleans up by Lucy Cousins
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