Clean-Up Time - DuPage Children's Museum
September 7, 2017

It’s AMP here at DCM; our Annual Maintenance Period for refreshing exhibits. Staff and volunteers are working diligently to clean, paint and (sometimes) refurbish every area, including exhibits and behind the scenes. This is no small task! We drag almost every exhibit from its comfortable space and embark on a deep cleaning of the ENTIRE Museum! Walls are painted, the smallest spaces are dusted and sanitized, and so much more.

In the spirit of AMP I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about cleaning up. Whether at home, at school, or in our Museum, the reality of all things fun and play-like is that there will be a mess to clean up. If you are like most parents, caregivers, or Museum facilitators, getting children to clean up after an engaging play experience can be challenging.

From a developmental perspective, tasks like cleaning up require a certain amount of self-regulation skills which take years of practice, not to mention cognitive development, before fully developing. A child who stops playing when prompted by an adult and cleans up his toys is regulating his thoughts, emotions, and behavior. If you really stop and think about this, that takes a lot of work and is a major accomplishment for a young child. Over time children develop the capacity to internalize rules and expectations and will act automatically, however, certain things such as cleaning up will always require some degree of intentional regulation which needs to be taught and practiced time and time again.

There are however, things that play in your favor. Letting young children wield a mop or do such tasks as help wash windows tends to fill them with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Inevitably there will be some clean-up task they are more interested in than others, but here are some things you can try at home to get your little ones involved in the clean-up process…

Here are some things to think about and try…

Start Young. If your child is walking, then she is old enough to start learning to put the toys away when playtime is over. Talk your child through it. “Can you put that book on this shelf?” Demonstrate how it’s done as well. Toddlers love to help and often feel such pride in their accomplishments. If you make cleaning and picking up an expectation within the family, kids catch on quickly and accept that they are an important part of making the household run smoothly and neatly.
Have Realistic Expectations. Finding tasks that are within their capability is key. For 2- and 3-year-olds that might mean putting toys back where they belong or wiping off the table. You can also take the middle sections out of a Swiffer to create a toddler-size mop!
Be Specific. Just saying, “clean up” is an overwhelming statement, but “put all of the cars in the blue car box” is easily understood.
Explain why cleaning is necessary. Otherwise your child looks at cleaning up as putting away the fun.
Make it a habit. Fight the temptation to do it yourself. Teach your child to clean up after she is done with the task.

Do you have any tips you would like to share or stories about cleaning up? We would love to hear them! Comment here or find us on social media.