child cleaning up toys

Children are notorious for being messy. They drop things on the floor, dump out their toys and never seem to put things away – no matter how many times you ask them.

I received a question the other day about how one should go about teaching kids to be tidy.

It’s a great question!

To start off, it’s important to note that tidiness can be a personality thing in children. Some are just born tidier than others. One of my children is simply more conscientious than the others about putting things away. 

But, it’s important to remember, for all children, that their young brains and their executive function skills are not fully developed, so there is a need to teach organization and structure. Practicing these skills will help your children later in life, because practice makes perfect, or at least more developed. 

Kids are often so involved with themselves, they don’t even think about putting things away. It’s convenient for them to just put their stuff down without a second thought. Home is a safe space for them – so when they are at home, kids tend to behave a little differently. They are more relaxed then they are in an unfamiliar place, and feel comfortable to just drop anything or to leave things messy.


Set up systems for where to put things

In my boys room, it was helpful to give them each a basket for each category of clothes. Each basket is labeled by category – shirts, shirts, socks etc.  After the laundry is done they sort their clothes and put them away. 

Initially, they did not want to do it. But, I told them they did not need to fold the laundry, just put it away, which made the task easier for them. There is no need for the job to be done perfectly, as long as it gets done, and all the clothes get into the correct drawers. Requiring kids to help, teaches them responsibility and develops their executive function skills because they have to figure out how to get the task done. There’s an added benefit – your kids know where their stuff is stored.


Expectations for tidying should be age appropriate. 

Always reinforce them. So, every time you come in the door, remind your kids to hang up their coats. Good habits come from constant reminders, and practice. It does take time for children to learn how to do things. So keep telling them to be tidy. Making them mindful of this task is important.


Kids take cues from their parents. 

Parents need to put a priority on cleanliness and order if this is something they expect from their children.  If parents are not setting a good example for their kids to follow – one cannot expect their kids to be tidy. So, if it’s important for you to have the house tidy and neat. As parents, you must keep your things neat and tidy.  


Give each child tasks to do. 

In our house, we sat down as a family, and decided on 2 or 3 chores for each child to do on a Friday before Shabbat. Each child could choose their tasks. One chose to sweep, another to take out the trash. 

By doing this, children understand that they play a role in keeping the house clean and tidy. We all play a part in making the house dirty, so we all have some responsibility to make it clean. By sharing the different cleaning tasks, you make cleanliness and order a priority for your family.

Other tips are, firstly declutter. This makes tidying up quicker and much easier  If you have less, there is less to clean up and to put away. 

Secondly, have designated places for children to put their stuff, and give consistent reminders. Even kids who are tidy, need to have good habits developed. 

Develop organizational skills in your kids – your daughters and your sons. Kids need to grow up to be good partners, and this is a good place to start. Teaching them to be organized, helpful and part of a team is important. It makes all kids grow up to be responsible, independent and organized. This is a great gift to give any child.