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As your kids start getting older and they’re more able to take care of themselves, you might start wondering how to teach them a little responsibility around the house.

Nothing huge, of course, but even getting your kids to take care of their own toys or clean up around the house is a great way to start teaching them responsibility early on in life and help instill a sense of pride in their surroundings. Of course, as you’re probably well aware, getting your kids to do anything new can be something of a challenge, let alone something as lackluster as picking up their toys. We’ve found a few ways to help get your kids more interested in picking up after themselves while helping reduce your overall workload, even by a little bit, and we think they’ll help your kids stay focused on the job ahead:


Start small

Most kids don’t handle change well, especially when it’s time for them to do something they’re not particularly excited about doing—like cleaning up after themselves. To avoid overwhelming them, bring them into the world of household chores slowly, and with easy stuff at first so they get used to it. One day, ask them to pick up their room when they’re done playing. Once doing that for a few weeks, see if they want to help tidy the living room too. Introduce these tasks slowly over time so they don’t get overwhelmed and will be more interested helping in the long run.


Let them choose what they do

In a lot of cases, kids will feel more productive and be more willing to help if they think they have some say in what they’re doing. Does your kid hate getting their hands wet? Stick with having them pick up their toys and helping take out the trash. Is your child sensitive to a lot of sensory input, like bright lights or loud noises? Avoid teaching them how to vacuum and instead have them learn how to help sort and fold laundry. It might be a lot of trial-and-error at first, but learning what chores work best for your little ones will help everyone stay happier and more productive.


Provide their own tools for cleaning

Particularly in kids’ bedrooms, giving them supplies of their own, particularly kid-friendly versions, will help them feel like they have their own little ways to get organized. For toys, give them some small plastic storage bins to help them sort out their favorites—action figures in one, plush animals in another, etc. Depending on the age of the child, you may be able to give them their own bedroom dresser for holding clothes or even their own bedroom furniture to help them decorate their own bedroom. This may instill a bit more pride in keeping their books, clothes, and video games organized and put away. Even something like their own personal laundry hamper or a tiny trash can will give them a sense of ownership, and for a lot of kids that’s exactly what it takes.


Make it feel like a partnership

The one thing that will deter kids faster than most others is for them to feel like they’re all on their own. There’s a careful balance that needs to be struck here—you can’t do too much of it for them, but you also don’t want them to feel like they’re suddenly getting piled on. For bigger projects (like a whole room cleaning), make sure you’re always there helping them get things done and providing guidance where needed. For smaller projects, like the nightly toy pick-up, you don’t necessarily need to be in there helping out, but if they know you’re working on another cleaning project at the same time, it will keep them motivated and ready to finish their own chores. Don’t ever let them feel like they’re on their own, as it will easily discourage them and set your efforts back.


Remember to reward thembut keep it subtle

Too many parents fall into the trap of offering allowance money in exchange for chores, and while that works as your kids get older (and may get them ready to find a job in the long-term) if you try it too early on it may begin to affect your child’s motivation, and prevent them from doing anything unless they’re getting paid for it (which is a problem they’ll have plenty of time for later in life). Instead, try to find ways to reward them. Tell your kids that if they get X amount of room cleaning done by a certain time in the day, they can go out for bike rides later, or finally get to see that movie they’ve been clamoring for. You need to find limits to when and where you deploy this strategy, but you might find that over time your kids are willing to start helping without being asked due to the positive associations they’ve formed.


Got any other tips for getting your kids to be more responsible around the house? Leave a comment below!

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