Clean Up Games for Kids That Will Make Them Actually WANT to Help

Looking at the mess of toys everywhere and frustrated that your kiddos won’t help clean it up?? I hear you mama! These 20 clean up games for kids will help you get them involved and maybe even turn housekeeping into some fun family time 🙂

Cleaning takes on a whole new meaning when you have kids, amiright? It always feels like I have 2 bulldozers following behind me making a mess AS I pick up. And the amount of laundry they create is out of this world!

I really want to instill good cleaning habits in my kiddos, as I’m sure most other parents do as well. Taking care of their belongings, cleaning up after themselves, and having an active role in the housekeeping are all things that have to be taught to little ones, but are really beneficial.

Not only does it minimize the headaches you have to deal with later, but it teaches them something incredibly important they’ll need for their entire lives. Responsibility!! This is a skill that goes so far beyond the cleanliness of your house, and will affect almost every aspect of their lives growing up.

20 Clean up Games to get kids excited to help out! | thegrowingcreatives.com

I also feel that it’s important for kiddos to play freely, so I don’t want to limit their fun too much for my desire to not create a mess. Kids are meant to create messes! Buuuuuuut with that mess comes the natural responsibility of cleaning it up afterwards.

Starting good habits early

The fun thing about toddlers and preschoolers is many times they get into a phase where they actually WANT to help! Er, well maybe that should be phrased as “help” haha. If you’ve ever had a toddler try to dump the dustpan in the garbage, just to tip it back onto the floor, you know what I mean lol! But this still gives the perfect opportunity to start good habits.

If I’m honest, I don’t think I started giving Lulu enough responsibility for cleaning up as early as I should have. It’s just so much easier to do it yourself and get it done faster, you know? Especially since we as adults have way more than just toys to clean up, it feels overwhelming to spend all that time teaching them to pick up their part of the mess.

This is something I’ve tried to slow down and focus on with my kiddos lately. They both have the tendency to be tiny wrecking balls and not give it a second thought. So not only for my own sanity, but to teach them more responsibility as I mentioned earlier, we’ve been doing things the slow and steady way.

But it’s not necessarily fair to expect them to just start cleaning their toys up on their own out of nowhere! So I’ve compiled 20 clean up games for kids that have helped tremendously with my own little ones being more eagerly involved. And really, we have a lot of fun doing it, too!

I hope these clean up games for kids help your children learn some cleaning skills and have fun while doing it!

1. Musical Clean-a-thon

This one reminds me of freeze dance, but the cleaning version. Put on some fun music and have your kiddos race to put as much away as they can before the music stops. Then when it does stop, they have to freeze in place until it starts again. Aaaaaand repeat!

Clean Up Games for Kids that Will Actually Make Them Want to Help! | thegrowingcreatives.com

2. Beat the Timer

Set a timer for a certain amount of time, depending on the age of your kiddos and the size of the mess. With my kids only being 2 and 4, we usually do it in 5 minute increments with smaller jobs to complete in that time.

The object of the game is to see if they can finish their job before the timer goes off! For younger kids, it may be easier of course to have you help, but always make sure they’re doing their share.

3. Mommy Race

You have your own stuff to clean up anyway, right? This is another one where the kids race to finish, but this time it’s against you instead of the timer! Give them a reasonable task to complete, and let them know what yours will be as well.

For example, you’ll prep dinner, and they have to get the table cleared and set. Or for younger kids, they have to pick up their toys and make their beds while you fold laundry. Whoever finishes their task first is the winner! 

4. Guess What?!

If cleaning with multiple kids, have one clean the room while the other stays and cleans up one group of something. All the trucks, all the blocks, etc. Then the first kiddo comes back in and has to guess what was cleaned up! If you have only one kid cleaning, they can do the same but taking turns with you.

5. The Cleaning Challenge

For every task you want completed, give the kids a specific way you want it done and challenge them to do it according to those directions. This can be sorting through toys by color, stacking books by size, or any other ways you can come up with to make them think more about how to do it! Anything phrased as a “challenge” to kids should help in motivating them to get it done.

Clean Up Games for Kids that Will Actually Make Them Want to Help! | thegrowingcreatives.com

6. Pick Up Sticks

Have a can with a bunch of popsicle sticks in them. On each popsicle stick, write either a clean up task or a fun/silly activity on it. When it’s cleanup time, kiddos have to choose one at a time and complete whatever it says! Knowing there are some included with fun activities on them will motivate them to continue picking.

7. Use Your Toes

Any other mamas walk through the house picking things up with your toes, or is that just me? Haha. Lulu tries time imitate me by doing the same, so I decided to make a game out of it. We try to see how much we can get cleaned up using only our feet!

Sometimes for a bigger object, she’ll sit down and put it between her feet and have to scoot it over to the toy bin. Not the fastest way to get cleaned up, but it’s really funny to do (and watch)!

8. Clean-Up Scavenger Hunt

What makes a chore more fun than turning it into a scavenger hunt?! For this one, you can write out a list of the usual items you want your child to pick up. They have to go down the list, find each item listed, and make sure it’s where it belongs before they can check it off.

You can do this to a timer if 2 or more kids are racing each other, or just let them complete it at their own pace. 

9. Don’t Touch the Lava!

Did you ever play the lava game as a kid? We basically applied that same idea, but added in a cleaning element. I’ll put various pillows or towels down, and we pretend the rest of the floor is lava! Then they have to jump around and clean the entire room without touching the lava.

10. Window Drawing

Washable window markers can actually be your friend when it comes to getting clean windows! Let the kiddos draw whatever they like on the windows, as long as they clean it up afterwards. They can move from window to window, and before you know it they’ll have the dust and fingerprints cleaned off them all! 

11. Shark Attack

This game is based on the Shark pool game. Whoever is the “shark” has to turn away from everyone else and close their eyes. The other people try to sneak across quietly with toys to put away.

The shark has to listen for movement and guess when someone is crossing. Then they have to catch them before they make it to wherever the toy has to go. If they catch the person before they make it, that person becomes “it”!

Clean Up Games for Kids that Will Actually Make Them Want to Help! | thegrowingcreatives.com

12. Using Toys to Clean Up Other Toys

My kids get a huge kick out of pushing their little dump truck ride on toy around to fill up. This game takes that same idea and just makes it more productive haha.

Have your kiddos go around with a truck, basket, or wagon of some sort to pick toys up. That way they can bring it all back to the toy box easily! This is also really great for getting them to help clean up stick, leaves, and weeds in the yard too.

You can also make clean up more fun by having them drop stuff into the toy bin using a ramp!

13. Categories

Sort the clean up job into separate categories. Put all the books away first, then the trucks, then the baby doll stuff, etc. This makes it feel more manageable for them rather than just one big mess to clean up. If you have multiple kids, you could even split it up more, give them different categories and race to finish! 

14. I Spy…. A Mess to Clean

Always a win when you can mix a little learning into an activity! This can help teach them colors, shapes, or numbers. Take the typical “I spy” game and apply it to whatever needs to be cleaned up. Describe what you “spy”, and then they need to find it and put it where it belongs.

Take into consideration how much they know/can focus to determine how hard you make it. For a young kid, giving more specific directions works best, like “I spy a green truck”.

For the older kiddos you can ask them to find a certain number of something and be a bit more vague about it. Maybe only tell them the color of the object and they have to figure out what it is.

The best part is they have to put away whatever their guess is BEFORE they ask you to confirm. So if you give a tricky hint then you could get a lot done at once!

15. Basketball Clean Up

Kids love trying to shoot objects into baskets, so why not apply that to clean up time? Have them stand a certain distance away from the toy bin and take turns trying to throw the toys in! 

16. Soap hockey

Another sports-themed game! If you have a decent sized linoleum floor that needs to be mopped, this is a great game for multiple kids. Spread a bit of water on the floor and give the kids a mop. Put a bar of soap on the floor and let them play to get the soap in the other person’s corner of the room!

This has the potential for being one of those clean up games for kids that can get out of hand. Make sure they don’t get too wild and end up slipping, but aside from that it’s a great way to get your floor cleaned! And naturally, in order to play they’d need to sweep before hand and make sure to clean up the water afterwards. 

Clean Up Games for Kids that Will Actually Make Them Want to Help! | thegrowingcreatives.com

17. The Color Game

This is another good ol’ racing game. Tell them what color to look for and then they can race to find something of that color to clean up. Whoever does this first is safe, and the other kiddos get tickled! Then start over again with a new color.

18. The Clean-up Song

Such a simple and old school tactic, but this song does wonders for a young child’s motivation! My kiddos will perk up and be a lot more willing to help as soon as we start singing it.

19. Mission Accomplished

This helps kiddos to follow multiple instructions. Write series of simple tasks that need to be done on separate index cards– this is their mission! Older kids can handle more tasks, so if you’re working with a preschooler then consider only doing a few tasks.

You will give them one card at a time, and once they complete it they come back for the next card until they’re all done. For completing their mission, they can earn a little reward such as a bit of screen time, extra stories at bedtime, or a treat!

20. Leave One Behind

This is a great way for your kids to associate a good behavior with quality time spent with you. While cleaning up, let them know they can choose ONE toy or activity to leave out. Once clean up is over, the two of you can sit down and play together with no distractions for a little while.

They will love to have special attention from you, and that is sometimes a better motivator than clean up games for kids! This would be the perfect way to sneak in some tech free time for our Kids Are Cooler challenge if you’ve been following along with that as well.

I hope some of these clean up games for kids help both you and your little ones to keep a cleaner AND happier home. I know it can be so frustrating when you work your butt off to maintain the household, just to have it destroyed again quickly.

With these games, your kids will gladly get more involved in picking up their things, and you might even get a tiny break!

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20 Clean up Games to get kids excited to help out! | thegrowingcreatives.com

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41 thoughts on “Clean Up Games for Kids That Will Make Them Actually WANT to Help

  1. OH my gosh, I love all of these ideas! We are struggling to get our 3 year old to clean up her toys on a consistent basis and all I have is the clean up song. These are so much more fun.

  2. LOVE these suggestions! I usually just run around telling my kids that the Roomba will eat their toys and they will be gone forever. Your suggestions might be more fun for the kids though! haha

  3. These are great ideas! We always sing clean up songs with our toddler and he’s now starting to understand he has to clean up when we start singing the songs, I’ll definitely be trying these other tips out!

  4. We struggle with our kids cleaning up their toys. I like the idea of making cleaning into a game. Definitely going to try this next time!

    1. So do mine! Well mine moreso just get so distracted constantly hahah but this keeps them on track 👍

  5. These are great, thanks for sharing! Definitely going to give a few ideas a try the next time I need my four year old to help clean. When she whines, I usually give her the speech about how we all live here together and so we have to work together to keep it clean. It works about 30% of the time lol

  6. It’s a mom’s dream to have help! I learned while babysitting my cousins that you can get kids excited as long as you are excited!

  7. Wow thats an amazing list to motivate kids to do clean up. Yes you are right being a mom of a toddler cleaning is a never ending task. But I am sure your tips will help. My kid and I use to sing clean up song at the time of cleaning. And she enjoys that song very much.

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