Kids & Crumbs: How to Get Your Kiddos to Stop Making Big Messes

Contributed by Hannah Whittenly

As a parent, you might be spending a whole lot of time cleaning up messes. Younger kids are prone to spilling things, but it can be incredibly frustrating. Rather than grinning and bearing it, you need to teach them better. Here are four tips on how to get your kiddos to stop making big messes.

Keep Food in the Kitchen

If your kids are being sloppy with their food, it at least needs to be isolated. Implement a policy that all food must be kept in the kitchen. It’s much easier to clean up messes on a kitchen floor than a carpeted living room. Tell them why they need to keep food in the kitchen. You can lead by example as well. Don’t eat any meals around them outside of the kitchen or dining room.

Teach Them About Pests

There are consequences of leaving messes out that go beyond it looking unkempt. Help your kids to understand this by explaining that rodents are attracted to crumbs as a food source. Explain to them that rodents aren’t just nasty, unwanted creatures, but they can bring in germs and diseases as well. Ask your kids to do their part to keep the mice away by keeping food in the kitchen and to never bring it into their rooms.

If your children’s food-related messes do result in needing to call an extermination service, consider having your kids help pay the fees. If your kids get an allowance, then it may be a constructive lesson to have a portion of their money go towards the fees. This is a lesson that your children would remember and it would help them to not want to allow food outside of the kitchen again.

Use a Reward System

Although bribery isn’t the most encouraged parenting tactic out there, it does work on some level—especially if messiness is something that just won’t stop in your household. Everyone should have their responsibilities to help keep the place clean. Kids should be assigned a few chores that help with keeping the home clean. They can be in charge of wiping down the counters and dinner table.

This will help them to realize that the messes that they make will actually have to be cleaned up eventually. Hopefully, that realization will help them to not want to make big messes. As they learn to keep up with their responsibilities, have rewards in place. This can be in the form of allowances or a Friday night out to get ice cream if they have kept up with the standard of cleanliness throughout the week.

Have Constructive Consequences

For a lot of parents, punishing their kids is a hard thing to do. However, consequences are a natural part of life and, when used constructively, can benefit children as well. If your children are continuously messy and won’t clean up after themselves, then consequences can be used as a learning experience. Here are just a few examples of messiness and constructive consequences that can help with the issue:

  • If your children won’t clean up their toys after being asked to repeatedly (two or three times), put those toys in a box. After a few days or a week, allow your children to earn them back through chores or as rewards for good behavior. If your children don’t earn the toys back after a set time (two or three weeks), you may want to consider donating the toys.
  • If your children constantly make messes at meal times and you believe that they are mature enough to know better, don’t just let it slide. Give your children a wet rag and ask them to clean up after themselves.
  • Many kids like to hoard candy and snacks in their rooms and often leave the wrappers, crumbs, or unfinished bits laying around or stuffed away under the bed. If this is the case, stop allowing your children to have access to the type of snacks that they’d take into their room for a few days. Instead, give them snacks that aren’t easy to make messes with (carrots, lunchmeat, etc).

Keeping your house clean isn’t necessarily about cleaning up big messes. It’s about being proactive and making sure the messes don’t happen in the first place. This can be done by teaching your children a few lessons regarding messiness and the importance of cleanliness.

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