We have our relatives kids at our house somewhat frequently, and we have a lot of toys here for the kids to play with. Sometimes they are here for over a night or two.

But when the kids are about to leave, there comes this nasty job of putting the toys back in their original places, and it seems almost impossible task to do.

How can I encourage the kids to enjoy that work and feel good after the room has been cleaned? The kids are around 3-7 years old.

I have read this: How can I get my 4 year old to clean up toys without a battle? but it's not quite the situation we have, since the kids are our guests.

PS. My mother tongue isn't english.

  • 1
    Have you talked to your relatives about their kids? If the parents won't do anything to help you then I think you may be stuck just not providing toys or dealing with the mess. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 19:17

4 Answers 4


Don't let it get that messy to begin with.

If you've given the kids free reign for 2½ days then it's no big wonder that cleaning up is almost impossible.

We have a house rule that all toys are cleared away before bedtime. This is part of the regular bedtime ritual. When you have guests over and the clutter is much worse, I would even add another clean-up round before lunch, or a similar mid-day break.

In this case, you would have broken your 2½-day mess down to five smaller tasks.

  • 1
    Absolutely! We have a neighbor with a daughter that's around our daughter's age. They play together 4 times a week. But every day before she leaves we give the 10 minute warning. Time to clean up before she goes home. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 14:58

First, I would suggest that you instate a rule that means the kids clean up every 1 or 2 hours so things are less daunting at the end of when it is time to leave. Another way to meet the same goal is to clean up each activity that gets done before moving on to the next activity. There should never be a situation where more than one room is messy at a time or you are setting yourself up for failure in the end.

Second, During a sleep over, I have the guest children pack up their things in the morning as a part of "getting ready to start the day." Pajamas, toothbrush, hairbrush etc. All go in the overnight bags right after use and I help with rolling up or putting away sleeping bags before they even get to start playing. This helps to make sure there are only a couple of things to check for when it is time to leave and allows the parents more ability to focus on directing their kids to help with clean -up.

Third, about 30 minutes before it is time to leave announce, "Okay everyone! Clean up time." I commonly say something like, "Who can get 15 toys picked up first?!?" Then I make a really big deal about how fast they are being and who is in the lead. I try to sound like the announcer for a race and really play it up.

If the kids don't help and the parents are there but aren't helping to teach the guest children the idea that they should help with clean up time, there isn't a lot more you can do without having a chat with the parents of the children. When the guest children's parents are in on it with you, they can take over with motivations they regularly use at home if "making a game of it" doesn't help. When, how, and if, you decide to do that will depend somewhat on your relationship with the parents.

Hope it works for you - have fun!


I'm going to give a totally different answer to the others here and suggest that it's the parents' problem, not yours, so they should make sure it's cleaned up before they leave. Why should you have to clean up after their kids? They shouldn't be leaving your house in a state with you having to do lots of cleanup, so next time ask them to leave the house in the state they found it in.

The other reason for making it the parent's problem is that it is hard to get kids to do things they wouldn't do ordinarily. If they don't clean up their toys at home then it will be hard to get them to do it at your house. If their parents clean up for them at home let them do it at your house too.

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    +1 for the second paragraph -- good insight. The first paragraph is a matter of how you define hospitality so it might not be universal. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 15:18
  • I agree @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun, some may not think that way, I just thought it was important to say as none of the answers brought it up.
    – GdD
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 15:45
  • It's not a matter of whose problem it is, my question is merely asking for a method to make the kids to feel good about the cleaning process. Of course the kids parents do tell their kids to start the cleaning, they don't clean for them, not even at their own house! (that would be ridiculous)
    – tomek
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 19:11
  • That would be ridiculous, but it does happen in many homes!
    – GdD
    Commented Dec 7, 2012 at 9:17

Like any nasty, impossible task, it will become easier if you break it down into smaller parts. Divide the area to be cleaned into separate smaller areas, and define separate tasks that take about 30 seconds to two minutes for a child to do: eg cleaning up the table, floor, desk, bed; or putting away the train set, making the bed, putting clothes into the hamper, putting away the Lego, etc.

It will help to give the kids specific instructions both because deciding what to clean up first can take energy, and because the kids can get satisfaction from each small task-- especially if you offer rewards. Stickers and video game time are great rewards, but any set of rewards that is worth the set of task in the child's mind will work.

You can make it a game by having a list of areas or items that need to get cleaned up-- each with it's own sticker or other reward that is worth the task. The child chooses the room or area based on the reward they want, until all the rewards are gone (and the area is clean). You can even take pictures of each zone of the house-- when it is perfectly clean-- so that the kids know what the goal is. Once the table in the play room looks like the clean table in the picture, the kid gets the shiny sticker.

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