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Can't Get Your Child to Tidy Up? Try a Clean-Up Song

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Is a clean-up song the answer to your biggest parenting woe? Let's face it: Getting young kids to clean up their toys can sometimes feel like a never-ending battle. From the Legos that get eaten by your vacuum to the Hot Wheels you step on in the middle of the night, scattered toys can be a real pain (sometimes literally!). But what if there was a way to make tidying up more fun for your little ones — and all it took was singing a clean-up time song for kids?

What is a clean-up song?

It makes sense that a tidy-up song can help parents and caregivers convince their kids to do something that’s not always easy to get them to do, right? But how does a clean-up song actually work?

Well, if you’ve seen Mary Poppins, you know how the super-nanny uses the power of singing to convince her charges, Jane and Michael, to clean their room. You could even say that Ms. Poppins created the concept of a clean-up song when she first sang “A Spoonful of Sugar” 54 years ago.

Simply put, a clean-up time song is one that encourages kids to pick-up after themselves. Preschool teachers use clean-up songs as a way to signal that it’s time to stop playing and put the toys away. Clean-up songs in kindergarten are also quite common.

Adam Cole, a music teacher at First Presbyterian Preschool in Atlanta, says the brain processes music differently from language and when you combine the two, the music tends to take precedence. “Children are used to constantly hearing adults talking to them and learn to tune it out at a very young age. Music tends to go around the block and reach them,” he explains.

Children’s musician Laurie Berkner, who was once a preschool teacher, says, "a good clean-up song lets kids know what is expected of them and encourages them to tidy up in a way that’s fun — without an adult having to tell them what to do. I’ve found that the idea of ‘sing it, don’t say it’ is one of the most effective ways to communicate with toddlers and preschoolers, especially in a daycare or classroom setting,” says Berkner. “Singing helps encourage the kids to do the action of cleaning along with the rhythm. This makes cleaning less like a task, and more like a game or a dance.”

How to Use a Clean-Up Song for Kids

If your kids are already singing clean-up songs at preschool or clean-up songs at kindergarten, you can reinforce the learning at home. One Texas mom, Heidi McBain, says her son used to come home from preschool singing a clean-up song. “I loved it and we started singing the same songs at home so there was a connection between home and school with cleaning up.”

There are a lot of reasons tidy up songs work. “The ritual of hearing the same song every time a child does a particular task is a way to create an experience that is reassuring and safe,” Berkner explains. “The kids know what they are supposed to be doing as soon as they hear the cue of the music starting. When the song is done, the task is also done,” she adds.

This means there is a clear stopping point, as well as an opportunity for mastery. Kids can complete a task that is associated with the song (in this case, putting away their toys) without ever having to be told what to do.

Clean-Up Song Lyrics

If you’re creative and good at rhyming, you might want to try making up your own clean-up song. But if you’ve got writer’s block, there are lots of good clean-up song lyrics for toddlers available right at your fingertips.

Dora the Explorer and Barney both have clean-up songs on YouTube; the clean-up song Dora sings is pretty adorable, and the clean-up song Barney sings is both cute and extremely catchy. But Dora and Barney are not the only TV characters teaching kids how to clean up their toys. Here are a few other clean-up time songs aimed at helping toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners get excited about cleaning up after playtime.

Laurie Berkner’s Clean It Up Song

Berkner’s “Clean It Up” song on YouTube is a short, lively ballad that teaches kids the importance of tidying up, getting across the message that “you can make it fun to do:”

Nina Stone (Miss Nina) Clean-Up Song

Nina Stone, also known as Miss Nina, is an educator and three-time Parents’ Choice Award-winning musician who created a fun YouTube video and clean-up song for kids.

With catchy clean-up song lyrics like “Toys away, toys away, we had such fun with them today,” Miss Nina brings together an assortment of favorite clean-up songs on YouTube:

The Singing Walrus Clean-Up Song

The Singing Walrus is a comprehensive resource you can use to find clean up time songs on YouTube, clean up song lyrics, and printables that go along with the clean-up songs for kids:

This post was written by Sara Lindberg.

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