Encouraging Unmotivated Kids to Clean

Our class of 33 active students can make a tornado of a mess. We know it is worth it when kids are engaged, safe, active and learning.

The question is, how do you motivate kids to clean?

We started the beginning of the year with supporting the students at the end of each learning block. We would model tidying up and verbally encourage and praise the students who helped out. 

Honestly, we were either directing or doing most of the work and our little JK's were doing more work than our SK students. It was frustrating.

Some years I often need to rethink my bag of tricks for behavior management. We started to use Tidy Up King & Queen brag tag awards. The kids loved it and we rewarded students who we saw working hard, helping others or had been responsible for their own mess!

Later we decided to switch up how we awarded students. 


Mystery Item

We picked a mystery item. 

It worked like a charm to get the class to clean up quicker than before. Hint: Never tell the kids it has been picked up or they stop working! ;)  

To motivate them I often will say, "I still see the mystery item. I wonder who will find it?" It works like a charm! As you can see in the picture below, I often have to photograph the student with the mystery item because they are so proud of finding it!


Multiple Winners

Want to hand out multiple at a time?  

This idea is perfect for instant recognition for appropriate behavior! We would write names of students participating on the board. If they stopped we would wipe their name off. Great instant feedback for students and they always look to see if their name is on the board! lol


When the room is clean, we come back to the carpet we handed out the reward(s). 

The children give a cheer for the winner when they get their award. The winner often is beaming with pride as they take their award to their backpack to share with families. Some students even carry it around for a while because it is a treasured prize for them. 

Parent Feedback

Has all been positive! Apparently, some of my students have a "wall of fame" where they collect the awards. The kids always tell mom and dad what the mystery item was or why they got their award and parents love being involved and knowing what is happening in the class!

We also help students less. This has allowed us to deal with behavior management and those trying to avoid cleaning instead of helping ourselves.

What is your tried and true motivation for student participation in cleaning up? I'd love to know what works for you!

1 comment

  1. What a great post! I've used to give "clean desk awards" out back in the day! Now I use something similar to the names on the board that you mentioned above. Kindergarten students love to be recognized and yes, they do make quite a mess!! :)

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