23 Cleaning Activities and Games for Preschoolers

A picture of a young girl wiping a chalkboard with a sponge. Text reads 15 cleaning activities and games for preschool kids.

Cleaning up, there’s no escaping it. If you try to take it all on yourself, it can feel overwhelming and never ending. However, with these fun cleaning activities you can make the activity more fun and engaging.

If you can teach children to help clean and build the habit of tidying up, it can relieve the stress of a mess.

Clipart of kids cleaning.

Tips before we start:

  • Be Clear with Directives. When things need to be picked up or put away in a specific manner, say exactly what is to be done and when.

Example: Ben, put the blocks on the “bottom shelf” please. Or, Sarah, before you come to snack, the toys in the playhouse need to be put away. 

Often if we only say, “clean everything up” things will be put wherever just to get them out of the way.

Let’s get started with some creative games and cleaning activities for preschoolers.

Clean Up Activity Ideas

1. How fast can we do it?

You can say:

  • Let’s beat the clock!
  • Beat yesterday’s time.
  • Can we get everything put away before the music stops

Remind the children how much time is left by using a timer, hourglass, or clock.

  •  Remember young children don’t have the concept of time down yet; it would be a good idea to also use a timer of some sort.
  • When using a clock as a reminder with young children – say, “When the big hand is on the two, we will start to clean up”.
  • When going over time with the children consider using a 5-minute hourglass or times during circle time and have the children experience exactly what 5 minutes is. Go on with activities-while timer is winding down.

2. Help children

Helping by giving some directions or guidance. You can say ”Do you want to pick up the little blocks or the big puzzle?

3. A countdown timer

For older students, have a cleanup count-up or countdown. Use a stopwatch and chart how long it takes to clean up. Say, “You have until the count of five to be ready for ______. Then count 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.” Start a count down at whatever number you think the youth need to be ready. For example, start with 5, 10 or 15 depending on the activity to be put away.

4. Pick up 5

Have each child pick up 5 items (or whatever number needed) in an area. Before you know it it’s all cleaned up!

5. Give children visual reminders

It’s a good idea to post what you expect from the children. Talk to them about being responsible for cleaning up after themselves and post reminders. Put something like the sample up at various play supply and activity areas.

  • When a child forgets, all you have to do is point to the sign!
  • Help children in learning to put away as they go along.
  • For older kids you can make or purchase a poster with the message, “I’m not your Mom (or Maid)! Please Clean Up! Make sure the art on the poster is humorous!
I am your teacher, not your maid sign for the classroom.

6. Messy table clean-up activity

Try this when your art and craft tables get messy with glue, paint, or____.

Spread non-menthol shaving cream on the tabletops and let the children finger-paint away on the table! They’ll be having fun and loosening all that dried glue mess at the same time.

When the table is clean wipe down with paper towels. Follow this with a wet cloth. Rinse and dry the kids’ hands too!

7. Lucky piece of garbage day

On the days you play this, be sure all children are informed! At clean-up time, secretly pick a random piece of trash or toy on the floor or tables.

When someone picks it up, they win a small prize or privilege. Within minutes, the entire area will be clean! Do this often enough so many kids get a chance to win.

8. “I Spy” cleanup game

  • Play ‘I Spy’ to clean up scraps on the floor after art or messy project.
  • Visually identify a scrap on the floor without telling the children which one and say, ‘I Spy.’
  • Kids pick up scraps and the child who finds the one you’re looking at gets a sticker or small prize.
  • Keep playing the game and giving small goodies until all scraps are off of the floor.
  • Kids like this game and it’s a fast fun way to clean a room.

9. 5 minute cleanup

At one observed ECH site, a Kindergarten child walked to each group of children before clean-up time, holding a sign saying, “5 Minutes to Clean-Up Time!”

The other children acknowledged the sign-holder by saying, “Thank-you.” This program has ‘a weekly job chart’ with the 5-minute to clean-up reminder being one of the children’s tasks.

10. Cleaning party

Kids love parties! On a pre-made sign-up sheet have the children initial what they want to clean and/or organize; when all jobs are complete the group has a celebration.

I occasionally did this at home on a Saturday/Sunday. The five of us cleaned for what we signed up for. In 20 to 30 minutes the entire house was cleaned and we then went out and did something fun. 

This did not include the kids’ rooms, that was separate. My grown daughter now carries on the tradition! Barb

11. Cleaning for points and rewards

As a group, earn letters/points for a “whatever party”. When the group does not have to be reminded or “nagged” to clean-up a “letter” is earned.

Example: Spell the word Donut Party. Each day a letter is earned. When the letter spaces are filled in, a Donut Party is held. (You can have a Hot-Cocoa Party, Ice-Cream Party, Pizza Party, etc.) Hopefully, the process will carry over!

12. Fill the gum ball machine

Take an idea from Doreen Zmijski (Mrs. Z): Using card stock, create a gum ball machine shape. You can purchase round stickers (that look like gum balls) at a dollar or office supply store.

Each time the kids do a good job at cleaning-up (without nagging) a gum ball (round stickers that look like gum balls) is put on the “gumball machine shape”.

Mrs. Z. combined this incentive with kids “caught being good” in a variety of ways! When the gum ball machine was filled the group celebrated with an ice-cream party.

I visited one program (Long Meadow in Rochester, Michigan) and caregivers carried this over to Acts of Kindness. On a wall, children/staff made a HUGE gum ball machine. Children’s names combined with their act of ‘kindness’ was recorded on large gum balls and then placed on the gum ball globe.

13. Praise for a job well done

Give specific praise for a good job done: “Wow Ryan, I really like the way you put away all the games.”

14. Help children remember

This often works well if you have a child who has a chronic problem in not remembering to clean-up (or engaged in something else that is problematic).

Take the child aside in private and assure him/her that they are not in trouble; however, it seems they’re having a hard time remembering to put away and clean up what they’ve been playing with. You want to help them remember.

  • You’d like them to write down three reasons why “we all need to clean up after ourselves”. What could happen if no one cleaned up? (Be specific to the not cleaning up Games? Legos? etc.)
  • They may come up with such things as we could lose things; someone could step on it; someone could trip over it; it could get broken; we won’t be able to find it when we want it; things get all mixed up or even I don’t want to get into trouble.
  • It doesn’t matter what they say the point is to have the child think about it.
  • When the child is finished tell them, “Good! Tell me what you came up with.”
  • Briefly talk about it; ask him/her if it will help them to remember? They usually will say a resounding, “Yes!” Then tell the child to go and have a fun day! A reminder or two should do the trick!
  • If this is a young child have them draw a picture of what the room would look like if no one cleaned up (or what could happen ) and then briefly talk about it. This must not be presented as a punishment but a logical consequence to “help remember”.

15. Make an art box

A picture of an art organization box used help keep the classroom clean.

This is one idea to keep all the ‘coloring and word game pages’ from piling up about the room.

It’s a nice alternative to lining up individual manila folders across a table or bench.

This is the one I keep at home for my grandchildren and update it as the season dictates! 


  1. Decorate the box and put directions on it for the children to follow. Place dividers in the box.
  2. Place a manila folder with the activity written on the tab in the dividers.
  3. Place the folders in an order that works for your program/classroom.
  4. Seasonal and Holiday pages usually work the best upfront; follow that with alphabetically place pages such as Barbie, Cars, Cute pictures, Dinosaurs, Dot-to-Dot, Etc.
  5. Besides verbally explaining the function and use of the box to the kids make sure directions are on the box.
  6. Your direction page (such as on the lid in the sample photo) can say something like this:
    Pictures to Color
    Word Games
    Paper & Pencil Games
    Dot to Dot
    Mad Libs
    This Month’s Specials and more.
  7. Complete & Put Away the Old, Before Starting the New.
  8. Put your “unfinished paper” (with your name) in the boxes’ last folder.
  9. Come back and finish it later.

It does help. For work that is left in the box after a time place them in your version of a ‘Parents Information Box’. For keeping the box up to date keep ‘master copies’ of pictures in your own files. Make copies as the season and holidays dictate. 

16. The dice cleaning game

Such an easy game of tidy up any kid will love it. The best part is it only takes a dice and a piece of paper.

What you do is write the numbers 1 to 6 on the paper and for each number assign a room, or something that needs to be cleaned up.

Each kid will roll the dice and based on the number it shows, this is the task he needs to do. Easy and fun.

16. Board game tidy up

Pick your favorite board game and switch it up a little with custom chores and cleaning activities based on the game. For example, instead of picking up a chance card in Monopoly, how about picking up a cleaning card?

These little changes will make for both funny, and productive activities.

17. Treasure hunt

We talked so much about treasure hunts on this site, and it’s not by accident. One of the kids favorite things to play is a treasure hunt game, and it is very easy to adjust to the theme of what you need.

Before it’s time to clean up, you can hide little gifts or candy in various places around the house, and leave clues to the kids as they clean up they find the treasures and the rooms get cleaned – everyone wins!

18. Cleaning toys

There are many toys with the theme of cleaning. As it is a popular teaching experience, many toy manufacturers designed toys with the purpose of cleaning the house or class.

You can choose a few, or just one that fits your needs, and have the kids use it while they help with the chores.

19. Simon says

The old familiar game where you announce a task and if you don’t say ” Simon Says ” before it – the kids should not do it. It’s an easy and fun game to play that everyone knows the rules too.

But adding the twist of a clean up activity will turn it into a great experience.

20. Cleaning by colors

This is a fun one. By the amount of toys everyone has in their home or in class, it’s easy to match the toys by color. So a fun little game is to pick a child, and tell him ” you are going to tidy up all the red color toys ” and each kid gets a different color. This makes the kids clean up in a fun way.

21. Bingo game

Create or download a cleaning bingo board, where there are squares on the board with each one representing a room or an area that needs to be cleaned up.

Have numbers drawn up by papers, or just by rolling the dice, or using an online random number generator and each kid needs to mark their boards until one of them yells bingo! At this point, he needs to start cleaning the chosen area, while the rest of the kids keep playing.

22. Find my stuff

Grab a laundry basket and give it to the kids. Now tell them this is their basket and they need to run around the house and find anything that is theirs ( usually mostly toys or clothes ) and put it inside the basket.

Once they are done, you can together put everything in their right place or just let it sit in the basket for a while.

23. Chores for money

Yeah, I know, this is a trigger topic. Some parents don’t like to give money in exchange of chores, but some feel it’s a good idea to teach their kids how real life works.

In real life, you go to work, or you do something productive, and you make money for it, so that you can go buy stuff later ( Obviously it’s more complicated than that )

But the concept of helping, or doing some chores to get something good out of it, is nothing new. So you can just decide on a small amount you are willing to pay weekly to your child in return for some chores.

Note – This is not for school, but more for parents around the house

In Summary

We hope you have enjoyed these cleaning activities for preschoolers. Were you able to try some of the fun ideas? With some consistency, you will find that cleanup time becomes easier and easier. Just because cleaning up sounds like work, doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun and engage the young children.

You may also be interested in:

A Pinterest image with two pictures, one of a girl wiping a chalkboard with a sponge and the other of three young boys cleaning the floor with paper towel. Text reads 15 cleaning activities for preschoolers.
A Pinterest image with two pictures, one of a young boy sweeping up debris into a dustpan and another of two young girls holding floor scrubbers. Text reads 15 fun clean up games and activities for young kids.