Most people don’t like cleaning. It just happens to be a fact of life, something that has to be done, like brushing your teeth. Keeping a home clean when you are a busy parent is often daunting, to say the least. There seems to be a mess everywhere and never enough time to keep the place from looking like a hurricane just came through. When you have little toddlers, it seems to be worse, as their toys seem to be all over the place. Most days, it’s all you can do to keep the house picked up, let alone actually clean anything. You wish you had a magic wand, or at least someone else who would come in and clean, dust, and vacuum every week.
Well, the good news is there is help available and it’s virtually free. You have kids, so get them to do it. Sure. Right? Well, you have to start them off early before they catch on to the fact that it’s not supposed to be fun to push a broom around or wipe the furniture. Kids naturally want to help. They want to do what you do. It helps them feel grown up. It also helps build good self-esteem when they realize they have the ability to do some grown up stuff. Of course, chores have to be age appropriate and safe. You will also have to let go of your perfectionist tendencies and the urge to do it for them. It may not be perfect, or the way you would do it, but just remember it’s getting (somewhat) done, and they will get a wonderful sense of accomplishment from “helping” you. So, here are some ideas to get you started.
15 Establish a Cleaning Day
Choose a day of the week and keep it the same for cleaning day. Make it a family tradition. Everyone is assigned a task, such as emptying the dishwasher or running the vacuum. Order take out and make it a family night. When everyone is done, you can all sit and watch a favorite program on TV. When everyone pitches in, you’ll be surprised how fast it goes!
14 Toddlers Love a Spray Bottle
Even a toddler can help out. Give them a spray bottle with a little water and a clean cloth or just a damp rag and tell them to wipe the kitchen cabinets or baseboards. They can also sort, stack, and put away plastics, or give them a Swiffer-type dry sweeper to push around on the bare floors.
13 Kitchen Duty for Preschoolers
Kids up to age 5 or 6 can do things like unload part of the dishwasher and put away stuff like silverware, pots, and pans, and other things they are able to reach. They can wash and dry dishes, and clear and wipe down the kitchen table.
12 Preschoolers Love a Simple Challenge
They can be taught to dust the furniture. They’ll love helping out. Plus, showing them how to shine the wood furniture will get an enthusiastic response.
Younger kids can also sweep bare floors with a Swiffer-style dry or wet mop. They can vacuum furniture (and they can keep any coins they find.) Children can also vacuum corners and behind furniture where they can reach.
11 Kitchen Duty for Older Kids
Some duties for older kids can be to load and unload the dishwasher, wash and dry dishes, clear and wipe the dinner table, and wipe counters. They can also wipe out the microwave, refrigerator shelves, drawers, and pantry.
10 Sort the Laundry
Kids of all ages can sort laundry. Make a laundry pile on the floor or on the bed and show them how to sort by color. For little ones, this can be an experience in learning about colors.
Once the laundry has been successfully sorted, washed and dried, the kids can be taught to fold laundry. Show them how to fold things in half, then half again, smooth the fabric to avoid wrinkles, etc.
Towels and washcloths are good starters, and then they can move on to folding their own clothes. Remember to praise them every step of the way.
9 Teach Kids to Fold Clothes
Folding clothes leads to putting them away of course. For older kids this may be fun because once everything is folded, they get to go into everyone’s room and place them on the bed—forbidden territory if they have older siblings!
Children also learn to sort things by size. A simple thing like pairing up socks teaches little ones matching skills.
8 Putting Away Clothes Teaches Organization
Children of most any age can be taught how to put away their own clothes, just like putting away their toys. They can even hang them up if you have installed rods for your little ones to reach. Show them how to hang clothes properly on a hanger or how to place them neatly in their dresser drawers. You will be teaching them about organization and neatness. They will also feel a great sense of accomplishment.
7 Little Help for the Bathroom
Kids are naturally closer to the floor, so give them the job of wiping around the toilet, wiping the cabinets, and cleaning the tub—a back breaking job for adults. Provide a safe cleanser, a small bucket and a rag, and let them play in the water and get that wonderful sense of pride that comes with a shiny, clean sink. They can also tackle the shower stall floor. Kids can also use things, such as baby or disinfecting wipes for cleaning the baseboards or the sink without the worry of harsh chemicals—and they smell great.
6 Bigger Bathroom Chores
Older kids can take care of the higher-up details in the bathroom such as wiping the mirror, cleaning off shelves, cleaning the toilet bowl and seat, shaking out bath rugs and mopping the floor.
You can also give them the duty of changing out the dirty towels and putting them in the laundry.
5 Detail Work
Older kids can be great for getting the little details such as disinfecting light switches and door knobs, cleaning and polishing handrails, using a mini-vacuum or regular vacuum attachments to get dust bunnies from under and behind furniture. Make it a challenge or game to find all the mean germs and dirt lurking in the dark places.
4 Change the Bed Linen
All kids can participate in changing and making the beds. You can keep bed making easier by just using a fitted bottom sheet and then a quilt or duvet, so there are no flat sheet corners to tuck in. Kids will love trashing the bed to get the linens off and stuffing them into the laundry. Also, What kid doesn’t love fluffing sheets and blankets into the air? Making a bed isn’t difficult and is done in two shakes of a lambs tail when everyone helps.
3 Make Trash Collection a Game
Taking out the trash is a chore most everyone hates, but if you do it as a family, you can make it fun. Have a race to see who can bring the most trash to the large kitchen receptacle. Tuck replacement trash bags in the kids waistbands and they’ll enjoy rushing about with their ‘capes’ flapping. Small kids can handle smaller bins of trash and you can assign one to each kid.
2 Little Ones Can Sort Recyclables
If you don’t automatically sort out recyclables, preschool kids can sort them by shape and type of material. It is always best to rinse out cans beforehand. Here, kids are not only learning different materials, they are also learning shapes and how to care for their environment.
1 Teach Them Clean and Tidy Has its Own Rewards
Kids need to pick up after themselves, and it should start as early as possible. All kids can pick up their own toys and learn to put them away. When they need motivation, find something that they like. If they like to sing or dance, then start a song, but they can’t join in until the toys are put away. If they want to watch a favorite program, the toys must be put away first.
You can teach very young children where to put things by placing a picture of the items in the bin and having them match the toys by sight. Give five extra minutes on the computer to the child who cleans their room the fastest.
There are dozens of ways kids can help around the house to get and keep it clean. If you start teaching children to clean and pick up when they are very young they will see it as another way to imitate you and do grown up stuff. One thing kids love to do is imitate the ones they love and role play. Make it a “secret mission” to find and put all the toys in jail. Create a “search and destroy” game to get rid of germs, or challenge the kids to see who makes the floor the shiniest.
To get help around the house, you can also put up a chore chart and assign each kid and adult certain chores for the week that must be done within a certain time frame—before the weekend, for instance, or before their friends can come over before they can play computer games, etc. This may seem like a groaner for everyone, but you may be surprised at how satisfying it is for everyone when they can mark off their duties as being finished.
Teach them early, teach them the way you want them to do it, and then let them do it. Very young children will often lack the physical coordination to do things precisely the way you would, but you can be certain they will try. They will want to please you, and they inherently want to learn to do things on their own. Maybe they’ll miss a fingerprint on the front of the microwave, or the dust mite under the bed, but give them plenty of praise just the same. Resist the urge to go back over their work later. They may or may not notice, but if they do, it will undermine their confidence in themselves and especially for older kids, it also will get them to thinking that if you’re going to do it anyway, why should they bother. Praise them genuinely for their efforts and be glad they are helping.
No one has a perfectly clean house, not even Mrs. So-and-So down the street who has a maid come in every week. You live in your home along with your kids and a certain amount of disarray comes with the territory. There are things that need to be done every day, like picking up toys and clothes, washing dishes, and there are things that need to be done on at least a weekly basis, like laundry and general house cleaning. If you teach early, your children will learn to clean and tidy their own space and carry the skills into adulthood.