Between kids and pets, keeping your house clean can feel like a full-time job. The dryer buzzes the exact moment the laundry basket is full again, and those freshly cleaned floors seem to last all of two days. So, when is it time to get the kids on board to create your small, but mighty, cleaning crew? And where exactly do you start so you’re not going behind them to reclean after every chore?
You’ve got questions on kids and cleaning; we’ve got answers.
When to start
The earlier the better (for both you and them). Create good habits early: put things away after you use them, clean up messes you’ve made, and assign chores to days of the week. As infants, you can talk your baby through the picking-up process and celebrate them when they return a toy to its home. Plus, allowing kids to contribute around the house helps them know they are needed and encourages that behavior.
Below we put together a graph of age-appropriate chores to make it a little easier for you.
Change your language
Okay, we’re not insinuating that telling your kids “You get to take out the trash!” is going to get them excited about it, but putting a positive spin on any activity can change their attitude. Tell them the cause of the clean-up, “You played so hard, now you get to put the toys away,” “You made delicious cookies, now we get to clean up the kitchen,” or “We have to put these toys away, so we can play with something else.” Positive language is a really simple way to start. Then, you can help them understand that chores are necessary by saying things like, “We have to finish our chores, so we can spend time playing.” They’ll thank you in the future when you’ve helped them create good habits they can implement in their own homes.
Teach them how to clean
Somehow kids are born with the ability to make a mess, but not the ability to clean it up. We’re still working through that logic but until we do, you have to teach you kids how to clean up. The first time you introduce them to a chore, show them how to do it while walking them through the steps. The second time, you can let them try it while you talk them through it. From there, keep talking them through the chores until they’re able to do it themselves. But if they need extra help, encourage them to ask. Spend a little extra time helping them now so in the future they can do it the right way, so you don’t have to.
Take it in stride
They only cleaned half the playroom? That’s great; tomorrow they can clean the other half. They forgot to take out the trash? That’s okay; kindly remind them and praise them when they do it. A lot of kids feed off of positive affirmation, so making sure you acknowledge and thank them for their help will encourage the behavior.
Some kids need a little more motivation than a “good job” and that’s totally fine. Use a chore chart and once they fill it up, they get a treat. It could be one week of chores and they get to pick out a “special snack” at the grocery store or a full chore chart gets them a date night with mom or dad. And we’ve made it easy for you by creating these templated chore charts. Add the chores to the top column, and let them fill it in with stickers on the days of the week they did the chore.
You’ve probably figured out by now that all kids develop and grow at different paces, so be patient. They’re learning how to be a kid, just like you’re learning best practices for parenting. So show them some grace and odds are they’ll do the same for you.