I’m going to be brutally honest with you:
I am the world’s worst housekeeper.
There. I said it. My dirty secret is out. My mom is probably cringing with shame as she sees me admit this to the world but there is just no way I could share tips with you about how to get kids involved in cleaning without admitting my own very real, very dark secret first.
But as I continually tell my girls: “You’ll never get better at anything unless you practice.” It’s the truth for the piano, it’s the truth for cleaning. With the change of seasons I always get a fresh burst of energy and a willingness to experiment with new routines. Over the years I have tried countless new methods for keeping our house clean. And some of them have worked better than others.
We’re still perfecting our methods, but this is what I know to be true:
1. Kids want to be doing what you’re doing: It doesn’t matter if it is something awesome like baking chocolate chip cookies or something significantly less awesome like cleaning a toilet. Little kids ages 5 and under want to be right in there where the action is.
Harness this desire! Build their habits young. You are not the family maid. You do not need to clean the house while your kids kick back and play. At least not every time. Invite them to join you with their own set of cleaning crew tools while they still want to! It’s ok if their work isn’t perfect, you’re teaching fantastic habits and at the very least they’re not making additional messes while you try to clean the first ones.
2. Mary Poppins had it right. Make cleaning a game and *snap!* the job is fun. These have all worked well with my older daughter who is beyond the “mommy’s shadow” phase and has realized that cleaning is more of a chore:
- Race Time: Set the microwave timer for 10 minutes and tell the kids it is a race to see who can pick up and put away more things faster than the other. Prizes definitely help here.
- Sort It: “One of these things is not like the other” isn’t just a tv game. After my girls have really been deep in play, all the toys are all mixed together. I set out the Melissa & Doug wooden crates (like the one in this set here) and let them sort all the pieces back into proper groupings. First one to have a complete grouping wins a prize.
- Treasure Hunt: A spin-off from “Sort It” this game involves hunting down the missing pieces from a set. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me to see a puzzle missing a piece, a wooden fruit in the blocks bin, or a cookie tray missing a couple cookies. This is an all-out house search for that missing piece. First person to find it wins!
3. 10 things: Even when life is so busy and so crazy set yourself a finite number of items to pick up and have every family member do it before bed, the house will be so much neater. This number changes depending on my mood and level of stress but I’ve been known to call out: “EVERYBODY, pick up 10 things right now!” periodically throughout the day.
It works great for counting practice for the little ones and the older ones love knowing they just have to do that set number and they’re done. Even when it is just me and the 2 girls, that is 30 things picked up. We usually focus on the hot spots: the living room & kitchen. Even if it is just 30 pieces of tiny clutter, it’s amazing how much lighter you feel after.
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