1. Remove DistractionsKeep kids focused on the cleaning. Don’t turn on the television – it’s an invitation for distraction. Turn on the radio if the kids need some noise while helping.
2. Make The Process Organized And EasySet aside a day to get organized before cleaning. Buy or compile attractive storage containers, small object caddies, drawer organizers, and safe cleaning items. When everything has a place, it’s easier to keep everything neat and tidy. Organize your kids’ rooms, the bathrooms, the living room, the kitchen, and any other room your kids will help you keep clean. Label storage containers and boxes so children can easily see what goes where. They’ll be more likely to keep everything effortlessly tidy. Also keep recycling and trash bins available so that toy and food wrappers and drink containers will go into it instead of being left on counters or tables.
3. Set SchedulesKeep one day a week for more major cleaning, but also set aside small cleaning times each day. In the mornings, have a few minutes before breakfast for children to make their beds and clean up their morning bathroom mess. Before bedtime, put away any toys, clean up bathtime messes, and put homework and school items in backpacks to cut down on panic time the next morning. On your major cleaning day, keep in mind that kids, especially smaller children, have short attention spans. It might be easier to conduct cleaning in 15 to 20 minute periods throughout the day.
4. Make Sure They Know What’s Going OnGive your children tasks that are age-appropriate and go through the cleaning methods very clearly, step-by-step. A five-year-old is more able to help you make his or her bed and put away clothes and linens, while a toddler is more suited to running around picking up toys and putting them in their boxes.
5. Find Out What They Like To DoMake a chart to keep track of which tasks children enjoy most. Some will hate vacuuming or sweeping, while others might love to straighten shelves, put away books, or dust tabletops. Figure out which activities they enjoy and they’ll get the task accomplished more easily. It can also be helpful to give children choices. When they choose their own tasks, the interest makes them more likely to complete the job.
6. Give Them Safety TipsTeach kids how to clean safely. Show older children – 12 years and up – how to use cleaners such as dusting spray, anti-bacterial cleaners, air fresheners, etc. Keep anything that might be toxic well out of reach. There are now non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners that make it easier to let children help with cleaning.
7. Don’t Overcomplicate ThingsKeep it simple! Don’t start out by expecting your children to scour the inside of the fridge, clean toilets, or mop the kitchen floor to a spotless shine. Find jobs that they can do easily and that won’t have to be completely re-done if they aren’t done perfectly. Sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and wiping doorknobs with anti-bacterial cleaner are great jobs for kids. Older kids will be great at cleaning the insides of windows, cleaning bathroom counters and sinks, and organizing their closets.
8. Make It FunMake cleaning a competitive game. Set up some tasks as a race or give each child a list of tasks and see who can finish their list first. Let them know that there will be a quality check, though, so everything is done correctly. When you have a winner, give a small prize or some kind of recognition within the household. Print out your own ‘tickets’ and give one for each task accomplished. You can cash in tickets for a prize or fun activity, such as a trip to the zoo, library, park, or movie of the child’s choice. The option to choose a favorite dinner or dessert is a great prize, as well. For older children, when simple prizes cease to have meaning, making their allowance dependent on having their chores and cleaning done can be an incentive.
9. See What They ThinkAsk your kids for their opinions. Children are smart and have great ideas. When you listen to their ideas and put those ideas into action around the house, it can make things easier for everyone. Ask the kids where to put the items they use the most in the refrigerator. Ask what utensils should be put in the kitchen drawers that are on their height level, where their items should be placed around their bathrooms, or how to rearrange the living room furniture so everyone can enjoy family time.
10. Set An ExampleLeading by example is important. If the parts of the home that belong to adults are a mess, kids might not see a reason to keep their own areas cleaned up. Keep your own bedroom and living room nice and tidy, and your children will have a role model to follow in tidying up their own areas.
(A Guest Post by George Baker)