My kids are just turning the corner where their ability to help me clean almost matches their ability to make a mess. They are gaining more autonomy and responsibility, and with the exception of my 3-year-old, I can finally enlist the three older kids to help me out in getting the house back to baseline. It’s a nice place to be, after several years of feeling like a maid to a four-man wrecking crew.
Getting my kids to help with cleaning still involves a bit of cattle-prodding, but here are some of the ways that I get them involved:
Use a chore chart. I am a big fan of charts for kids. We have a reward chart where the kids have an opportunity to earn stars based on their behavior each day. I have found it to be the best motivator for good behavior, but recently we added a column for chores each day. At this age, most of them are working on making their beds, putting shoes away, and picking up toys. I’m hoping to add to that list as they mature.
Reserve screen time privileges as a reward for cleaning. I’m not totally Amish about television and computer time. My kids know their way around an iPad and have probably seen every Phineas and Ferb episode known to man. However, we do have one very golden rule in this house when it comes to screen time: clean before screen. Honestly, my husband and I are the same way. We never sit down to watch television in the evening until we’ve recovered the house, so it feels natural that we are training the kids in this, too. This philosophy is so engrained in their minds that any time we’ve announced that it’s time to watch a show, they immediately started picking up. It’s a really good motivator!
Have cleaning tools that kids can use within their reach. We keep most of our cleaning supplies in a closet, and it includes a spray mop, a small dust pan and hand-held broom. The kids love to use the “grown-up” cleaning tools, and are usually fighting over whose turn it is to mop and sweep.
Set a timer. My kids aren’t always thrilled to clean, and sometimes they can really drag their feet about it. When I’m struggling to get them to pick up their rooms, I’ll often set a timer with the rule that once the timer goes off, any clothes or toys left on the floor will be given to Goodwill. Dramatic? Yes, it is . . . and it’s a bummer when a kid stalls out and you have to actually follow through on it. I’m always careful to set the timer with ample time, but I am here to testify, it ony takes a few times of seeing toys given away to get kids to move at hyper-speed at a mention of the dreaded Timer.
Turn on the music. Whether we are doing a big clean before watching a show, or having the kids put away their laundry, it always helps when we put on some music. For some reason, this seems to really diminish the whining, and dare I say? They even seem to enjoy it if Justin Bieber is involved.
We are still in the beginning stages of having our kids help with cleaning. I’d love to hear from other parents. What are your tip sand tricks for getting kids motivated to clean?