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“Cleaning the house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” ~ Phyllis Diller
Many parents would tend to agree with Ms. Diller. It seems there’s and never ending battle to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean! You take the time to pick up the toys, only to find moments later another mess has been created that will take your time attention to tidy. Is it impossible to teach your kids to clean?
There are ways around this and it doesn’t include refraining from cleaning until the kids are grown and out of the house.
You CAN teach your kids to clean, and if you’re willing to do the upfront work, it will pay off for years to come.
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The Only Way To Teach Your Kids To Clean
To be completely transparent, I was terrible at teaching my daughter to clean. I made some serious mistakes in this area and believed that if I wanted a clean home, the only way to accomplish this task was to do it myself. Boy, was I wrong! Now, years later, my daughter struggles in the cleaning area and has resorted to hiring a weekly housecleaner.
But most of us are not that fortunate to hire out our housekeeping chore list, so instead we do it ourselves. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. I’m going to share the secrets I’ve learned over the years and are using with my grandchild and show you how to teach your kids to clean.
Model A Postive Attitude
Change the way you look at things and things you look at change ~ Wayne Dyer
Without a doubt, this is the MOST important piece of advice I can share with you. If your kids routinely hear you griping and complaining about how much you hate housework, or hear you complaining as you are doing housekeeping chores like mopping the floor or cleaning the bathroom they will naturally assume that cleaning is a task that should be avoided at all costs.
Instead, focus on the positive aspects of cleaning even if you don’t gush at the thought of scrubbing the toilet. You can say things like, “I love how the house looks after we’ve taken the time to clean it.” Or, “It’s great when we all help, it makes the work go faster for everyone.” In this way, you’re reinforcing what you expect from your kids while not making it out to be something avoided like the plague.
And, if you hate to clean – fake it for your kid’s sake, or you’ll only teach them exactly what you are trying to avoid.
Make Them Part of The Solution
Sure, cleaning with kids is challenging, but it can be done. The secret is to make them part of the solution. Leaving them out of the cleaning equation does neither you nor them any favors. Which brings me to my next point.
Start Them Young
I’ve been getting my grandson involved in cleaning since he was able to walk independently. I routinely ask him to pick up his toys when he’s done playing, and he’s not yet quite two years old. He loves to vacuum, and he loves to dust with the Swiffer, so I let him participate in the activity. He likes to vacuum so much that this Christmas I bought him his own vacuum.
Toddlers love to help out and feel real pride in their accomplishments. When you establish cleaning expectations within the family, children catch on quickly and embrace they are an important part of making the home run smoothly.
Have Realistic Expectations
Just like with my grandson I don’t expect that he’s going to be able to dust the furniture completely. Someday he will, but for now I keep my expectations in check based on his stage of development.
Give one simple but clear instruction at a time. For a toddler or pre-school age child telling them to clean up their toys is completely overwhelming. But if you say, ‘can you pick up your puzzles and put them away’ or ‘can you put your blocks back into the container’ they clearly understand what is being asked of them and can handle the task.
When You Can, Make It Fun
Put on some music or make it a game. Anyway, you do it, try to make it less like a chore and more like a game. You can suggest to your kids, “Let’s see who can clean up the most toys before the timer goes off!” Or, “Can you put all these legos away before the song is over?” By making it fun and silly, you’ll help your children overcome their resistance to what might appear to be a B-O-R-I-N-G task.
Speak With Confidence
When you ask questions in the wrong format you give the impression your anxious or needy and create a power struggle with your child. So instead of saying, “I need you to clean up your room, okay?”, you say, “It’s time to clean up the play room. Can you start by picking up all the blocks and putting them away?” Skip the okay. This isn’t a negotiation. This is a reasonable request.
Break It Down
If the task at hand is pretty big, help your children by breaking it down into manageable pieces. You can have them start with one task and then direct them to the next and next. This way they learn they can get a big job done if worked on little by little.
Don’t Redo Their Work
When you redo something you just asked your kid to do, you send the signal that what they just did wasn’t good enough. Do it often and they’ll quickly get discouraged and won’t learn the correct way to do a task and instead will rely on you to get it done. None of those options are good. First, don’t give your children jobs above their capabilities; give chores that are age appropriate (more below on age appropriate chores). Make sure you take the time to teach your child the right way to accomplish the task. Don’t expect they understand how to clean the bathroom if they’ve never been shown how. Lastly, if you’re a stickler about a certain task, you’d be better off doing it yourself and assigning another job to complete.
Give Older Kids A Choice
As our children get older so do the demands of school work and extracurricular activities. After the age of 6, it’s best to give your child a choice and time frame as to when they’ll accomplish their chores. Phrases like, ‘before your friends leave, ‘ ‘before you leave for school, ‘or ‘before the end of the day’ work well and give them a choice as to when tidying needs to be completed.
Show Your Appreciation
Always thank your child for their efforts. If they completed the task in a less than successful way, take the time to teach them the correct way of getting the job done. Offer helpful hints and tips to complete the task more successful.
Reset The Rules
If your children have never had the expectation to clean up after themselves or if you’ve let them skid by for way too long, now’s the time to let your kids know you’ve made some new decisions about cleaning up and you want to share them, so everyone knows what to expect. Then lay out the new rules you’ve established and follow-up until the kids are doing what is expected. Don’t make idle threats in the heat of the moment if you’re kids resist because your child won’t take you seriously.
Below you’ll find an age appropriate chores for kids ranging from as young as 2 years old all the way up to the early teen years. Depending on your child’s capabilities you may need to adjust some of the tasks.
Age Appropriate Chores for Children
2- to 3-year-olds can:
-Pick up toys
-Help make beds
-Help feed pets
-Dust lower shelves and furniture legs
-Place spoons, napkins, and unbreakable dishes on the table
-Carry dirty clothing to the laundry area
-Sweep floors with a lightweight electrostatic dry mop
For 4- to 5-year-olds, add these chores to the list above:
-Make beds (if using comforters)
-Set the table
-Dust table tops
-Unload and put away groceries
Between 6 and 8 years of age, children can master these additional tasks:
-Keep their play areas or bedrooms tidy
-Water house plants
-Make beds (using bedspreads)
-Put clean clothing away
-Assist with simple food preparation (tear lettuce, make sandwiches)
-Fold socks, shirts and pants
-Help wash the car
9- to 10-year-olds are ready to:
-Clean bathtub and sinks
-Help cook meals
-Prepare simple snacks
-Load the dishwasher
-Sweep floors with broom and dustpan
-Help with yardwork (rake leaves, pull weeds)
From 11 and up, train teens to do “adult” chores. They’ll squawk on the outside, but feel pride on the inside as they master real-life skills.
With teaching, teens can:
-Plan and cook family meals
-Do their own laundry using the washing machine and dryer
-Replace light bulbs
-Wash hard-surface floors
-Clean garages and outbuildings
-Wash, wax and detail cars
Teaching your kids to clean doesn’t have to be complicated or exhausting and you don’t have to threaten or cajole them into helping around the house. Instead, use these tactics and techniques and you’ll have your kids enjoying the cleaning process.
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