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Kids and Chores

Kids and Chores

Do your kids have chores? My house is never as clean as I would like, and I’m working on getting closer to my ideal by getting my kids more involved with day-to-day cleaning. It’s more work for me in the short run, but will hopefully help in the long run – both by raising kids who know how to clean, and by making my children more aware of how much work running a house really requires. Here are a few things I’m doing with my six, four, and three-year-old – at this point, the one-month-old mostly helps by sleeping!

  • Get kid-friendly cleaning supplies. We use non-toxic, green cleaners that are safe (vinegar and water is a favorite) for kids to be around. I took the middle sections out of our Swiffer Sweeper to make it the perfect height for my kids to sweep and even mop the floors!
  • Clean with kids. All chores are more fun when there is someone to do them with!
  • Turn cleaning into a game:
    • See who picks up the most blocks.
    • Stack DUPLO bricks into a tower before putting them in the bin.
    • Hide an object in the room in such a way that the kids can only find it by putting away their toys (this last one was inspired by All-Of-A-Kind Family, one of my favorite childhood books).
  • Preface fun and exciting activities with a mini cleaning session. My kids are much more willing to clean efficiently if they know that there is something exciting to do once they are finished!
  • Make sure chores are clearly defined. My four-year-old especially handles “please put the blocks in their bin” much better than “ please clean up the playroom” – or even “please put away your toys”.
  • Make clean-up easy. Our toy storage solution is to keep nearly all of our toys in identical bins – so my kids can simply grab the closest bin, fill it with one type of toy, and put it on the shelf.
  • Downsize when clutter gets overwhelming. We’re in the middle of that right now!
  • Assign ownership. Right now, I’m focusing on kids putting clothes away where they go and making beds, but I hope to extend to responsibility to other areas within the house soon.
  • Express gratitude for help and a clean house. It’s always nice to get positive feedback – and what goes around comes around. I recently spent an hour cleaning the living room while Mike and the kids were out, and when they walked in the front door three-year-old Lily said, “Wow, Mama, this room looks so nice!”
  • Organize. It’s hard to clean when things don’t have a designated “home”.

How do you get your kids involved with household chores?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

30 thoughts on “Kids and Chores”

  1. This is a great list of suggestions. I have a toddler an we work on putting pj’s in the laundry basket, cloth diapers in the pail, and putting up bath toys. With kids I work with who have autism I am frequently looking for resources such as these. Thanks!

  2. I do involve my 35 months old in day to day chores and as you have pointed out – expressing gratitude and praise works like a charm :)

  3. I need to be better about chores. Abby sometimes helps, but she always wants something. I’m not sure why, we do not pay her or give her things for helping. Maybe we should? I don’t know. I feel like they should just do stuff as being a member of the family.

    Anyway, cute idea to make the Sweeper smaller!

  4. You’re so right about everything having a designated home. Its really more our fault than theirs if there is no proper place for everything.Its been a sore spot in this house lately, getting them to clean up is getting so frustrating!

    1. Minimizing what you own is one big helper in our home. Not always, sometimes the bigger helper is getting more sleep to be well-balanced. :)

  5. Also AMEN to this post ( I read the more recent one first) as I can only confirm the goodness and effectiveness of all your points! Good luck with with decluttering! Thanks for the book tip; sounds like the kind of book I like. Never heard of, though.

    I have every child put away their “things” after a meal (if the plate, etc. is empty then they are to put it in the dishwasher; if not, then on the counter) and I’m working toward the rule from my husband’s family which rhymes in German “meins plus eins” = mine plus one (more), meaning to also carry a pot or jug or something for the fridge back.

    Something I sometimes do for tidy-up is that I put in some good but lively music and altogether we (hopefully) swiftly tidy up to 2-3 songs and whatever is left I do (or sometimes I just add more songs till it’s all done, ahem).

    Each child has a bar of IKEA Molger hooks on the wall for them to hang their used clothing on. One such set of hooks is for all their PJs. I have little laminated t-shirts on the wall above the laundry boxes to make it easier for them to see where to put dark and light cold wash and whites (that helps a lot, even though I do have to remind them nearly daily to put their used underpants and socks to the laundry).

    Positive teaching is something I really believe in. Getting them to work for a little bit of money just doesn’t seem to appeal to them yet. I’ve thought of trying your marble jar idea. Do you still use that? You know, treating everyone to something speacial once the jar is full?

    The hardest things for me to be on top of are the floors and windows because I don’t seem to have SUCH huge continuous blocks of time. Recently I have considered having the Kosovo mom of one of my local nephew’s schoolmates come over to take over that part as my sister-in-law is thrilled at how effectively and well she cleans. And since my sister-in-law has one 8-year-old I thought, now expecting again, I could afford that luxury too, once in a while. Robin and I have started the tradition that, as a Christmas present to me that truly comes from him (he’s not the born present giver, not that I am one who is keen on that anyway), he cleans my car, inside and out. When it comes to the car I use (it’s a purely functional object to me:) ), I can’t wait till Christmas comes round! :)

  6. My 4 year old loves to help, but it is hard because I always know it will take longer with his “help.” However, I know this time is an investment, so that I don’t have to follow him to college to clean up after him! ;)

  7. jeannine: waddlee-ah-chaa

    I agree when giving children directions it is important to be specific. “Clean up your room” is an overwhelming task!

    I also like how you teach the children how to clean. It is unfair to the children to have unreasonable expectations. We have to mentor them even when it comes to cleaning. They love helping so we need to teach them how to help! :)

    As part of our family the children help take care of our family. That includes little household responsibilities. I have FREE chore printables at waddleeahchaa.com. :)

  8. I love these tips! I think having the right-sized tools is key, as is making it fun and regular. My toddler has been testing us, not wanting to clean up after himself, but we stuck with it and he’s back to cleaning up his toys.

  9. I also make almost all my cleaners so that my kids can clean with me. It also means it doesn’t matter too much if the cleaner gets dumped :)

    I like to just involve the kids with me, but they each have a couple of jobs that are their own!

    Okay, brilliant to take out the middle section of the swiffer. Doing. it. today.

  10. Oh – I’ve been thinking about what kind of chores would be age appropriate for my kids. This was a great read. I love that Lily appreciated the work you did! I also love the idea of hiding something that they can only find if they pick up.

  11. Great post. I use a lot of the same tips. Anna’s set chore is keeping her room organized and reasonably clean. We are also working on unloading dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen.

  12. Great tips for getting the kids involved in chores. It will definately pay off in the long run! Fab post.

  13. I have recently started teaching the kids how to clean properly – it is a huge task, but definitely worthwhile. I try to get them involved as much as possible. I would love to hear how you declutter toys – I am terrible at that.

  14. We use the timer to clean up toys. “How many toys can you pick up in 5 minutes!” I say, enthusiastically. It’s all about the “enthusiastically” part.

  15. I love vinegar for cleaning too. We bought child sized mops, and the kids were so proud when they grew up big enough to get their own adult sized ones.

  16. As part of our home schooling, the kids each have a daily chore. It’s different each day, but so far it’s working great. They love it when I make a scavenger hunt game to clean the house.

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