It can be frustrating to walk past your child’s open bedroom door to see a cluttered mess, and maybe even catch a whiff of some strange smells. Kids don’t mind if their room looks like a tornado hit it because they don’t actually see anything wrong: their brains process spaces and objects differently than adults. It isn’t until our mid-20’s that the cleaning gear kicks in. That doesn’t mean kids are off the hook for cleaning their rooms, and helping you clean around the house! Childhood is the best time to learn smart habits that will not only help you keep the house tidy and clean, but will make it easier on them when they get their own home.
The key to teaching kids that cleaning is essential and rewarding is by setting a great example. Sure, this means frequently straightening up your home. But it also means having a positive attitude about it. If you approach cleaning with a positive attitude and incorporate it into your daily patterns, your kids will pick up on that and join in. Here are some other ways that you can get your kids involved in the cleaning process that make the task more fun.
Blast some music or music videos!
Are you having nightmares about “Baby Shark” yet? It’s a catchy tune that gets kids moving, and there are plenty of others like it. No need to limit yourself to children’s tunes either. Try turning up “Hamilton” and sing along as you scrub, or a Beatles playlist while straightening up. A lot of kids today are attached to their phones or other screens, so choose something that has a bright music video that you can have on the television while you work so they’re less inclined to reach for their phone. Not only is listening to music while you clean together a productive use of your time, but it’s a family social activity that will help you bond and break down any barriers that have built up over the stresses of the week.
Turn cleaning time into a story
Playing make believe is a fun and effective approach to motivate young children to tidy up. Not only do they enjoy it, but it also helps them grow by providing them with a risk-free opportunity to practice crucial cognitive and social skills. Create a story or game out of the cleaning tasks that are on the list for the day. Using your child's favorite characters as inspiration for the "story" is a breeze. Give your little super hero a robot sidekick or a magic wand to help them clean up the toys that have taken over Bedroom City. If your child enjoys role playing, you can encourage this by setting up a “dungeon” that they have to conquer by battling with dirty laundry and spraying stain monsters.
Make it a competition
If your kids have fun with competitions, this is an opportunity to build their self-esteem and to learn how to come in second place gracefully. Cleaning is an activity that takes time to learn to do well, so they can learn to practice as they work towards goals. You can make it a team sport to get the whole house done in a certain amount of time, or as individuals to see who cleans up which rooms the fastest or best. Make sure any competitions are age-appropriate to avoid tantrums and allow youngsters practice losing gracefully and learn that it's alright to make errors and fail. Younger kids can “compete” against adults, or a fictional “cleaning sprite” to keep the game fair and fun for them.
The prize, though, is what makes competitions so exciting. Prizes like pizza or more time on their phones is an easy option, but maybe not the best pattern to set as they get older. Try a point system so they can work towards larger prizes or something more tangible, or let them negotiate for the kind of prize they really want.
Let little kids feel like big kids
You might be looking back at your own childhood, wistfully wishing for the days full of fun and empty of responsibilities. Your kids, however, want to be all grown up. They will latch on to anything that makes them feel like an adult, so finding ways they can stretch their independence and have something they can control is great for their development and for keeping your house in order. You can even talk about housecleaning like it’s “only for big kids,” implying that they have to be more grown up to tackle this task. Of course, when they tell you they are a big kid, they get to join you on the cleaning job at hand. Our Everyday Surface Cleaner Concentrate is kid-safe, and protects the surfaces in your home as well as the environment. You can give each child their own Microfiber Cleaning Towel so they don’t have to share.
Buy them off
The best should always be saved for last. Weekly or monthly allowances are a common practice in households today. Kids want stuff, and teaching them how to buy that stuff themselves is an important part of growing up. Helping with the household chores is one way for them to earn their allowance. You can either give your child a fixed amount of money per week for doing a certain number of tasks, or you can give your child a list of chores from which to choose, with a set value for each. Kids can compete for cleaning prizes or earn pocket money by completing these tasks. Allowing your child to bargain for better rates is a great way to teach them to negotiate and persuade. Although this approach may not instill in children a genuine love for cleaning, it does ensure that they leave the nest with a solid grasp of the skills they need to keep a home clean, and a better understanding that effort produces a reward.