A clean, organized house. Small people. It sounds like this two things are an instant clash – two things that can never exist together at any one time, as scores of exasperated parents can attest. Yet it turns out the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. There are ways to get children of all ages involved in sorting, organizing and keeping a clean house – without making it seem like a punishment.
In fact, involving kids from a young age with the housework is highly beneficial. Not only does it get them into positive habits that will work in their favor for decades to come, but it also gives them a sense of making a contribution, and therefore being a valid member of the tribe who has a stake in things. A lot of toddler temper tantrums are due to an evolving desire to control the environment around them, so giving choices and autonomy within controlled boundaries can help with this.
Make It Age Appropriate
Half the battle is finding jobs around the house which are age-appropriate for children to handle. If you have a pre-schooler, keep it simple. You won’t be expecting them to do fence painting or rug cleaning just yet – that’s best left to adults or professionals! This is the age when play and practicalities can be mixed to great effect. Kids this age generally enjoy helping to sort laundry into whites, colors and darks, watering the plants, dusting down and wiping surfaces with spray cleaner and a damp cloth or even setting the table for dinner. Older children can tackle more complex jobs. Taking care of pets, collecting the mail, unloading and putting away groceries, sorting out recycling and making beds can all be introduced. To keep things fun, try playing music or singing songs as you work together.
Create a To-Go Kit
Instead of scrabbling around for supplies, use a caddy to make a to-go cleaning kit that lives in each room, ready to go. The contents of the kit will vary from room to room. Include cleaning solutions, a cloth or sponge and a roll of bin bags to sweep up waste as you go. If you’re short on time, combine tasks – have kids clean the bath as they sit in it, while you tackle the sink and toilet. It’s easy to find printable cleaning charts online that you can print out, and use colorful stickers to let children put next to jobs they have helped with. This system can easily be linked with behavior and reward charts too.
Take A Step Back
If you like things done a certain way, it can be tempting to hover and over-control what your kids are doing. But the key to success is to encourage and only guide gently. Giving clear instructions at the outset can help with this. It’s about teaching responsibilities, and you can’t do that effectively with too much interference. If it means things aren’t done perfectly to begin with, get comfortable with that! The reward of sharing the burden and raising empowered, houseproud children will be well worth it in the long run.
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