The eccentric American comedienne Phyllis Diller used to say: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” Of course, cleaning can be a nightmare with young kids around, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, share the housework equally with your other half or are looking after someone else’s children.
One way to avoid the problem is to get professional assistance with the weekly chores. Find a reliable domestic cleaner, ironing service, carpet or curtain cleaning specialist and leave them to do the job probably more efficiently than you could, while you take the little monsters to the park.
If this is not an option, you need to find some successful strategies to engage the kids to help with the cleaning. Like eating vegetables and washing hands properly, teaching children how to clean up after themselves can be a chore but the trick is not to treat it as such. Children will respond more positively if you make cleaning fun. Here are some ways to get the kids involved in helping you keep your home clean.
Make it a competition
“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun” – Mary Poppins.
Turning the activity into a game or even a friendly competition can make your children more excited about the prospect of cleaning. For example, ‘see who can pair the most socks’ becomes a challenge, and helps children with coordination. Bear in mind that making the activity into a race won’t work for things like washing up or dusting because kids, especially younger kids, will get too excited and will probably skip things. It’s not fun if you have to go back over everything again!
Put some music on
“Music is the strongest form of magic.” ― Marilyn Manson
Adding a bit of music to cleaning always brightens up the activity. There’s something strangely satisfying about dancing haphazardly through the house with a vacuum cleaner cord trailing behind you. Adding music or a theme tune to help the kids clean up will make the time pass quicker, and if the tempo fits the activity then they’ll get even more involved.
Be patient and be specific
Kids get confused easily, especially younger children. They don’t have particularly good ideas about specifics, so when you say ‘clean your room’ to a small child, that could mean any number of things. Just think about making a bed for example, to make your bed you need to
- Fluff the pillows
- Pull the quilt straight
- Set it squarely on the bed
- Pull the quilt up over the pillows (or folded down at the neck of the bed)
- Tuck the quilt in around the sides.
Not so simple for a child unless you break it down. Giving kids simple instructions like ‘put the toys in this box’ or ‘put the green clothes in this corner and the red ones in this corner’ are less likely to confuse and frustrate them.
Give lots of positive encouragement
Children love to be praised. If you make a big effort to thank each and everyone for all their hard work, they are more likely to make an effort the next time. If you also pretend that you couldn’t do the cleaning without their help it gives them a sense of importance and they will take pride in helping you out.
And how about a nice reward at the end of it all? The promise of extra storytime, a cookie baking session or trip to the playground may be all that’s needed to motivate your little helpers.
It can take children a little while to get the hang of helping in the house, but making it fun and exciting will soon get the kids involved and it’ll definitely lighten your load! Now if only that was true of the ironing…