I have read, and even written about how I would rather be making memories than doing dishes, washing or any other housekeeping task. but you can’t ignore it. If you are a stay-at-home mum, you are captive to the mess 24/7; and if you’re a working mum, the last thing you want to see when you leave your neat and clean workplace is a horrific wreck at home.
Thankfully, there’s a way to maintain balance. We don’t live in perfect-looking homes, especially if we also live with kids (confession, my house pre-kids was far from perfect), but that doesn’t mean we should tackle 100% of the chores, burning all of our “free” time fanatically cleaning the house because we believe the waking hours of our kids’ existence should only be filled with educational/precious/memorable moments.
Over the past few years I’ve found a few tricks that combine spending quality time with the kids and cleaning house. I’m getting things done and making educational/precious/memorable moments with my son, age 3.
Here are 11 ways you can effectively follow in my footsteps! Cleaning with your kids can be a lot of fun!
1. Use safe, eco-friendly cleaning supplies - Kids adore spray bottles! I use natural products I make myself from everyday household items (thank you pinterest!). Knowing that what goes into my cleaning solutions is child safe by using home made eco-friendly products gives me peace of mind when involving a small child.
2. Manage your time - You know that sometimes you will make a HUGE mess cleaning. For example, emptying your entire fridge onto the worktops and scrubbing it. Know that your kids WILL lose interest if the task takes longer than 10 minutes. Instead of doing a whole job “right,” just finish small portions at a time For example, clean off one shelf or five things from the top of your cabinets. It isn’t as satisfying, but it’s a lot better than abandoning a job right at the peak of a mess.
3. Bribes & Incentives - I’ve used a variety, including sticker charts, sweet tooth prizes, and pocket money. These incentives seem to really work wonders, giving the child a sense of accomplishment and the appreciation of a job well done.
4. Know what each kid can do - You know them best. Are they good at bringing things to other rooms? Use them as a runner. Are they great at doing just what you say they’ll do? Be directive in a task. Breaking out what they can do in a task that you need done might not save you time, but at least you’ll be doing it together.
5. Find or modify cleaning tools to fit your kids - Try modifying your mop or sweeper so that it’s kid-size: Unscrew the middle sections and then screw the handle directly to the base, if you have the adjustable type. Other things include, filling up one side of a double sink ( if you are lucky enough to have one) and letting your child help with the dishes, (mainly plastic cups, bowls and cutlery.)
6. Five minute blitz - Inspired by all the cleaning sites I’ve read, but can’t actually do because of the constant presence of children, the five minute blitz work for me. Before we do something fun that they want, we clean one or two rooms for five minutes each. Based on tip four, I rapidly fire instructions and the room looks better after just five minutes of attention.
7. Include them in decisions - Give them the choice of what room to start with. Ask them to pick whether they want to use the green or blue cloth. When the answer doesn’t really matter, just let them pick and compliment them all the way.
8. Use kid-friendly words - “Sparkle.” “Shiny.” “Beautiful.” They’re probably not words you would usually use when cleaning, but saying something like “Let’s make the bathroom beautiful” sounds more exciting to your kids. If you can bring in the TV hero of the moment into the “game,” go for it.
9. Make what you are doing look enticing - My kid thinks mopping with the steamer is the epitome of fun. He's not great at it, but I can set him an area to happily mop while I do the rest of the work. Smile while you are cleaning and it will at least look fun.
10. Save jobs for them that they like - Not exactly the same as having chores because I don’t really believe kids under 8 have the follow-through skills to remember to do something regularly. But, for example, I save the transferring of washing (from basket, to machine, to dryer, to new basket) for my 3 year old. It keeps him busy while I do other things elsewhere AND I didn’t use my time on a task that he actually likes to do.
11. Manage expectations - So many ladies I know would rather do everything themselves because other people don’t do it right. Trust me—I often feel that way, too. But the fact that your kids want to help is something that should be encouraged. If they get bored dusting half way through the task, that’s still half of a job that you didn’t have to do. To avoid frustration from our unavoidable OCD tendencies, pick the chore that you deem most important, and try your best to find a child alternative toy version. In our home my son has a mini battery powered Henry Hoover, (to match Mama's Hetty, of course!) so that he can join in and start on a different area of the room, allowing me to actually pick up the dust and dirt from the floor, whilst getting him to do his bit and admire the job done to mummy standards after.
I know it’s tempting to let your kids play outside or watch TV just so you can get things done, but keeping them with you while you do bits and pieces of housework not only teaches them how to clean, but you can also keep an eye on them. There’s no perfect system, but hopefully these tips will inspire you to get your little ones in the habit of cleaning with you rather than seeing them as an obstacle to be planned around.
Until next time TidyTimers!