11 Tips for Cleaning with Kids

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I have read—even written—about how I would rather be making memories then doing dishes, laundry or any other housekeeping task. But you can’t ignore it. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you are captive to the mess 24 by 7; and if you’re a working mom, 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 still not perfect). But that doesn’t mean we should tackle 100 percent 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 my kids and cleaning house. I’m getting things done and making educational/precious/memorable moments with my kids, age 6 and younger. 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 products from Melaleuca, a membership wellness company that sells decently priced, good-quality, low- to no-chemical products, and Norwax cloths because they work like magic on dirty walls with just water.

2. Manage your time.

You know that sometimes you will make a HUGE mess cleaning. For example, emptying your entire fridge onto the counter(s) and scrubbing it up. 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 races, sweet tooth prizes (for example, giving them a chocolate chip for every two dishes they bring me) and Mom Tickets. My Mom Tickets work wonders. They’re a commerce system where I make a list of rewards they can earn with tickets, but, they really love just getting the ticket.

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 Swiffer sweeper so that it’s kid-size: Unscrew the middle sections and then screw the handle directly to the base.

6. Five minute blitz.

Inspired by all the cleaning sites I’ve read, but can’t actually do because of the constant presence of my children, the five minute blitz work for us. 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 kids think mopping is the epitome of fun. They’re not great at it, but I can set them in 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 silverware basket for my 2.5 year old. It keeps her busy while I do other things in the kitchen AND I didn’t use my time on a task that she actually likes to do. She calls it her “special job” and is very proud to sort out the utensils. (I take out the knives first.)

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.

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. 

Kate Luthner is a mother of three little girls. Transplanted from New York to Minnesota, Kate began to blog about life to keep up with her family at home. Her blog,
Katy Stuff is updated most every day with posts ranging from DIY projects to updates on her children, as well as an occasional book review or opinion piece about world news. Kate’s philosophy? If you can make it, don’t buy it!

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