Tips for Getting Kids to Help Clean
School is out and that means kids are at home, their friends are over more, and the house is feeling the strain. While summer may mean more mess, it also means that you have more leisurely time and daylight to teach children simple tasks to keep the house clean and clutter-free, giving everyone more time to head to the pool or park.
Expert cleaner Amy Bates, owner of Merry Maids in Tulsa, and mom, has some advice that will help involve the kids in keeping things tidy, so the whole family can spend more time having fun.
Start by looking at the ways your family uses your home. Notice where items tend to pile up or create clutter. “Have areas and baskets of your home dedicated to the items that are frequently left by the entrances and exits of your home,” Bates said. “If towels tend to be dropped right outside the patio doors leading to the pool, place a basket handy. Hooks for camp bags, bins and baskets for balls and outdoor toys should be handy in the garage. The easier it is to put things away, the more likely things will make it to their keeping areas.”
Another smart idea to support tidy interiors is to hang shoe pockets on the bathroom doors. Tuck hair products, hair ties, bows, brushes and other small items that tend to be left strewn on counters into the pockets of the hanger. “Clear pockets make it easy to see what you need,” Bates said. “Also in bathrooms, consider hooks instead of towel bars to make it easier to put away towels. My kids were challenged with towel bars in their younger years. Easy storage makes it far easier to avoid stinky towels!”
Labeling clear bins for toys also makes it easier for children to put belongings where they belong. And if you need more storage, Bates suggests looking for unused storage areas. Throw away items you never use and reclaim the space for things you do use.
Children can also help with tidying up the house at the end of the day. “Have the children grab an empty laundry basket and round up their belongings to take back to their room,” Bates said. “If you have younger children, consider making it a contest to see who can pick up the fastest! Making it a part of your routine, this is a great habit to carry over throughout the school year.”
Bates said that her high traffic areas need vacuuming more than once a week, but other areas can wait for a weekly sweep. Other weekly tasks such as dusting are easier once you have clutter-free surfaces, so staying on top of clutter every day shortens the time spent on once-a-week cleaning.
Because families are usually less rushed during the summer months, Bates suggests that it’s a good time to talk to children about expectations for chores so that everyone can work together to keep “the house looking good and feeling manageable” in a short amount of time.
“If you like to have allowances earned (like I do!),” Bates said, “have a chart with a few ‘above and beyond’ projects like sweeping the garage, mating the unmatched sock pile, etc. that can be done to earn a little extra money.”
Good Chores for Elementary School Kids
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher
- Cleaning bathroom counters, patio doors
- Picking up their own toys
- Matching socks, sorting laundry
- Setting the table
- Dust mopping wood floors
- Sweeping the porch
- Feeding and walking the dog
- Assist with changing linens, and dusting.
The key is to be patient with children, and to give specific tasks in small enough areas to make them achievable.
Helpful Hints for Getting Kids to Clean
- Set clear expectations. Bates says that “pick up your room” can mean a lot of different things to kids.
- Set attainable goals (for example, don’t say, “Clean up the whole house before you leave in one hour.” Be specific)
- Give immediate tasks to younger children (“Please pick up the toys since you are done playing with them.”)
- Assign weekly tasks to older children so they can learn to manage responsibilities and time.