Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
A few weeks ago I confessed that the once-a-month cleaning system I had used for a while was no longer working for me. I mentioned that I wanted to find and implement a method that would allow my children (ages six, seven, & eight) to help with more in-depth chores.
Before I share the exact how-to’s of our new system, let’s discuss some good criteria for developing a plan to get your young kids involved in home care.
I wanted the cleaning strategy I came up with to adhere to the following four ideas.
I have no interest in complicated chore charts that require upkeep from me or the kids. Instead of lightening my workload, this would increase it.
2. Fun, Not Stressful
My day already overflows with character-building opportunities and moments that require me to enforce our household rules. I wanted my cleaning method to lessen stress, not add to it.
3. Introduction, Not Efficiency
I reminded myself that I wanted to slowly introduce cleaning tasks and allow the kids to increase in their proficiency over time.
The most important factor was that we spent time learning together–not that the jobs were done to “my” level right from the start.
4. A Way to Nurture Relationships
Everything goes back to love and relationship–including cleaning. Isn’t that the whole point of a clean house–to have a peaceful space in which to live together? Close relationships matter more than an immaculate home.
With those goals in mind, here are some steps you can take to develop a cleaning plan with your children.
1. Decide on a frequency.
What needs to be done when? I don’t clean a lot. Thankfully I don’t need to–our home is clutter-free, which leaves less to do.
I chose one day each week as our cleaning day, and we alternate areas. One week we clean upstairs; the following week downstairs.
2. Decide on a plan.
Developing a specific plan involves answering a few questions:
- What needs to be done?
My upstairs list: Vacuuming, Dusting, Changing Sheets, & Cleaning Bathroom
My downstairs list: Vacuuming, Dusting, Cleaning Bathroom, & Mopping Floor
- How are you going to do it?
Here’s the method I came up with: I wrote the different jobs on small pieces of paper. Each child gets one room or area to dust, one bathroom job (cleaning the sink, toilet, or tub), and one room to mop (if downstairs). That’s three small jobs each.
I cut the papers out, put them in a bowl, and let each child pick one.
We set a timer for six minutes and each child goes to do the job they chose. When the timer goes off, we come back and choose again. I usually spend my six minutes alongside whichever child is doing a bathroom job, since the level of cleanliness in that job matters most to me.
The total time this takes? 3 jobs times 6 minutes = less than 20 minutes. With prep and switching time (& kid interruptions!) it’s more like 30.
3. Decide on a celebration.
I generally stay away from bribes when it comes to my children’s work. At the same time, I do want to encourage a good effort as well as good attitudes. And don’t we, even as adults, often motivate ourselves for certain tasks by rewarding ourselves in some way afterwards?
We “celebrate” our clean house each week with a bowl of ice cream as a mid-morning snack. Technically, yes, it is a reward, but in this one case it has worked out well.
After you begin cleaning with your kids, you’ll probably need to troubleshoot to find what works best. That’s part of the process.
In my case, I realized that I prefer working with each child one-on-one, instead of all of us cleaning together. Now I’m experimenting with ways to incorporate that idea into our routine. Eventually I plan to transfer more tasks over to the children, but that will be in a few more years.
5. Think long-term.
Remember that our kids have decades in which to learn to help around the house. Personally, I never had any assigned chores growing up, yet I somehow turned into quite a responsible adult.
Don’t worry about whether or not you’ve found the “right” way to teach your kids to clean, just experiment with ideas, involve them, and the right way for you will unfold.
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How have you involved your children in the cleaning process?