Do you have cleaning routines in your family?
I remember when my girls were younger we were always coming up with cleaning games or activities to help them develop a sense of daily order and cleanliness, without making the process feel like a dreaded “chore.” I’ll admit we were sometimes successful, but sometimes our kids mocked our creative attempts.
They still laugh at a chart we devised where they could put a smiley face every time they picked something up off the floor. At the end of the week they would exchange smiley faces for cash. Well, that plan kind of backfired when they conveniently dropped additional socks on the floor all week and plucked out tiny pieces of lint from the carpet in order to get more smiley faces. Smart girls. Anyhoo….
But along the way though trial and error, we did figure out a few motivational techniques, tips and routines that seemed to work for them.
1. Have Realistic Expectations.
I remember telling my girls to “clean their rooms” and returning later to find the room hardly looked cleaner. I didn’t blame the kids, I just realized I needed to make my expectations more clear. To a child, asking them to “clean a room” is an overwhelming and confusing concept they often have trouble mastering. Asking them to put away their clean laundry away or to clear off a desktop are likely more manageable expectations and will eventually lead to better skill with keeping a cleaning routine.
2. Set Timers
I don’t know about your kids but mine worked much more efficiently with deadlines. If I asked them to pick up all the toys off the floor and return them to where they belong, it might take all afternoon because they would become distracted by playing with them. But if I set a timer for 15 minutes, the task was over and done 15 minutes later. We called our timed cleaning rituals “cleaning frenzies” and it turned what might feel like a chore into a fun game. And as a long term bonus it taught them to do housework quickly and efficiently!
3. Have A Place for Everything
Most of my failures trying to teach my kids to clean and establish routines came from not having a good system set up to begin with. If my kids were struggling with picking up their room or closet, it usually meant one of two things. Either they had too much stuff or it was not clear enough what they should do with everything. By regularly purging excess and having a clear place for everything, I hoped to teach my kids be successful not only with daily cleaning but understanding the need for keeping only what you need and basic organizational skills.
4. Set Aside Time for Daily Cleaning.
Once a month cleaning and weekend cleaning plans did not work at our house. For awhile we tried Saturday cleaning and it pretty much ruined our weekend. Once I realized that I didn’t enjoy letting all the housework pile up to be dealt with on Saturday, everything changed around our house.
Instead of putting off cleaning until “later” we incorporated cleaning routines into our day to day schedules and it made life much easier. Our kids had a certain “zone” in their room to clean most every single day. One day they’d tackle their desk, the next day the floor, the next day the dresser. A little bit of upkeep every day helped our whole family to become people who generally just picked up after ourselves regularly, rather than waiting until “heavy cleaning day.”
5. Rewards, Memory Making and End of the Week Fun.
My husband and I looked forward to our date nights after a week of chores and homemaking, or enjoyed paychecks after a hard week at work, so we decided our kids would benefit by having something to look forward to every week as well. Sometimes rewards were directly related to completing certain chores (as a paycheck is directly related to doing our job), and sometimes chores were simply part of being a member of the family. But we tried to create some sort of weekly “reward” or “memorable event” to look forward to each week — whether it was allowances or fun family nights or ideally both!
It is so important to make living fun and memorable. I never wanted my kids to have more memories of “cleaning days” and “chores” than of regular family fun and I really liked teaching them about the rewards of hard work and daily discipline.
So did all our efforts to teach our kids pay off?
I’d say both of my girls are well on their way to having some great homemaking skills and are two of the hardest working young women I know. And not only that, they lead fun creative lives at the same time (while they don’t blog very often, you can find Kylee’s blog here and Courtney’s blog here). I’m so happy we took the time to instill some basic cleaning routines and homemaking principles into their lives when they were younger! We are still working with our 11 year old son, but he is also learning some of the same things we taught our girls!
What are your best tips for cleaning with kids?
And what attempts have failed miserably?! Go ahead. Confess.
All photos taken by me at the Street of Dreams, Portland, Oregon 2008.