Anybody with kids will tell you that they are housework multipliers. For people so small, how do they create so much laundry, so many dishes, so much clutter? As soon as I saw my two-year-old dropping blocks into a bucket, I started scheming to see how I could get her to do that with the rest of her toys. If you have similar daydreams of children dancing around the kitchen with mops, try these tips and strategies to help you enlist some junior help in your own home.
Break It Down
The secret to getting young children to take on tasks is to make them bite-sized. Maybe a 6-year-old can’t start the washing machine, but he can bring his hamper to the laundry room and put his folded clothes back in his drawer afterwards. Look at what needs to be done and break it into small, kid friendly jobs. Those minutes add up: if you give your two children 3 jobs, and each of those jobs taken ten minutes, you’ve just saved yourself an hour of work.
Lay It Out
Most parents will tell you that kids are not born cleaners. Their default environment is somewhere around pigsty. That’s why it’s important to clearly spell out what you expect and how you expect a chore to be done. “Make your bed, pick up your clothes, and put your toys in the bin,” is much easier for a 7-year-old to understand than just “clean your room.” Charts, written instructions, and even “after” photographs can all help your child get to the finish line with the job done correctly.
Give Them a Hand
There are a myriad of cleaning products available that can make kid-chores way easier and safer. Micro-fibre cleaning cloths are super for dusting and chemical-free cleaning. For kids old enough to clean bathrooms, disinfecting wipes get surfaces clean quickly with no spilled product. Vinegar is the all-purpose multi-cleaner and is non-toxic as well. A cluttered house is almost impossible to keep clean, so make it a cinch for kids to pick up after themselves by installing hooks for coats and bags, and low shelving in closets for boots and shoes. Smaller laundry baskets are easier for smaller folk to get up and down stairs, making it more likely that those clothes end up where they should be.
Done is the New Perfect
Lowering your standards a smidge goes a long way in gaining cooperation from kids. Remember—children will never learn if they don’t practice. Try to focus on the things they have done correctly first, and then add some “next time” improvement tips. The good news is that given the chance, your little helpers can become excellent housekeepers. Praise and rewards help grow their pride in a job well done. Use a homemade sticker chart, or check out online ones like My Job Chart or Childzilla. You can assign and track chores, and set up custom rewards.
Unless you enjoy doing housework (hey, it’s possible!) get your kids to help out. Just a few jobs a day—feeding the family pet, putting away a basket of clothes, and tidying the front closet, for example—will free up hours a week for you to enjoy with your family, all while building valuable skills and self-esteem in your child. So start today with your little toy stacker. In a couple of years, you’ll be enjoying some downtime, while someone else folds the laundry for a change!