Brilliant Tips for How to Get Kids to Clean
There are days when I feel like I walk into every room of the house and the floor is covered in stuff. Dirty clothes, toys, coloring books, dog toys, and yet no one made the mess.
I could decide to tackle the mountain of chores myself, but that would only result in me constantly doing the same thing over and over again, living in a cycle of daily frustration.
My kids were still really young when I thought, “Why am I doing this for them when they are totally capable?” Needless to say, that was when I decided to teach my kids how to clean.
So, I went to Google and searched for, “how to get kids to clean”. There were some really interesting ideas. Show them how it’s done, set the clock, turn on music, but this wasn’t really what I was looking for.
I wanted our kids to learn HOW to clean because let’s face it, cleaning really isn’t fun when you get older. I wanted to find chores for kids that even our 2-year-old could do. Yep, you read that right, even our 2-year-old was learning to do chores. We wanted to instill a strong work ethic in our kids, and it’s working.
You can totally teach your kids to help around the house. Use these super helpful tips as you’re figuring out how to get kids to clean.
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Age Appropriate Chores
We started with easy things, like helping with the table at dinnertime. The kids are responsible for getting the things we need out of the fridge and to the table and then after dinner, putting them back. Another thing they are responsible for is making sure their toys are picked up and put away before going to bed.
Chores for Kids Ages 2-3
- Fold washcloths
- Match socks
- Pick up toys
- Grab diapers and wipes
- Help pick out clothes
- Brush teeth
- Get dressed
- Books on bookshelves
Chores for Kids Ages 4-6
- Make your own bed
- Help put dishes away
- Dust the furniture
- Feed your pets
- Dishes to the sink
- Help set the table
- Help fold the laundry
- Wipe kitchen counters
Chores for Kids Ages 7-9
- Help mop the floors
- Help sweep the floors
- Get your own snack
- Collect the trash
- Help clean the bathroom
- Bake cookies with assistance
- Help put groceries away
- Wipe down mirrors
Chores for Kids Ages 10-12
- Make a simple meal
- Mop the floors
- Sweep the floors
- Put groceries away
- Walk the dogs
- Help mow the grass
- Do the laundry
Give Clear Instructions and Realistic Expectations
We work on setting realistic expectations that we know our kids are perfectly capable of meeting. It would be unrealistic to think that they would play with something and put it away before getting something else out.
I live in a house where kids live, and I have accepted that it’s going to be messy during the day. They’re kids, and I want them to play, mess and all.
Some people like to set up daily chores for their kids, but we aren’t there yet. We are slowly letting our kids help us with things around the house. Our oldest is learning how to wash the dishes, and I have no problem teaching them.
I also teach our kids how to sort laundry. They aren’t really old enough to fold and put the laundry away yet, but they are certainly old enough to know which clothes theirs are. They also enjoy helping to match up the socks, which is amazing, because I don’t enjoy doing that.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I can share is to break the task down for your kids. If you are asking a 3-year-old to clean their room, do they really know what you expect? We yell at them to “clean your room”, but we haven’t really told them what we want them to do.
The best way I have found to teach a child to do something is to do it with them the first few times you’re asking them to do it. Use the same steps each time and verbalize each step. As you start to hand off responsibility to them you start to let them do different pieces of the chore by themselves. If they get hung up on a part of the task, you can remind them of what comes next. Slowly, your child should get the hang of it and be able to start doing it by themselves.
Teach Them While They’re Young
As I mentioned before, we start teaching our kids simple tasks when they are around 2 years old. It’s easier to set the expectation when they’re young, versus waiting until they’re older and trying to undo what you’ve done.
There is research that shows that kids desire to learn how to do things when they’re toddlers, but often due to time constraints or fear of messes, we don’t allow kids to explore the things they want to help with. When you do this, you’re doing yourself a disservice, and robbing them of a perfect opportunity to learn.
Consider this. If your child wants to learn how to do the dishes when they’re 6, and you’re always telling them, no, eventually they’ll stop asking. Then, when they turn 10, you suddenly want them to start doing the dishes because they’re old enough.
First, you missed out on several years of having someone else help with the dishes, because after a year or so, your kiddo may be pretty good at helping wash the dishes. Second, you’re likely going to be mad that they don’t want to do the dishes, but this one is kind of on you.
They wanted to help, and you CONSTANTLY told them no. Why all of the sudden would you think they are going to willingly do the dishes like they once had? I’m not saying kids shouldn’t do what’s asked of them, and if your mind is going there, you’re missing my point.
Let them help when they ask to help and save yourself the hassle down the road. If it’s always been expected, then they’ll expect to help.
Let Them Help Choose the Chores
I have discovered that letting them pick and choose the things they find interesting is the best way to get them to learn how to do chores. When I get the dusting wands out, everyone wants one.
Obviously, there is some close monitoring that happens because plenty of things can be knocked off, but I never tell them they can’t help, and I never tell them they aren’t doing something right.
I may instruct them on how to hold it properly and do a swipe to get some dust off, but I don’t want them to become frustrated and think they aren’t doing something good enough for mom. I can always go back and actually “clean” it later.
Finding age-appropriate chores may be a bit of a struggle until you get a feel for what they can and can’t do. It’s unrealistic and dangerous to think about putting your 4-year-old on the mower and telling them to mow the yard.
It’s totally doable to ask them to help clear the table after dinner and setting the expectation that they should be doing that after every meal. You have to use some common sense.
Offer a Reward When Earned
We did what any smart, intelligent parent would do, we offered a small reward. And in some cases when we would get pushback, we would do the opposite and let them know their toys that weren’t picked up at night would be gone in the morning.
No joke, I literally went so far as to “throw” a toy in the garage at night and warn that it may not be there tomorrow. If I had to, I would’ve taken that toy and donated it if it meant our kids learned the lesson.
The reward doesn’t need to be anything you go out of your way to accomplish. It can be a couple extra minutes of play time, some special time with a parent, or even a bigger reward if chores are completed for a week at a time.
It’s totally up to you. And if you’re knocking the idea of giving a reward for them helping around the house, consider why you go to work. To get a paycheck, right? Same applies for your kids. Give them something to work for!
Leave Out the “Okay”
When giving your kids their instructions we often say something like this: “You need to pick up the blocks and put them in the bin, okay?” This is insinuating to your child that you are giving them a choice.
You are telling them that you want them to put the blocks in the bin but only if they want to. Rather, you should say, “We are going to pick up the blocks and put them in the bin now”. You are giving clear instructions that leave no doubt of what your expectations are.
Don’t “Fix It”
I mentioned this one before, but it deserves its own section. When you’ve folded laundry for YEARS, and all of the sudden you’re letting your kids help, it’s going to be really hard to not fix their work.
BUT, put yourselves in their shoes. You as the parent who knows what you’re doing, have asked your child, who is a novice, to do something you’ve done 100 times, and want them to yield the same result as you. It’s not going to happen.
You need to applaud them for their effort and every time they do the job, instruct them as they’re working so they can become better at it.
This means if the towels aren’t folded correctly, you leave them. If the floor isn’t swept perfectly, help them fix what they missed next time.
Just because they didn’t do something correctly the first 5 times, doesn’t mean they won’t get it right on the 6th try. Let them keep trying. You will be grateful down the road that you took the time to be patient while they learned.
You can do this! Honestly, in the beginning, it is a chore more for you than them. I get that. BUT, the long-term gains for both you and they are totally worth it. Are there going to be tears? Probably so. They aren’t always going to want to help, but that’s just life.
We all do things we don’t want to do. Your kids can do chores and be successful. Figuring out how to get kids to clean is a journey. Don’t try to be successful in a week or a month. It will take years of teaching them to get it right.
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16 thoughts on “Brilliant Tips for How to Get Kids to Clean”
Great chores by age suggestions! Love that 🙂 And a great reminder to not “fix it”, let go of the OCD and be proud of what they did and make sure they know it… I have to remind myself of that. They are happy to help and I know my girls LOVE helping mom clean, I do’;t want that to go away lol
It is so easy to get caught up in trying to fix what they have done rather than just being grateful they want to help. It’s also hard sometimes to move beyond the mess they may temporarily while learning to help.
I remember struggling with this when my kids were little since it was just easier to do it myself. That, of course, led to them expecting me to ALWAYS do it. I also love the suggestion to just leave it as is. It’s important for them to be proud of what they’ve accomplished and you’re right, they’ll get it right with practice!
My kids are still pretty young, so I am hoping that by teaching them young, they can be independent, and not expect me to do everything for them! LOL! I love my kids for sure, but I like the idea of independence also. I do think my biggest struggle is letting things go when they aren’t up to “my standard”.
I am a firm believer in making kids do a fair share around the house! It’s good for them and gives momma a break too! I’m totally with you that age appropriate chores and letting them choose are biggies!
I just think it’s a great thing to teach kids to be independent. It was something my mom instilled in us, and it has paid off well!
This will come in handy when my daughter is old enough to help out! Thanks!
I’m glad you found some tips to hang onto!
We use a chore chart with short 10-15 minute chores that the kids can choose from. I have veto power, of course, and sometimes I will mark some that I really need done. They have to do as many as they are old, so the 8 year old does 8 each week, and the 10 year old does 10, and they have to do at least one each day so they don’t build up, especially since some can be done multiple times per week. I can’t lie, though, we still have major battles over chores every week!
Ohhhh, I love this idea! Can I add this to my post? The part of having the kids do the number of chores based upon their age? Great tips!
Thanks for the great ideas! I’ve been wrestling with how to improve the chore routine for my four boys. I hadn’t thought about the “okay”–I’m going to start leaving that out . . . if I can! It’s second-nature! Thanks!
Me either! Who would’ve thought that one little word was actually sabotaging us as parents?
My kids think I’m such a mean mom because they’ve been doing chores for as long as they can remember. Hopefully they’ll appreciate it one day. I couldn’t agree with everything in this post more!
My mom always called herself the “mean mom” because she made us do things around the house that many of our friends weren’t doing. I am so grateful now that I had the, “mean mom”. 🙂
My daughter, who just turned 2, is showing interest in helping with chores around the house. She likes to help me put the wash into the dryer and put away the forks and spoons from the dishwasher. She also loves using the small hand vacuum and the Swiffer Duster! We are working on cleaning up our toys/activities before naptime. Some days she jumps right on it and other days I end up doing most of it. I really need to work on my language with it though, because I am guilty of saying, “Okay” at the end of the direction. You’ve shared some really great tips in your blog post and I look forward to teaching my daughter more chores!
It sounds to me like you’re doing an awesome job! And don’t forget, toddlers will be toddlers. Take what you can get! 😉