10 Tips for Setting Up a Cleaning Routine for Kids | From Overwhelmed to Organized: 10 Tips for Setting Up a Cleaning Routine for Kids

Thursday, September 5, 2013

10 Tips for Setting Up a Cleaning Routine for Kids

Do you struggle to get your kids help you clean the house?  Are they expected to contribute to the upkeep of your home?  Do they have a cleaning routine?

Today I'll share how I organized our cleaning routine this summer and some tips to help you set up a cleaning routine for your kids.

Why Should Kids Help Clean?

I think it's important for kids to help clean the house.  Even when they're little.  But especially as they get older.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps them make less mess.  I don't know about your kids, but mine are messy.  And they don't usually see the mess.  Piles of dirty laundry.  Crumbs on the floor.  Toys on the living room table.  Dirt from their shoes in the hallway.  Stains in the toilet because they forget to flush.   And so on.  And that doesn't include the stuff they don't contribute too, like cat hair and dust.  By getting them involved in helping clean the house, they've become a little more aware of the mess in our house.  That's helped them make a little less of it.  And that's a good thing.  
  • Kids learn valuable skills by learning how to clean.  I hear stories of teens going off to college or university and not being able to do laundry or clean up after themselves.  I don't want that to happen to my kids.  Their future roommates and spouses will thank me :)
  • Kids feel important when they are a contributing part of the household.  Sure they complain about having to clean, but they also feel proud when they do.  This summer my kids kept wondering if their dad would notice what they cleaned when he got home.  If he didn't... they were sure to tell him.  And if he did... wow... big smiles all around!
I didn't start out giving all those reasons to my kids.  Mainly this summer I told them if they wanted me to do all the fun stuff they wanted to, then they had to help me with the cleaning.  But more reasons came out as time went on.

Our Summer Cleaning Routine

Here's the cleaning routine I put together this summer:

At the top I listed the things we were each responsible for.  They've already been doing a few things every day/week and they were expected to continue doing those.

I found it hard to put on paper all the things my hubby and I actually do, because we're pretty flexible about a lot of the things on our lists, and it varies a lot depending on his work schedule, but this was a start.

Then I broke down the cleaning tasks that I thought the kids could do into small, manageable pieces and scheduled them into a bi-weekly schedule.

Our schedule alternated each week between home weeks and camp/VBS weeks, which ended up working really well for our cleaning routine.  I put the shortest tasks into the camp weeks because we did those tasks before leaving in the morning.  And the longer tasks into the home weeks since we weren't rushing to get out the door those days.

A few notes...

Our basement is where our cat spends most of her time... and where she sheds the most.  And in the summer we spent a lot of time down there because it's the coolest place in the house.  Temperature-wise that is... although it's a pretty "cool" place to hang out too :)  Anyway, it needed to be cleaned weekly.  The rest of the house could manage with less frequent vacuuming most of the time, with some sweeping in between.

The bathrooms they cleaned on the camp weeks were the upstairs one and the main floor one.  They get the most use.  It worked really well to have each of them doing a different bathroom at the same time so there was less fighting more space to work.  They decided to alternate which one they did each time, since one counter was larger than the other.  Love my little organizers :)

On the bottom of the page, I listed several cleaning tasks that they could do to earn extra screen time.

These were cleaning tasks that didn't need to happen on a particular schedule.  Some I just wanted done once in the summer (spring cleaning type tasks that I didn't do this spring).  Others were just ongoing tasks they could do any time they just wanted to earn a little extra screen time.

I estimated how long it would take for them to complete the task and then gave an equal amount of screen time.  When projects were large, I broke them down so they wouldn't be overwhelmed.  Screen time was definitely the currency around here this summer :)

How it turned out

I'd planned for each task to take about 15 minutes (or maybe a little longer at the beginning when they were learning it) and overall that was a pretty good estimate.  Except for vacuuming the floors.  Definitely misjudged that one!  So I changed it to each of them vacuuming one room to make it less overwhelming.  Then I'd finish the rest.

Some cleaning tasks my kids took on were ones they had done before, but some were totally new to them.  The new tasks required some training and there was definitely a learning curve.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to keep them motivated, I had to lower my expectations. Like folding and putting away laundry.  Plenty of clothes were a little more wrinkly than usual, and their drawers were a little lot messier.  No photos of pretty drawers taken recently!  But it's summer so who cares if a t-shirt is a little wrinkly?  The point is they are learning.  And with thousands more loads of laundry in our future, I think the learning curve is worth it!

By the end of the summer, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they had learned and improved in all the cleaning tasks they had taken on!

They liked some chores more than others.  Believe it or not, both of their favourite places to clean were the bathrooms!

But they did NOT like vacuuming.  Well, the couches were OK.  And the laminate floors.  But not the carpets.  Luckily we don't have very many of those :)

It was a bit tough for them to maneuver the vacuum and they found it hard to cover the whole floor (they tended to do it fairly haphazardly and missed a lot of areas).  Plus their speed did not increase over the summer, like it did for other tasks, which only frustrated them more.  And they're only 9 and 6.  I'm sure when they're a bit older vacuuming will be easier.

{And yes... my son is vacuuming in his pajamas... we had a few pj days this summer... especially near the end!}

We didn't get all the tasks from the "Extras List" accomplished (I'll be catching up on some of them this fall!), but I'm happy with the results and will do this again next summer.

Could I have done some of the cleaning quicker and better than my kids did this summer?  Sure.  Would they have learned as much as they did if I'd done that?  Nope.  So, despite a few many complaints from my kiddos, I think it was worth it.

Your turn!

OK... are you ready to get your kids cleaning?  Here are 10 tips to successfully implement a cleaning routine for your kids: 

  1. Break each cleaning task down to something that would take you about 5 minutes and then plan for it to take them about 10-15 minutes.  {In our case I separated toilets from sinks/counters, even though I would normally do those together}
  2. Introduce new cleaning tasks gradually so they have time to master each one before learning new ones. {I didn't do this for summer, but I think it might have been better if I did}
  3. Take time to show them how to do the task, and repeat as needed until they know what to do.
  4. Make it clear what you expect it to look like so they know what to strive for.
  5. Lower your expectations initially.  They're kids... and they're learning.  You wouldn't expect them to ride a bike or bake a cake as well as you right away, so don't place unrealistic expectations on them for cleaning.
  6. Gradually and gently point out new things they may not have thought of.  {For example, with bathroom sinks/counters, initially I wanted them to wipe everywhere but didn't overwhelm them by worrying about cleaning around the drain or behind the taps.  I added those in, one at a time, as I helped them clean each week.}
  7. Resist the urge to "do the job right" after they clean something.  Or if you really need to do a better job, make sure you do it later and that they don't see you do it.  You want them to build confidence and pride in their skills and if they know you'll just re-do it later anyway then there's no motivation for them to improve.
  8. Keep the whole experience positive.  Especially early on.  
  9. Praise their efforts and help them feel proud about what they've done.  This goes a long way toward motivating them to do their best next time.
  10. Thank them for helping you and for contributing to your home and family.  Don't you wish someone thanked you for cleaning the house? :)

I wish I had more pictures of my kids cleaning because they did a great job!  But most of the time I was doing a lot of teaching, or helping, or running up and down stairs or between rooms they were working in.  So there wasn't a lot of time to snap pics.  Maybe next summer :)

At our September family meeting last weekend, we discussed how each of us felt about the summer cleaning routine.  And then I let them choose which tasks they'd like to continue doing through the year.  They chose bathrooms and vacuuming couches.  I can't complain about that!  Now it's time to set up a school-year cleaning routine :)

If you haven't involved your kids in cleaning but want to set up a cleaning routine, which of these tips do you think will help you the most?  If your kids do help you clean, how did you teach them?  What tips can you share for setting up a cleaning routine?

Happy organizing!

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