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How to get your children to clean!

Updated on May 5, 2014


Family roles are important for each member.
Family roles are important for each member.

Emphasize the importance of family roles

Family roles are extremely important for a child to feel safe, secure, confident as well as provides a sense of purpose within the family unit.

I tell my kids all the time that we all have jobs to do within the family to keep the household running smoothly, and as a team.

Although...this of course does not over-rule that I am the Queen, my husband is the King, and they are apprentice Princes.

Children thrive in structured, rule oriented environments. Its promotes love, safety and many other qualities that are beneficial for adult life.

They may crab and complain, but once consistency is established, I am certain you will see them thrive in the structure and routine. They will love being part of a team that keeps the home clean and cared for.

Is getting your kids to clean like pulling teeth?

Do you have to nag and nag and nag your kids to clean up?

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Little girl vacuuming

Do you want your kids to do this more often?
Do you want your kids to do this more often? | Source

Place settings

A formal place setting can easily be taught
A formal place setting can easily be taught | Source

Make Cleaning Fun!

How to make cleaning fun?

  • Turn on some music, dance around, get active and be silly.
  • Have “speed cleaning” sessions. Set a clock for 15 minutes and have everyone straighten up and clean as much as possible, see who can do the most and the best job in that time. We refer to this as "blitzing". Blitzing 2x a week is a great way to keep the mess under control, until you hit the big stuff, like cleaning a bathroom.
  • Always use positive reinforcement for jobs well done
  • Don't make cleaning a big schedule, do it as it needs done, that keeps the job of it light. And kids won't feel like it's this big event to dread certain times of the day, week, or month. We've recently incorporated "Tidy Tuesdays", it's really the only big cleaning day we have.
  • Make finding lost toys like a treasure hunt!
  • Get your kids their own cleaning tools, and make sure yours are up to par and working great to get big jobs done efficiently.
  • See who the best is at “matching socks!”
  • Toss gentle toys into bins like a game of basketball. Always label the bins as well as possible, it's been proven kids will tidy up more if they know where things belong.
  • Always be on the look out for "teachable moments", like showing them a formal way to set a table setting. Or discussing proper dining manners when you clean the table. Our 7.5ft formal dining table is now referred to as the "Gentleman's Table" at this table, you do not burp or pass gas. You pull the chairs out for ladies, you say things like "please pass this or that" and you don't have the TV on, cell phones, or other distractions during these family meals. After-all, the goal is to raise productive, responsible, self-sufficient adults.
  • Don't be afraid to use your imagination. With young children, make cleaning time an imaginary adventure. For example, if they love animals, tell them it’s time to clean the “zoo,” and make each chore animal-themed, put escaped toy animals back in their cages. Make fun sound effects!
  • Teach your kids how to go through old things for a donation pile or sell pile. If they sell something on Craigslist or similar selling site, or even a garage sale, let them keep the money. Clutter is a mess, why save things you or your kids don't use? Make donations for helping others and welcome open discussions about the importance of that.
  • Rotate the cleaning jobs. If one child hates doing dishes, rotate that task between everyone. Same with other jobs. This keeps things lighter, less boring, and also shows kids how to do a variety of things.
  • On big cleaning days, end the day doing something your kids love. Maybe this means having a family movie night, going out to eat, ordering in, buy some pretty flowers to make that now clean dining table extra fancy.
  • Be open minded and still praise for jobs well done, even when not perfect. Bed making is a perfect example of that.
  • If your kids find loose change when cleaning, let them keep it. Show them how to count it all out if needed.

Family cleaning

Get everyone involved, even with small kid size cleaning supplies.
Get everyone involved, even with small kid size cleaning supplies. | Source

Don't Make Cleaning A Chore!

Kids should be doing age appropriate tasks and cleaning as soon as you can teach them, also kids should be taught at a young age that littering is wrong. The earlier you start, the more likely these behaviors will stick and follow them into adulthood. Not only that, but if you are cleaning up after your children, and never making them do it, you’ll probably be cleaning up after them for as long as they remain in your house. And I don’t know parents that want to do that either.

I don’t believe cleaning has to be scheduled, for the exception of spring and fall cleaning. Who wants to spend an entire Saturday or Sunday cleaning? Not me! And surely not kids.

I believe it is more important to stress the points of taking care of your things, putting them back in their place (wherever you determine that place to be), staying clean and having a “role” within the family.

0-5 Years of Age

By 5 years of age, your kids should know where and when to put their toys away. Make places easy for them to reach. This could be toy bins, boxes, baskets, at their height level. Have them clean up when they are done playing with toys.

A 5 year old is also capable of putting their shoes and coats in a designated area, and putting dishes in the sink or kitchen when a meal has ended.

They can also dust, vacuum, clean toilets, help take out trash with dad, and water plants with supervision. This may not be done to perfection, but they can do it.

They can also hang bath towels on hooks at an appropriate height. Put their tooth brushes and toothpaste in designated areas, and have baskets to put dirty laundry in.

6-12 Years of Age

By now, your child has mastered tying shoes, riding a bike, and many other things. Responsibility comes with age and they can do many more tasks now.

They should be keeping track of book-bags and homework, continuing to help with the tasks they did from 0-5, helping with yard work, like raking, mowing, or snow removal. They should consistently be helping with cooking, dish washing, and maintaining their toys.

They should be folding laundry and putting away clothes they can manage to put away.

They are also capable of helping to take care of any household pets by feeding, grooming, or cleaning up after them.

By 12, children should begin being taught how to wash their own clothing.


By now, your kids can do a lot. Don't be afraid to have them do a lot of the yard work, and a good amount off all interior cleaning. Not only is it good exercise, but it makes your home value a wonderful thing!

By 12, a child should have the basics down on how to do laundry. If they mess up, they will need to learn to get it right, not only for the previous stated benefits, but so that the child knows not to take the cheap lazy route to get things done.

Allowance Only Pays For Chores Done Outside The Realm Of Expectation

If children are never taught to take care of their things, especially electronics, what incentive do you have to buy them more things that they constantly ask for? Not much.

Taking care of their own room and things the best they can at age appropriate times, as well as keeping track of school work and book bags are chores that should be expected. You should not have to pay or bribe your child to do these things, and these tasks won't earn an allowance.

If you want to reward your children for tasks outside of their realm of responsibility, it should be for things like cleaning bathrooms, yard work, dusting and vacuuming. Basically any chore that helps the entire household. Obviously you will choose the appropriate reward. Maybe it is a few dollars, or a special snack or treat, or maybe staying up an hour past bedtime.

Although with proper stressing the importance of their role within the family, these chores don't need to be rewarded.


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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Very good suggestions for getting kids to help clean house and take care of their own belongings. It also teaches them needed skills for their own lives when they grow up and leave home.


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