Spring Cleaning

3 (Fun!) Ways To Get Your Little Ones More Excited About Helping Clean Up

published May 15, 2022
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If spring cleaning makes you think of throwing open the windows on the first warm day, you might think that ship has sailed as summer quickly approaches. But the good news is that the end of the school year is the perfect time for a whole house clean out — and you don’t have to go at it alone.

It’s not too late for the whole family to pitch in on a pre-summer reset. The whole family can and should be involved in spring cleaning, especially since families with kids know that it’s largely kid stuff shoved in closets, cluttering the edges of the garage, and more.

“You can get your kids involved with almost every aspect of spring cleaning,” says Vera Peterson, President of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. “Just make sure it’s appropriate for their age and that you are using supplies you feel are safe for their specific age range.” She encourages families to get kids involved with chores from an early age, when possible.

Here are three expert-approved ways to get your kids more engaged when it’s time to tidy up around the house.

Give them the “fun” jobs.

Kids are much more likely to engage in chores when they think it’s a game, or there’s some level of play or make believe intertwined, insists Dr. Bethany Cook, a psychologist based in Chicago. Rather than just ask a kid if they want to help out, Cook recommends parents give their kids two choices on how to complete a task, including a more entertaining option. But do your best to frame the task in a fun way when your kids are helping. “We get out the mops… we blast ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ from ‘Annie,’” says Cook, who insists that music can help any task become more fun. As can elements like races, timers, and getting silly, she adds.

Speaking of getting silly, Peterson says playing, cleaning, and having fun all at once is, in fact, very possible. Here are a few games she recommends for making this happen with the little ones at home:

Mayo Miracle 

Use leftover mayonnaise to remove marks and water rings on wooden surfaces. Dab a quarter-size amount of mayo on a towel and scrub the surface. Within seconds, the stains will disappear.

Cucumber Eraser

Save half a cucumber from lunch or dinner and show kids how to use the outside of the peel to remove scuffs on tables and walls around the house.

Soda Pop Cleaner

Use leftover Coca-Cola to clean your toilet bowl. Let them pour it in, then let the soda sit in the toilet for 1-2 hours and flush clean.

A Sweet Polish Job

Let kids use a dollop of ketchup on a cloth or towel to polish silverware, as well as copper and brass appliances.

Choose age-appropriate tasks for more buy-in.

No two-year-old is going to want, or be able, to change all the bedsheets in the house, of course. But it does help to identify which types of chores might be most appealing to your kids. Peterson suggests these as age-appropriate, kid-friendly spring-cleaning tasks.

Age 2-3

  • Put toys back in toy box.
  • Place dirty clothes in hamper.
  • Help wipe up spills.
  • Put books and magazines in a pile.

Age 4-5

  • Help make the bed.
  • Empty small wastebaskets.
  • Put toys and art supplies in storage containers.
  • Water flowers.

Age 6-7

  • Sort laundry.
  • Sweep floors.
  • Set and clear table.
  • Help make and pack lunch.
  • Pull weeds and rake leaves.
  • Keep bedroom tidy.

Age 8-9

  • Load dishwasher.
  • Put away groceries.
  • Vacuum.
  • Help make dinner.
  • Make snacks.
  • Clear and wipe the table after meals.
  • Help put away laundry.
  • Dust tables and/or entertainment center with microfiber.
  • Take the pet for a walk.

Age 10+

  • Unload dishwasher.
  • Fold and put laundry away.
  • Clean bathroom.
  • Clean inside windows.
  • Give a pet a bath.
  • Cook simple meals with supervision.
  • Clip shopping list coupons.
  • Vacuum.
  • Clean kitchen counters or change bed sheets.

Choosing jobs that kids have a better chance to be successful at will help encourage them to do more, and to care about the quality of their work, rather than rushing through it to get done. Cook suggests parents create a moment for kids, sit back, take in and celebrate their small victory. Adding that parents can give positive praise like “look at this, look what you’ve done” to ensure they are appreciated and feel pride in their work.

Personalize their toolkit

You know what sounds exciting for your little helper? Their own cleaning kit covered in stickers, with their name on it (and the understanding that their siblings can’t touch it). This is sure to get young kids a little more interested in cleaning. You can take your kids with you to the dollar store to buy a simple kit, complete with a rag and other basic supplies, and make an event of them decorating it and keeping it in a special place. “Include cleaning essentials that are safe and age appropriate,” Peterson says, like filling spray bottles with water instead of products that contain chemicals, for example. Even having their own broom and dustpan can help them feel more involved and interested.

Don’t get discouraged if the kids aren’t immediately drawn to cleaning — that’s expected. But with time, and perhaps a few of these tricks, the whole family will be pitching in a little more, and the house will be ready for summer activities and chaos in no time.