A few weeks ago, our area of Minnesota was hit with a huge snowstorm. In just 24 hours, we received about 20 inches of snow. Add that on top of the 10 inches we already had, plus all the snow pushed up by passing snow plows and we ended up with 4 FEET OF SNOW in some places of our yard.
One morning, we decided to accept the still-falling snow as our friend and go sledding. Of course this meant clearing a pathway for our car out of the already fallen 8-inches of snow. As I shoveled and watched my newly cleared areas fill up again with snow, it hit me:
Cleaning up after kids is like shoveling during a snowstorm.
I’ve been thinking a lot in the recent weeks about why raising three children 4 and under is so taxing emotionally, physically, mentally…or why my house seems to dirty itself, despite my best efforts. And I think I’ve figured it out.
When you are parenting young children, you tend to be the only one contributing to the WORK while everyone is constantly contributing to the MESS. It really is true that if you don’t do it, no one will. Unless you figure out a way to get your kids involved. And believe me, you NEED to get your kids involved.
Get Kids Involved
You need to get them involved, not just for your sanity, but for their benefit. All children need responsibilities and chores. It’s a part of life that builds character, work ethic, responsibility, self confidence, and teaches children to take pride and ownership in their surroundings. Plus, it helps kids learn that being a part of a family means contributing. Children are never too young to help around the house (well, unless they are infants). They just may be too young to do it alone. So either assign an older child to help a younger sibling with their work, or you’ll just need to help them until they can do it themselves.
Age Appropriate Chores for Kids
If you’re like me, you may be thinking “Yeah, but WHAT can my child actually DO?” Here are some ideas. (Each age grouping builds on the one before it, so what a child can do at 12 months, they can still do at 2 years PLUS the new tasks at that stage.) Just keep in mind that you are training CHILDREN, not professionals. They won’t get it right a lot of the time and they will probably lose focus more often than you’d like. But at least they are trying!
At this age, children love to put things in their places. Give them one item at a time and they will be entertained for a long time. **Needs assistance**
- Pick up toys and put into bins
- Put utensils INTO the dishwasher
- Put laundry into dirty clothes hamper
Give more responsibility, but don’t expect them to do it all themselves or stay focused for more than 5-10 minutes at a time. **Needs assistance**
- Make their bed
- Put knives, forks, and spoons into appropriate place in drawer
- Put away their own laundry
2 – 3 years
Explosion in capabilities and understanding. Can do more on their own, but need supervision and instruction. **Needs some supervision**
- Help organize laundry (either clean or dirty)
- Help load washing machine or transfer clothes to dryer
- Help rinse dishes before putting in dishwasher
- Clean up toys over large area
- Clear plates from table
- Help set table
- Put away books
- Clean up own messes
- Help make meals or treats
3 – 4 years
May still need instructions and reminders, but can do most on their own. **Needs minimal supervision and assistance**
- Fold laundry
- Load dishwasher
- Put away own coat/shoes/gloves
- Help clean out the car
- Help wash the car
- Clean floorboards/baseboards
- Clean stair banisters
- Perform daily assigned tasks
- Help dump trash cans
4 – 5 years
Needs little instruction and supervision.
- Clean out the toilet
- Wash mirrors and windows
- Clean out sinks
- Mop the floor on hands and knees
- Wipe off kitchen table
- Organize toys, shoes, books, etc.
- Help put away groceries
- Make bed completely
- Do full loads of laundry from start to finish
- Load and unload dishwasher from start to finish (except high things or fragile things)
- Clean own room
- Sweep floors
- Take out trash
- Maintain assigned area/room
- Perform daily assigned tasks without constant reminder
A Few Final Tips for Cleaning with kids
- Baby wipes are a life saver. Not only are they not too expensive, but they are perfectly moist for little kids to be able to wipe walls, banisters, sinks, toilets, etc.
- Clorox wipes are also great for disinfecting.
- Help kids know where things go by having bins or an organization system for clothes, toys, books, etc.
- Too many toys make it hard to clean up! So dejunk your toy room (and clothes too) to help kids keep things clean.
- If something is really easy for your child, give them a harder task next time. Keep stretching them, but don’t make it too hard or they will get frustrated.
- Be patient!
- Give your child a chore out of their natural abilities. Don’t only give organization chores to your organized child. Have your unorganized child do them too.
- Reward your child with praise and stickers (if applicable) so they can see their contribution. Sticker charts are GREAT for motivating young kids!!