Cross some things off your to do list AND have some fun with the kids. Talk about two birds, one stone!
Firstly, no it is not slave labour. Funny story – one day at a time when my 4 year old was obsessed with my mop (I think it vaguely resembles a person with long hair), and my 2 year old was obsessed with my broom, I got out both the mop and broom to get to work on the kitchen floor. My 2yo begged (in his toddler way) to sweep the floor, and Miss 4yo begged to do the mopping. I helped a little, but basically I just let them go for it. It wasn’t the best job ever, but we all had fun and the floor was partially cleaned at the same time.
I often hear myself saying to the kids – yes sweetie, I’ll come sit with you and read that book as soon as I’ve done the dishes. Someone very wise once said to me – in 20 years when we look back at our kids’ childhoods, we won’t be wishing we had done more laundry, we will wish we spent more time with them. In my need for practicality (and a clean or at least tidy house), and also wanting to spend good time with the munchkins, I think – combine. So everyday my kids are involved in the cleaning. I like to give them little jobs here and there to occupy them, and I find it also makes them feel ‘grown-up’. It is great for the kids not only to be involved in taking care of their possessions, but teaching them very good habits from a young age too. It is NOT unfair to expect the kids to help out, I believe it is unbalanced for a child to think that mum or dad will do everything for them.
There are a few ways in which the tidying can be turned into games. We have mega room tidies where I use tools such as:
- speed timing – how fast can you pick up all the books? I’ll count.
- racing me – can you tidy your room faster than I can tidy mine? (Of course I tidied the kitchen and lounge as well so they would win)
- counting – for instance number of toys can be carried in one go.
- parking – the cars (or other vehicles) in their correct places, and also putting dollies to bed for the same purpose.
- playing games – can you throw the toys into the toy box from this distance?
There are a lot of little tricks to get the kids involved and enthusiastic, find which ones work best for you and your children. These games are suitable for all of my kids, now aged 6,4 and 1, tidying is a pretty safe chore.
Cleaning, however, is something I generally only do with my older kids, and of course I never use chemical cleaners while they are around. This might be the opportune time for you to try out some natural cleaning agents such as tea tree oil, vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. Add a couple drops Oil of Cloves and Tea Tree Oil diluted in water 1 tsp to 1 cup water – great for spraying mould, and I love the smell too. Vinegar is also a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodoriser, I know a lot of mums who use vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine (just throw a cup in the rinse cycle), or if using in the kitchen and around the house measure equal parts of water and vinegar. Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum, you can always try mixing lemon juice with vinegar or baking soda to make your own recipe cleaning pastes (just know that lemon juice can act as a natural bleach). I’ve used vinegar and baking soda together to remove burnt stuff from saucepans, and baking soda can be very effective in removing ‘foot smell’ from stinky shoes to mention just one of its many uses.
In my house, the kids have their own jobs that they do on a regular basis. They don’t yet get pocket money but I figure that these are the kind of tasks they will need to do when the allowances kick in. So far (only for the 4 and 6 year olds) they put their own clean clothes away, as well as always putting their dirties in the right place. They like to take the dry clothes off our drying frame, folding is still a challenge but I don’t care how neat everything is, just so long as they are getting involved. My 6yo likes to wipe down the table, and if it is particularly dirty I let her spray it with my tea tree mixture. Even my 21 month old toddler likes to pack away – okay I’ll admit I think he just likes doing whatever I’m doing, but he does really get a bit of a thrill out of throwing the Duplo back into the box. He really loves throwing rubbish in the bin, so if he is following me around as I am trying to recover the house from the kid explosion, I point to little scraps of paper and he duly picks them up and chucks them for me. Kids have a natural advantage of being small, they can reach those areas that force us to bend, hello clean skirting boards!
- Most certainly NO chemicals please. Mild soap fine if you must, but absolutely no harsh cleaning agents. Water will do. Keep the kids safe.
- Leave a small towel in an easy-to-reach place near the eating table so they can mop up any little spills there.
- Keep it fun, don’t go expecting that they will do a great job, it’s wonderful if they try and enjoy doing it.
- Explain to them why you need to do what you are doing, they will feel more involved and it is good training.
- Make a game of it – think races, think prizes, be imaginative.
- Turn the stereo on, incorporate some dance into the chore.
- Make lists and allow the kids to cross items off.
- Set attainable goals, try to not get too far ahead of yourself.
- Praise praise praise!
- Pocket money incentives.
- Enjoy it. Feel happy within yourself that you are having fun with the kids and giving them a good foundation from which to learn responsibility, and if the floor gets cleaned in the meantime, you can’t argue with that.
Emma Eastman 2013