Children are naturally born to please. During toddlerhood, your child will probably ask to help you frequently. As daunting as this can be for you as a parent, you must remember that they want to feel a sense of accomplishment. Allowing them to help you will help them achieve that.
Instilling good cleaning habits while your child is young will show major benefits as they grow older. So how do you teach your child to clean up? We’re going to cover the whys, whens, and hows for you.
Why Should You Teach Your Child to Clean Up?
Besides the obvious of not having to do every tidy up task yourself, there are plenty of other upsides to good cleaning habits in kids. Plus if you’re constantly cleaning up after your child, they’re going to grow up expecting you to do everything for them.
There are plenty of other reasons why you should teach your child to clean up too:
- A stress-free environment: Most parents can attest to the fact that a clean house makes for a much calmer environment. It’s easy to constantly feel stressed when you’re worried about stepping on LEGO as you walk down the hallway.
- Fosters independence: Independence is a necessary trait every person needs in life so helping foster independence early on will benefit them greatly in the future. Give them a task to do on their own and they’ll feel proud and accomplished when they finish it.
- Teaches a valuable life skill: Nobody wants to be known as “the slob.” Introducing cleaning tasks early on will more than likely stick with them as they move into adulthood.
- Teaches respect: Not only will cleaning up after themselves teach them to respect you and your wishes but the house and their belongings as well.
- Introduces routine: If you make it a habit of cleaning up after certain things like dinner or playtime, they’ll associate the task with a routine.
When Should You Start Teaching Cleaning Habits?
There isn’t really a set recommended age for starting these habits, but the sooner you introduce the idea the better. While your infant can’t necessarily help pick up your household clutter, they can see what you’re doing. Eventually, they’ll want to help you too.
Contrary to what you may think, there are ways to get your children to help you clean as early as toddlerhood. Chances are good that your toddler really wants to help but they may not know how.
Benefits of Cleaning Together
Cleaning together as a family gives everyone a chance to work on a task together. It can also serve as a way to catch up if you feel like you’ve been distant from each other. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, cleaning together will help strengthen the bond between you (even if they pretend to hate it).
As your child gets older, they’re going to become more independent and want to do things for themselves. It’s important to find ways to foster that independence but also to keep up with your relationship.
As much as they may gripe about having to clean up, there are ways to make it more fun for everybody. You can throw on some music and dance together in between chores. Or, if your child is too cool for you, you can play a fun game of “Would You Rather” to pass the time.
Cleaning According to Age
You certainly can’t expect a toddler to dust the ceiling fans all by themselves and you probably don’t want to trust them to the Windex either. To properly teach your child to clean up, it’s important to give them tasks to do that are appropriate for their age.
At this age, simple chores will go a long way in teaching your child to clean up. Your toddler is much more capable of cleaning up than you’d think.
Consider these chores when teaching your toddler to clean up:
- Tidy up toys: This is the simplest and most common toddler chore. By teaching them to tidy up their clutter early on, they’ll be more likely to maintain the habit as they grow.
- Help to sort laundry: This is where you can have some fun and teach them matching skills too. Have them help you separate light colors and dark colors so they can work on their compare and contrast skills.
- Put away their clothes: Depending on their coordination and your tolerance level, this can be really beneficial. When doing this, make sure to remind them to be gentle as they put their clothes away.
- Dusting: A super easy chore for your little helper is dusting. Of course, they won’t be dusting high places any time soon. However, they can easily take to the window blinds and low shelves.
- Help with food prep: This is a great way to help your child foster their independence. Research has also shown that helping with food prep can be a good strategy for encouraging your child to eat more new foods.
- Set and clear the table: If you’re worried about knives, you could always clear those first and then let your toddler take care of the rest. Just make sure they don’t throw glass in the sink.
- Water plants: Watering the houseplants is a super easy way to teach your child how to take care of another living thing.
- Sweeping: Most toy companies sell kid-sized cleaning equipment. You can have your child use a kid-sized broom while you use a regular one and let them follow you.
- Put away groceries: This is a good opportunity to teach your child where certain food goes. For example, beans in the pantry, milk in the refrigerator, etc.
Ages 4 to 6 Years
Once your child exits toddlerhood and enters the school ages, they become capable of slightly more complex chores.
Besides the chores listed for toddlers, consider these for your beginning school-age child:
- Bring in the mail: This is an extremely simple, but also helpful task to give to your child. If you want to go further, have them help you sort them by who it goes to, if it’s a bill, etc.
- Unload the dishwasher: Children should still be supervised during this task, so perhaps this would be a good time to hang out together and unwind the day.
- Pull weeds in the garden: If your child likes to be outside, consider giving them outdoor chores like pulling weeds. Not only will they get fresh air, but they’ll feel like they’re helping too.
Ages 8 Years and Up
If you have an older child, they are more than capable of doing the chores we’ve listed as well as some other, even more complex ones. Some may even be fun for them.
Here are some good ideas for chores for older kids:
- Make their own breakfast: Whether it’s cereal, toast, or a three-course meal, your child will be able to make their own breakfast. You can even do it together at first so they can learn new recipes.
- Vacuum: Vacuuming is a good chore to give to older kids if you just want to give them something easy to do.
- Do their own laundry: You’ll probably have to help them the first few times, but with practice, they will be able to do their own laundry too.
- Cook dinner for the family (with supervision): This could be a good bonding session with your older child. As kids grow, it can be harder to connect. This is a good time to catch up with each other.
Teaching Good Cleaning Habits
One of the biggest things you should try to do as a parent is teach your child to clean up. Cleaning up is one of the most basic and essential life skills as you go through life. However, it can get difficult if you have a young toddler or an older kid who doesn’t want to connect.
It will probably be difficult at first, but once you introduce cleaning as a routine in your family, everybody else will catch on. They may end up enjoying some of their chores. Whether it’s something as easy as dusting or complex like cooking dinner, there is a chore for every age.