Fooled by the weather gods again! Friday’s warmth was clearly the calm before the storm. Today, it has rained, snowed, hailed and…what other meteorological phenomenons have I forgotten? Obviously not the best day for outdoor activities. I hope it clears up by tomorrow as I have some Earth Day celebrations planned.
Still, sometimes lousy weather can be productive for indoor activities. Today’s goal: spring cleaning (at least interior cleaning). Spring is an amazing season of growth and renewal after winter’s hibernation. My son is still too young to understand a merit/demerit system of chores/household duties but trust me, as soon as my slave… er…son (!) is old enough to take on some tasks, he’ll be a scrubbin’.
Chores are a win-win situation. Think about it: as an adult, apart from the occasional volunteering, most of the work you do demands payment. Kids quickly learn how capitalism works. Instead of giving a weekly allowance “just because”, reward them for their hard work from the start. And don’t go easy on them if they don’t perform their required tasks; if they don’t sweep they don’t get their merit points/money. I know I sound harsh here but would your boss pay you even if you didn’t perform your duties?
So for you lucky parents who have kids aged 5+, here are a few cleaning tips for kids:
- Organize: Kids love to separate and sort according to likeness. Truthfully, all humans like to categorize and maintain some kind of semblance of order. This can apply to many different household duties but here are a few that come to mind: sort the mess of mismatched socks, sort through the chipped and cracked dishes/glasses, arrange their toys/games according to type, re-fold the mess that is your linen closet, etc.
- Inventory: Kids who can write love taking inventory counts. Make it fun for them: ask them to go through the pantry and list everything that is empty, half-full or unused; you can use the same type of list while going through the closet of shampoos, soaps, and hair products.
- Lists: I have found that lists are essential for men. Well, my husband at least. If I ask him to “clean the bathroom” he looks at me blankly. You see, I have this “virtual” list in my head that I mentally check off as I’m cleaning but my husband doesn’t see it the same way. I’m willing to bet that many kids would feel flustered if asked to clean “something” without being given directives. I would recommend detailed lists of everything you ask. It serves the purpose of visualizing exactly how much they have to accomplish and they feel a sense of pride as they check off the items on their list.
- Manageability: Make sure the chores you assign are age-appropriate. Nothing is worse than a child feeling dejected because he/she can’t perform the tasks his/her parent asks because of age. Also, make sure the items on the list can be finished in a set amount of time. A child will be get bored and/or discouraged if he/she can’t finish in about the assigned time. Obvious example: don’t have your 5 year old clean the fine china; instead, have your 5 year old clean the exterior of the curio that contains the fine china.
- Accountability: Go over the tasks your kids have accomplished once they are finished. Humans love positive feedback and constructive criticism is integral to your child understanding how to improve his/her work. If your kid’s job was to clean the windows and they are covered in fingerprints and spaghetti sauce, I would suggest you don’t praise that as excellent work; instead, show him/her how you expect the windows to look once they are clean and have them demonstrate his/her ability to accomplish same.
- Creative cleaning: This is the most obvious of chores but often the hardest to get your kid to complete. Making cleaning a “fun chore” is an oxymoron (in my view) so as parents, we need to find creative ways to get our kids involved. Have them complete cleaning chores that are in 10-15 minute segments. Also, try to get your children to value the cleaning they have accomplished; sometimes if they understand how much time it took, they won’t be as inclined to dirty it as quickly.
- Real rewards: Demonstrating that their work will earn them tangible gifts is a big factor. Though some kids may appreciate the delayed satisfaction of a savings account, I’m willing to bet that most will enjoy the piggy bank of saved-up money to spend on their choice of a toy. Give them a goal chart and show your kids how each chore helps them approach their ultimate goal.
- Recycle-Reuse: Spring cleaning is a great time to go through your unused items and donate to charity. I’m sure your kids have amassed a large number of toys that have not been played with in months or more. Ask them to go through their toys with the aim of donating the ones they no longer need/want. Once the pile is complete, bring them to the charity and have them hand it over. If you aren’t opposed to buying used clothing and/or toys, let your child choose a few “new” toys to bring home.
- Teamwork: If you are cleaning, chances are your kids will want to help out in some way. In other words, don’t sit on the couch watching TV and expect your kid to do all the work. Remember that teamwork is always faster, more productive and much more fun.
- Have fun: Yes, chores suck. But they are–as my mother would say–a necessary evil. Instead of dreading spring cleaning (or cleaning of any type), visualize the clean results: a fresh smelling, organized and livable home! Just as your kids like goals and lists, give yourself the same rewards. And at least try to have fun!