It's Tuesday and time to Turn Off The T.V. (TOTTV) and spend some quality time with our children (and/or other loved ones). (To read why we're doing this, go here.)
Today's Topic: Cleaning With your Kids
I know, this may not seem like the most exciting topic, but before you stop reading, hear me out! :) In trying to raise my children "TV-free" (we limit screen time to 1 hr/week in our house) the thing I initially struggled with most was how to clean my house! Many people I know clean their house while their kids watch T.V. and, since that wasn't an option for me, I had to get creative! At first I thought I'd just have to do all the cleaning when they were in bed, but I soon realized that that solution left me with NO FREE TIME to do things I wanted to do...so I finally got smart and started making cleaning a family ordeal! At first, my kids were SO excited they honestly didn't want to stop cleaning. When the novelty of it wore off, they were slightly less enthused, but they have really impressed me with their willingness (and even eagerness) to help clean, their motivation to get the job done, and at how fun it is when we're all working together!
If you think your children are too young to help, you definitely need to keep reading! OK, if your baby can't even sit up yet, then you may be right, but as soon as your child can sit, you can put them to work. :) (Keep in mind - cleaning does take longer, is less-efficient, and is slightly-less-than-perfect when done with children, but remember, it's about spending quality time together! If you need to 'fix things' later, that's fine, but you've spent time with your child and have taught them valuable life skills in the process - all while keeping your family's screen time down! Yay!)
Children of all ages can help with cleaning! For instance: a baby who just sits (can't walk,etc) can put toys in toy bins, "help" do dishes (play in the bubbles while you wash), wash windows (help spray and wipe), load/unload the dishwasher, etc. Toddlers can do things like wipe the table, wash windows (with supervision), sort laundry by color, help switch laundry from washer to dryer and remove from dryer, help fold laundry, set/clear the table, etc. Preschools can start doing more things independently like putting laundry away, sweeping, mopping, etc. And school-aged children can do almost any type of cleaning, with a little tutorial and some help and superivision! You will actually be very surprised at what your kids can do! I've also been impressed with how, since my children started helping with the cleaning, they've become much more careful not to make messes (ie - my son told my daughter "please don't touch the windows with your sticky hands, I just washed those!)
There are many ways to go about cleaning with kids! Here are just a few ideas to get you started, but I highly recommend the books listed at the end of this post as well!
~Motivation - kids get excited about little things like stickers on a chart or pennies in a jar!
~Incentive - a reward to look forward to such as, "if we get the whole (room/downstairs/house/etc) clean by (some certain time) we'll have time to go out for pizza for lunch"
~Break things up: rather than trying to clean the whole house at once, try cleaning together for one job per day or one hour per day, etc. Remember, children's attention spans are usually shorter than ours!
~Have a contest - race eachother or try to 'beat the clock' by getting something done by a certain time (ie - I bet I can pick up 20 legos before you do! or Do you think we can get the kitchen swept and mopped before lunch??)
~Give kids choices - rather than say "You need to clean the bathroom" offer a list of options such as "Would you like to be in charge of the bathroom, the living room, or the kitchen?" (or smaller jobs such as picking up toys, sweeping, or mopping...etc.)
~NEVER criticize or scold a child who is trying to learn to clean - try very hard not to be too picky, but if they are doing a particularly careless job, try constructive comments such as "Can I show you how I like to do that?" or "It seems to work well if you do this..." Remember: they are just learning, and this is about quality time together, not having a picture-perfect home every moment. You don't want them to associate cleaning with an impatient/nagging mother! :)
Books to Help Inspire Your (younger) Children:
- The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Little Critter's Just A Mess by Mercer Mayer
- The Berenstain Bears and the Mama's Day Surprise by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Time to Fly by Barbara Lanza
- Bedroom Cleaning for Kids by Jennie von Eggers