This article contains some affiliate links, mainly to show you what I’m talking about. Should you choose to purchase an item through my link, I’ll earn a tiny commission, maybe enough to buy a popsicle. 🙂
Make cleaning fun? Is that even possible for kids? To some extent, yes. It’s probably more like making cleaning “motivational.”
Moms everywhere seem to be pinning lots of chore chart ideas for their kids this summer. If your children are anything like my oldest child, the only one really capable of doing chores, any chore/bribe chart goes out the window after a week or so. In fact, I joke that I spend more time hunting down the perfect chore chart, customizing it, printing it, and then laminating it than my son ever does actually cleaning. But we moms keep trying.
Our kids do need to learn how to clean, and kids with autism are no exception. But I think it’s harder to teach them. My son just doesn’t see the dirt. Even when I point it out as plainly as I can. And his lack of gross/fine motor skill coordination doesn’t help either. But he still needs to learn to clean. It’s a basic, necessary life skill. But it never hurts to make the cleaning tasks seem like fun. With a few handy tools and clever ideas, our kids might get their jobs done. Short of cracking a whip over their heads, I’ve found a few things that seem to help–at least for a time. Novelty wears off on everything, so you have to swap things up. Try some of these ideas and see if your kids take the bait.
Swiffer Wet Jet is a product I would have never purchased had I not tried it first. Thanks to my sister-in-law, I discovered this magical tool. Why is it magical? Because children love to use it!!! Mopping our hardwood flooring is one chore my oldest son loves to do thanks to this battery-operated, cleaner-squirting wonder. I’m happy. He’s happy. The Swiffer Wet Jet has preserved our mother-son relationship! Ok, maybe not to that extent, but we do love it. I have to put it up high because my toddler wants to use it too. 🙂 The only downside to the product is buying the disposable cleaning pads and bottle of cleaner. I’ve seen ideas on Pinterest for making your own reusable cleaning pads, but I like the convenience of just throwing the gunky ones out and having a fresh one to use each time. The cleaner, however, I make myself with a simple vinegar/water solution (maybe 1:4 ratio; vinegar one part). The lid to the bottle is tough to pry off the first time. Obviously, the company wants you to buy their costly refills. But I persisted, clipping off some of the plastic prongs with nail clippers and tugging really hard. Now it’s no problem to pull the top off and refill.
SprayWay glass cleaner is the best streak-free cleaner I have ever used. It sprays a robust foam that my oldest son loves to make designs with on the window or whatever surface he’s washing. Then when he gets down to business and wipes everything off, the result is sparkling clean. Other window cleaners streak, especially when kids are trying to do the job. To make it even more kid appealing, use your imagination and call it something like Fairy Glass Cleaner. You could also make a simple rule of four squirts per project so the product isn’t wasted. I’ve used microfiber towels and paper towels with this cleaner; both work great. Sprayway can be ordered from the Amazon link provided, and I have also purchased it at Costco and Home Depot.
Next, you want this fabulous scrub brush from Ikea. It’s only .49 and comes in a variety of great colors!! At that price, buy one for each kid, one color per kid. Now they’re ready to scrub the dishes or whatever you need them to do. I bought my brush a couple of years ago and loved it so much that I went back for more–to give away at random. Two years later after heavy use, my brush still looks new. The bristles haven’t bent or gotten gunk in them. I routinely toss this brush in the dishwasher to sanitize it, and it’s ready to go. I promise I wouldn’t rave about a scrub brush unless it was truly amazing! You must have one–or several!
Baking soda and vinegar. Make a paste of the two in a dirty sink or tub. What kid wouldn’t want to create a cleaning explosion?! Once the cleaning fun is done, it’s easily washed down the drain. Using these two ingredients, separately or together, you can find a myriad of natural cleaners that you make yourself on Pinterest.
Fun cleaning tools. My two-year-old loves, loves to help Mommy clean with a feather duster. Personally, I think they just spread the dust around, but he’s so happy helping me that it’s worth it. Pick up a cheap one at the dollar store. Spray bottles and squeegees are also fun tools. Put some kid friendly cleaner in a spray bottle, and let your kid go to town cleaning the shower and drying it with the squeegee.
Lysol cleaning wipes. For duh–the obvious choice! But kids will clean with these. I keep a container of them in every bathroom. It’s the only way I have a chance that my oldest son will use them. Little bro wants to use them too, but he gets to use just baby wipes. He doesn’t know the difference, and I’m not handing him a wipe with cleaning chemicals on it.
- Hide a dollar or homemade voucher in the mess they’ll be cleaning. Put it in a spot where they’d have to super clean to find it. The homemade voucher could be a simple note that says, “Clean really well, and present this voucher to enjoy one hour of screen time.”
- Play awesome music while you work.
- Clean with your kids. Work alongside them so they can learn from you.
- Set a timer. See how much you can get done in just 15 minutes. Cleaning doesn’t have to take FOREVER!
- Rotate job assignments. This adds variety.
- Let kids choose their chores. Some nasty chores are mandatory, but others can be offered as “promotions.”
- Don’t pay for every chore, but do reward. Teach your kids that cleaning is part of what a family does. We all have to pitch in. But do set up a reward that the kids choose. It can be as simple as watching a favorite movie.
- Praise or help improve. When a job is well done, praise, praise, praise! When a job needs improvement, help your child to see what they can do better and let them try again. Or do it together.
- Break down the job. The task to clean an entire bedroom, for example, could be first broken down to “Pick up all your toys in here.” When that’s done, then move to the clothes or a specific pile of stuff. Keep going until the room is done.
- Don’t expect absolute perfection. Take into account your child’s age and abilities.
- Admire a job well done. After the cleaning is done, talk with your kids about how they feel. Doesn’t everything look so much better? How do you feel now that the house is clean? Work brings us a feeling of accomplishment that we can’t get any other way. We can’t buy it or borrow it. We have to do it ourselves.
These are just a few of my ideas to help kids clean around the house. Your chore list might include other tasks in addition to cleaning. We use most of these ideas and have periodic success with our oldest son actually wanting to help. Lucky him, he “gets” to help all the time. And I break out the Swiffer Jet whenever I need to make cleaning look like fun.
What do you do to get your kids to clean and help around the house?