Whether you have 1 child or 6 keeping on top of the housework can seem like a never ending task. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have finished tidying one room only to walk into another and find that my children have destroyed it while I was busy. I have found a solution though: put them to work!
My children HATE to tidy up. When I ask them to put a few toys away there can be tears, wailing and lying on the floor complaining they are too exhausted to move despite racing around the house only minutes before. Getting them to tidy up seems like a near impossible task at times, but helping out with housework is another matter. In fact I can’t even mop the floor with the children around because my toddler insists that she has to help me. What would take 5 minutes maximum and result in a slightly damp floor turns into water play which can take up to an hour and result in a lake in the kitchen with a trail of dirty wet footprints through the rest of the house.
Here are some “chores” that children can help with instead of making more mess:
Sweeping the floor – While I prefer to avoid having help with mopping, sweeping can work well with a toddler. A top tip I heard years ago was to make a square on the floor with washi tape and encourage them to sweep as much of the crumbs as possible into the square. If you have multiple children helping you could even have 2 squares and see who can get most bits in their square in 3 minutes.
Washing – Sorting the dirty washing into different piles, putting it into the washing machine and (most excitingly) pressing the buttons to make the machine go are all great fun.
Emptying the dishwasher – When the dishwasher is finished we take the sharp knives out straight away, but then my toddler is keen to help unload (and dry) the rest. I encourage her to take out all the plastic bits and pass them to me so I can put them away and as she gets older she is allowed to help with more of the breakable items too.
Washing up – This is more of an activity to keep children entertained than actual help, but filling the sink with warm bubbly water and giving them all their plastic tableware to wash can keep children entertained for a while. Some items might need to be rewashed, the floor and child will probably end up soaked, but it should give you long enough to get on with cleaning most of the kitchen.
Pairing socks – Putting clothes away is my least favourite bit of house work and until my children learn the Marie Kondo method for folding they are of limited help in this area, I can normally persuade them to help pair up socks though. It’s really easy to make this into a game e.g. see who can find most pairs or who can find the matching sock of a pair first.
Scrubbing – Whether it’s using the scrubbing brush to clean the tough bits on the floor or the grouting in the bathroom my children find scrubbing surprisingly fun, there have even been fights over who gets to do it before (a second brush was a sensible investment soon after).
Laying the table – This is a great way to keep children entertained so you can get the last bits of dinner ready and on plates. From the point that they can safely reach the cutlery drawer my girls have been encouraged to help get the table ready for meals (and where appropriate clear the table afterwards).
Clearing cobwebs – How much fun is a feather duster? Lots it would seem. Ok there won’t be many cobwebs your children can reach on their own, but by picking them up I find it provides enough of an extension that they can reach the highest corners in our house to remove all the cobwebs. This is a great job to get Dad to help with too!
Dusting – When my eldest daughter was younger she once spent a full hour dusting the lounge. I’m pretty confident I have never given it that much attention! They have to be in the mood, but giving little ones a cloth and directing them where to dust can be a helpful task. If there are suitable surfaces (like the kitchen table) giving them a spray bottle and a cloth works well too. I usually have a dilute bottle of cleaner so I’m not worried about them getting it on their hands or inhaling strong fumes.
Feeding pets – Feeding pets helps to encourage careful pet ownership and it can help the animals appreciate the children more, especially if their normal contact isn’t always as gentle as it should be. I have found this task does need to be supervised carefully though to prevent our cat getting a weeks worth of cat biscuits poured into her bowl.
The great thing about getting children to help with the house work is that while individual tasks can take longer it often saves you work because they aren’t making more mess while you tidy. What might seem boring to us is often fun for them and doing the jobs together can be a great bonding experience for you both.
Do your children help with the housework?