Spring Cleaning: Getting the kiddos to help

by Kim Merrikin, Seattle Goodwill
May 17, 2015

We’re well into spring now with weather waning toward summer warmth, the sun setting later, all of the open-toed shoes coming out, and… the rest of spring cleaning waiting to be done.

If you’re a parent, you know it can be hard to get spring cleaning done with the kiddos running around—and equally as difficult to motivate the older kids to get involved. There’s the age old adage “many hands makes light work”—so what are some ways to engage those (slightly smaller) hands in age-appropriate cleaning tasks? Here are a few ideas:

While you may not be quite the magician that Mary Poppins was to pull the old “spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down” trick, turning cleaning time into game time can be helpful. When it comes to tidying up toys, deciding which ones will stay or go can be turned into a game by placing “stay”, “garbage” and “donate”. Place boxes in the middle of the room, and attempt to safely toss items into the correct box. You can also use mini-competitions to get tasks done—for example, before mowing the lawn, send the kids out for five minutes and say “whoever picks up the most sticks and rocks wins!”

If you’ve got more than one kid, you’ve got a great opportunity to teach about teamwork and project management. Invite one of the older children to “manage” a project. Explain the tasks within the “project” that need to be accomplished, and have them make and execute a plan to get it done. A good example might be cleaning up toys in the back yard—all of the kids can help find/put away toys, but the “Project Coordinator” could be the one establishing where they go, which ones need to be donated, and which ones should be disposed of.

There are a lot of tasks that are low to the ground that adults cringe at doing because they are quite literally painful to do. This can include the pick-up-the-sticks-before-mowing task, wipe down floor-level cabinets, and dust baseboards, coffee tables, and other low-to-the-ground furniture pieces. Don’t forget to crank the tunes to get the dance party effect!

As a parent, you probably already know all about incentivizing tasks—and you probably know what works best for your kids to get them motivated. One idea that we liked was to hide (wrapped!) treats in areas that your child might be cleaning—kind of like an Easter egg hunt! It can also be as simple as “once we get the back yard cleaned up, you guys can play in it!”

Many tasks don’t require harsh and toxic chemicals to get them done well. Take a look at these recipes for all-natural cleaners from Keeper of the Home—many of these mixtures will turn tasks that were once off-the-list for kiddos to do because of abrasive, harmful chemicals, into can-do tasks with supervision!

Do you have any tips for getting kids engaged with spring cleaning? Let us know!


Kim fancies herself a professional communicator. She has experience in writing, graphic design, and social media, and is always looking to expand her knowledge base into other fields of communication. She loves people, coffee & Seattle (including the rain).

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