Thursday, July 12, 2012

Housekeeping with Kids

Excitement is high in the house this morning.  Nana and Pa are coming up this weekend to celebrate Ben's 9th birthday.  I look around this small, cluttered home filled to (almost) overflowing with kids, their dirty handprints and toys that seem to reproduced in the dark of night and wonder how I can possibly whip it into shape in time.

There's an old adage that says "Cleaning the house when the children are little is like shoveling during a snowstorm."  The implication that is not lost on me when I spend the morning cleaning upstairs just to come down to chaos at lunchtime.

So what is a Mama to do?  I could keep the TV on, plugging these little minds in to distraction for the day.  Or I could send them outside, care free of any responsibility for the family home.

I choose to include them.  It's another form of Home Apprenticeship, a concept that took me years to learn and something I still need to be reminded of.  I fill a jar with little pieces of construction paper, jobs that even the smallest among them could complete.  I focus on finding tasks that are both quick and simple to keep our momentum up and guard against drudgery.

Once breakfast is done and all the daily jobs of teeth brushing and bedmaking have been accomplished, each  rummages through the jar to find a job, before rushing off to get started.

Before long, the job jar is empty, the house looks pretty darn good and everyone is rewarded with popsicles.  I tell each one how proud I am of what they have accomplished, what a blessing they have been to me and how beautiful it is to see them taking an important role in our family.  They beam at me and run off to enjoy the rest of their day.  I offer up a little prayer of thanks for all of them, from oldest to youngest.

Including my children in the work of running a family reminds me of the gift that they are in my life.  It gives them the opportunity to bless.  We all come away winners.

Want to make a job jar?  It's easy!  Here are some ideas of quick and simple tasks for kids:

Sweep the front porch and walk

Sweep back deck/porch

Sweep/Vacuum stairs

Wash windows upstairs/downstairs

Dust Living room/dining room

Wipe kitchen/dining room chairs

Wash cupboard/appliances in kitchen

Pick up trash in yard

Pick up toys in yard

Collect/bring down dirty laundry

Fold a load of clean laundry

Organize book shelf

Collect/put away toys downstairs

Wash walls

Take out bathroom(s) trash

A word about cleaning solution:  I use a vinegar/water combination and put it in spray bottles for each of my kids.  It is nontoxic and natural, yet works great to clean and disinfect.  I put a few drops of orange essential oils in the mixture to mask the vinegar scent, but this is not necessary.  I can feel good about my kids washing windows or cleaning off chairs without being worried about them being exposed to harmful chemicals.  And if Peter gets a hold of a a vinegar and water-doused cloth, I know he'll be just fine.

How do you housekeep with kids?


  1. I love this! Just this week I started having my almost 3-year old unpack the dishwasher with me, and he absolutely loves it. I see how it's important to start getting kids involved with housework at a young age - while it's still fun to work alongside mama and the work's not a chore. He loves helping with laundry, wiping up spills, and setting the table - but also sweeping the walls, standing in front of the vacuum, wiping hands on the windows, and all sorts of things that are less helpful! ;)

    1. Yes,this is is so important! And, unfortunately for me, something I only really realized somewhat recently. My little ones love to help! Yesterday I was cleaning out the fridge and little Peter was so underfoot, so I gave him his own cloth, wetted down with water. He toddled all around, wiping down whatever he could reach. Precious!

  2. I love the jar idea! Brilliant. Here's one to add to the jar that I learned from a friend: "Helping Hands," which means the child asks, "Mama, how may I help you?" Then you can assign them something as needed, and they learn the habit of offering help. My kids think it's a game, and love it.

    1. I love this idea! On our daily chore list for each kids "Help Mama" is one of the items. That ensures that they each come up to me and ask me what I need from them, and lets me assign tasks as needed. I love that it trains them to ask how they can help others!

  3. The little one who I babysit has helped me with the dishwasher for over a year now, she pulls out the dishes and stacks them I of course grab fragile or sharp items quickly. It works well for us to do it together, and she even helps me dust and sweep, she will be three in August.

  4. My little man loves to help with the cleaning, give him a rag and a spray bottle of vinegar, water and essential oils and he is good to go. He also loves to use the vacuum. He would prefer to jump on the bed as I make it, but I guess that just makes if a whole lot more fun!

  5. R has taken it upon himself to start putting his dishes in the sink and I can get B to set the table with just a little help. I can also get R to pick up paper (they like to shred paper and leave it everywhere) around the house and put it in the recycling box and I can get both of them (sometimes) to pick up their toys and move them to the windowsills so I can vacuum. R is also good at loading the washing machine (even when I don't need him to) and B also likes to help load and unload the washer and dryer. I think once B is a little better at not being distracted, he will be on full-time laundry duty.

    Distilled vinegar is a bit expensive here (I can't find it in bulk or larger-sizes), so my cleaning spray is the same as our homemade diaper spray (water, a squirt of Dr. Bronner's soap, a drop or two of tea tree oil).

    As a random bonus, if you switch out half the water with vodka, you get a fantastic substitute for Febrese.

    1. We love Dr. Bronners! I use it for everything. Good thoughts on the febreeze idea too!


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