Mission: to complete a few cleaning tasks for spring while wrangling four young children. Most of the time, I don’t want to accept it. This mission looks impossible! Unfortunately, I can’t just put it behind me. The inside of the house is a wreck and I do want to be ready to share the outside area with some friends too. How do I complete the tasks while keeping children alive and cleaning up after messes? A good plan and a lot of involvement. Here’s how I spring clean with young kids.
Decide On Goals
Figure out three to five tasks you’d like to complete and write them down. You NEED to know what success will look like for you. Perfection isn’t always possible with young kids. Clarify what perfection means for this season of cleaning with young kids. My Goals are:
- Declutter books and toys in Boys bedroom. END RESULT: books fit on the shelf with a basket for library books and I will know what clothes all the boys have and need for summer.
- Clean, sweep and organize porch. END RESULT: Porch is clean and ready to decorate for Spring.
- Clean Mud Room. END RESULT: gardening table will be clean, bottles and cans taken out, summer stuff in a box, and floor cleared and vacuumed.
- Front side first story windows cleaned. END RESULT: 75% of cobwebs and markings on windows will be cleaned off.
It’s very important to know what your end result will be. Notice how I said “75% of cobwebs on first story windows will be cleaned off.” This is success for me! Someone else may not consider the task done until all the windows are done. If I get most of them cleaned, I’ll be thrilled.
If you don’t know what your end goal is, you’ll be more indecisive about when to stop cleaning. This results in crankiness from kids. Decide your end goal before you begin cleaning.
Decide on the Timeframe
One of the hardest parts of cleaning with young kids is that they’re not wired to work for hours or have mom work for hours. They need such consistent attention. Plan your spring cleaning with young kids in short spurts and over several days. You as the mom, know what your kids can handle so don’t stretch them too much. How long will one task take? An hour? a day? Give yourself and your young kids lots of time in between tasks for care. This will make the chores more doable for everyone.
Here’s what I decided for timeframe.
Two days total of spring cleaning per week. If a task goes on for more than an hour or kids are getting grumpy, I will stop and wait to finish it on the next cleaning day.
Make it Fun to Spring Clean with Young Kids
Ok! Now we get into the fun part! Teaching and rewards are the way I’ve chosen to do my cleaning this year. I’m following this model after the Young Farmers Badge Program at Meadows Bee Farm in Vermont. Kids come from hours away in order to go through weeks of training in skills such as dairy and gardening on the farm. I wondered if I could give my own kids a simple taste of that same excitement through something like work. In the Badge program, kids work hard to earn badges for mastery of different subjects. This keeps them coming back for more.
After completing our spring cleaning I’ll present my kids with a certificate as well. It’s important to show kids both how to complete a job for confidence, as well as give them pride and accomplishment for completing that task.
Here’s some ideas for teaching cleaning tasks to your young children.
Give them a small doable task and help them complete it. You know your child’s attention span best. I’ve found my kids ages 3-7 do best with learning tasks in between two and ten minutes. For example, vacuuming can be made more fun by allowing kids to try out different attachments. Give them a small space to complete, then you can finish up the rest.
Give children a wise amount of control over things like spray bottles, machines (like the vacuum cleaner) and tools. Kids love feeling grown up enough to be trusted with fun tools.
Try to have enough tools for each child. Sometimes taking turns like when using the attachments to the vacuum is the only way to gob. Other times you can give each child their own tools like a rag and spray bottle.
Some great age appropriate jobs
From the spring addition of The MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) Magazine:
- Wipe baseboards using baby wipes
- Dust coffee tables, stairs and window sills with socks on their hands
- Make a giveaway pile of toys
- Empty small trash cans
- Match socks
- Use handheld vacuum where needed
- Bring linens to the laundry room
- Pick up under couches and small spaces
- Wipe down toys with non-toxic cleaning cloth
Here’s Some ideas for giving young kids accomplishment for completing a task.
Grab a few prizes from the store to celebrate accomplished tasks. Stickers or bubbles are great ideas.
I decided to make certificates to award my kids for their hard work. If you award your kids in any way, make sure they finish what they start. This will make the reward feel some much more valuable to your child. You can grab my certificates for Free HERE.
A great idea is to have some special things set aside for after they’ve done their work. Bubbles, playdough or a new puzzle are some good ideas. Make it a big deal my wrapping a ribbon around it and presenting it after a job well done. Another idea is to show the prize at the beginning of cleaning. Then say something like, “after we’ve finished our cleaning job you may go get your new activity book and crayons and find a spot out on the porch with it!”
If all else fails, it’s ok to stop…
If things fall apart, you don’t have to push through. Have a new movie ready from the library, a snack on hand or some toys that haven’t been used for awhile. Plan for a breaking point. It will most likely come with young children. The point of cleaning with kids cannot always be about the end result. It’s just as much about how you get there. Let them take a break.
Also, never underestimate the power of a babysitter!
What it Looked like for me to Spring Clean with Young Kids
Day 1. The Boys Bedroom.
Today I told the kids that we were going to be doing some spring cleaning and introduced the idea of working hard and earning a reward at the end. My brain got extremely fatigued from giving so many directions. Three kids took turns with the vacuum and all took part in organizing trash, books and clothing. We didn’t finish. Mom still needs to declutter the books and clothing without children but overall, it was a successful cleaning day! Mom made milkshakes to celebrate.
Day 2. Decluttering
Today I went solo for a bit. It’s the weekend, Bodie’s home and one child is napping. I took the time to go through the boys clothes and declutter their books. This was very fulfilling to finish. I know this task would be very hard with kids.
Day 3. The Porch
Today I brought the kids outside onto the porch and gave them each a rag. We wiped down railings, walls and some spots of the floor. It’s not perfect, but it is good. The kids LOVED this time and especially loved using spray bottles. I filled these with water and a little vinegar.
Day 4. Windows
Today I greatly lowered my expectations for washing windows. After discussing all the “to do’s” around the farmhouse with Bodie, we decided it was low priority. I still cleaned a couple during our afternoon quiet time with my oldest. He enjoyed standing atop the stool and wiping windows down while I watched. After he finished the lower two windows I went over the top and wiped off a few more cobwebs and spider eggs. This lesson I learned was this. It’s ok to give up certain cleaning jobs in this time of life for the sake of focusing on higher priority tasks. In the words of my husband : “it’s waited three years, it can wait one more.”
Cleaning With Young Kids Can Be Hard
This is a busy time, a special time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many expectations. Don’t give in to the lie that if you don’t finish something now, it will never get done.
You can see that at the time of writing this post I still haven’t finished cleaning the mud room. It just hasn’t happened yet. Sometimes cleaning goals take weeks with young kids. Don’t get discouraged. Be patient and plan purposely.
My kids LOVE this book: The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room
This is the Vacuum I have and love.
Grab my FREE cleaning award certificates HERE.
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Wishing you the best in you cleaning!
From the hilltop,