Children bring a sense of excitement to nearly
all they do – sometimes that’s by getting to see the world through their
youthful eyes, and sometimes it’s because you definitely wouldn’t have spent an
entire morning scrubbing crayon off your walls if the choice was up to you.
Some activities can be a particular challenge with children, such as cleaning –
firstly because it can be difficult to keep a place clean with children moving
through it constantly, and secondly because the chemicals can be a hazard to them.
That being said, we all want to enjoy a safe and clean environment, both for
our wellbeing as well as for theirs, so here are a few tips on the do’s and don’ts
of cleaning around children.
Although this may sound a bit risky, it’s
often easier to give them a sense of accountability for keeping the place
clean, rather than something you do around and in spite of them. This can come
in the form of preventative responsibilities, such as only playing with one toy
at a time, or small chores that are not too difficult for them to do, like
wiping counters with a mild and nontoxic cleaner. By encouraging their
involvement, they will also feel a sense of pride in keeping the place tidy, or
at a minimum, they’ll have a bit of an incentive to not mess it up too quickly
By ensuring everything has a place, messes
will be less likely to accumulate. Make sure children know where their
belongings go when they are considered properly ‘put away’, and enforce those rules
with rewards and consequences. Rewards can look like getting to participate in
a special activity, or something else that will incentivize them, and
consequences can look like any left-out toys going into a box that’s stored out
of reach that they will need to earn back.
These can be helpful when asking children for
help with tasks, but it can also be a useful tool when taking care of tasks
they can’t help with. For example, if you need to use harsher chemicals to
clean the kitchen, give them an activity and a timer in the living room and let
them know you need them to stay there until the timer goes off. This will give
you enough time to accomplish your tasks, and you can reward them after they
make it the entire length of time without interrupting your efforts.
This one can be tricky, but it’s important on
a number of different levels. It’s true that it’s difficult to keep a perfectly
clean home once kids enter the equation, and that fact alone makes it worth it
to set realistic standards for the new normal. But it’s also important to
celebrate the kids’ contributions, even if they don’t have the dexterity or
understanding to execute flawlessly – if their ‘made bed’ starts with just the
covers being pulled up, that’s a great jumping off point and is still deserving
of praise so they’ll be motivated to keep helping you in the future.