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Episode #012: Cleaning with Kids

Tips and tricks for cleaning with kids

I’m not a parenting expert. But as a mom of two boys under the age of 4 who knows the value of a clean, organized house I have learned a thing or two about cleaning with kids underfoot. 

My primary goal as a mother is to raise my boys to become men of good character. That includes traits like self confidence, empathy, generosity, and kindness. Practicing the skills necessary to be a contributing household member is a small but important way to develop these characteristics from a young age!

In this post I am sharing everything I have learned so far about cleaning with kids. I’m sharing ways to set up your home for cleaning success, daily routines that encourage kids to practice basic cleaning skills, and more. 

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How do you clean when you have kids?

Do you have young, busy children who tend to un-do everything you try to clean or organize? Same.

I know how frustrating it can feel to fold a stack of laundry only to watch it get destroyed seconds later by a curious, playful toddler. It can be maddening! 

The best way I have found to maintain (most) patience and still get the job done is by letting my small kids participate. When folding laundry, they get to play in the pile of towels while I fold the clothes. When cleaning floors, they get to follow me with their child-sized vacuum and mop while I do the deep clean. After meals they get to use their small spray bottles to wipe down tabletops and chairs while I polish everything off. 

To do this in the least stressful way possible, it’s helpful to organize your home with cleaning tools within reach of children, create clear zones for all of their toys to be put away after play time, and simplify laundry routines as much as possible.

Step 1: Declutter

Less stuff means less mess. Less stuff to put away, less stuff to clean, less stuff to clean around. Less stuff that small kids can take then sprinkle all around your house. 

With that said, decluttering with small children present can feel more overwhelming than its worth. Plus, decision fatigue sets in QUICKLY while sleep deprived.

One solution in this case could be collecting large cardboard boxes and decluttering one room at a time. Pack items away like you would if you were packing for a move. Label each box by room. Stack these boxes in a garage, a closet, a shed, or even a spare corner of a room. 

If after 3-6 months you haven’t re-opened the boxes then it’s probably safe to say you no longer need the contents of those boxes. Feel free to donate or dispose of each box (don’t re-open it!) as appropriate. 

More related posts that you might find helpful:

Step 2: Organize Kids Toys

Make it easy for kids to put their toys away!

This process will require time, thought, and energy on the front end but will pay off in time and energy savings in the long run. 

Create Zones

Start by assessing your space. Determine an area or zones where you can create kid friendly toy storage. Invest in shelves and storage bins that suit your space and decor. 

Label Everything

Print labels (use icons or photographs of toy categories for pre-readers) and affix them to the toy bins and baskets. Labels not only help kids put toys back properly, labels also help spouses, babysitters, grandparents and friends clean up as well. 

Add “Clean Up” to Your Daily Routine

We do this at the very end of each day right before we start bedtime. This might be terrible parenting but I told my 3 year old that our robot vacuum will suck away any toys left on the floor if we don’t put them away before bedtime… take it or leave it, but now we all clean up toys every evening without resistance!

Related posts that you might find helpful:

NOTE: Do you live in a small space? View these small space blogs for inspiration:

Step 3: Invest in Child Sized Cleaning Tools

This has been a big help in our house. Little kids really just want to copy whatever their parents or older siblings are doing. By providing matching, child-sized cleaning tools for our kids they can participate in the cleaning process on their own without interfering. 

8oz spray bottles

Small Cleaning Cloths or Hand Mitts

  • Cleaning Towels – You can cut these into quarters to make them easier for small hands to handle
  • Hand Mitts – Great for very young kids because they don’t have to grip to use them effectively.

Broom and Dust Pan

Mini-Vacuum

These don’t actually function, but they come in handy when I’m using our cordless vacuum and my kids are grabbing at it to “help.” I give them their own mini vacuum and they’re happy to push that around behind me. 

Mop

My kids use the flat head mop from the Lovevery Storyteller Play Kit because it works similar to my Cuban Mop

Placemat

Small kids can help set the table! These place mats serve as a guide so they learn the proper location for plates, cups, and utensils. 

Folding Cloths

If you’re folding laundry or just want to encourage your kids to practice folding skills then these cloths are super handy. You can make them yourself or buy them pre-made. 

T-Shirt Folding Board

This is kind of a cumbersome tool to store, but it could be helpful if you have slightly older kids who want to help fold their own clothes. This folding board makes it feel almost like a game and the end result is FAR tidier than if they were to do it by themselves.

Related posts that you might find helpful:

Step 4: Clean with ingredients that are safe for kids to use

If the goal is to encourage kids to clean beside you, then swap out your cleaning products for options that are made from gentle, natural ingredients. 

Is natural, green cleaning something you’re interested in? I have done all of the research for you. Save time with my Green Cleaning Blueprint.

It’s a digitable (downloadable and printable) document that includes:

  • The natural cleaning recipes I use in my home
  • Printable cleaning recipe cards and spray bottle labels
  • Cleaning checklists for every room in your house
  • A master cleaning checklist you can use to delegate tasks or rooms to various household members
  • Instructions for how to clean your entire home naturally

Save time and grab your copy of my Green Cleaning Blueprint today.

Step 5: Simplify Laundry with Kids Capsule Wardrobes

Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be minimalist wardrobes. If you or your child love clothes and you have the storage space, then have at it. With that said, here are a few tips to make dressing young kids and toddlers a little bit easier.

Choose Coordinating Colors

Invest in clothes that all coordinate with one another. That way if your child chooses to dress themself, they can’t go wrong with any top and bottoms combo.

For my boys this means mostly neutral colors, simple patterns, and no shiny, synthetic fabrics (like basketball shorts).

Avoid White

All of my kids’ clothes go in a single cold wash cycle. I don’t want to spend extra time separating whites from colors (their white shirts WILL eventually go gray if you combine them). 

I make sure the fabrics we choose are of similar quality and weight so they wash evenly together. Then I can dry them in the same cycle as well.

This also makes it MUCH easier for me to delegate laundry chores to my kids in the future. They only have to remember one setting on the washer and dryer and can toss everything in a single load. 

Related posts that you might find helpful:

Kids Cleaning Routines

Once you have organized your home and equipped your kids with cleaning tools, it’s time to put it all into practice. 

Personally, I have never “forced” my kids to do chores. Instead, I have incorporated small housekeeping tasks into our daily family routines. Setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, washing our laundry, picking up toys, making our beds… these are all housekeeping tasks that are simply part of our regular routine. 

Routinizing “chores” definitely makes me feel less resistant about doing them, and the same applies to my kids. Here are a few of our current routines with small kids:

Morning Routine

Routine:

  • Bathroom/change diaper
  • Brush Teeth
  • Eat breakfast (I prep this before my preschooler wakes up)
  • Clear breakfast table and load dishwasher
  • Wipe table and counters
  • Sweep floor
  • Get dressed + comb hair
  • Pack backpack
  • On time to school

Bonus Task: 

  • One laundry load – Both of my kids are capable of loading the washer and moving wet laundry to the dryer with my help

After School / Lunch / Daycare Routine

Routine:

  • Remove shoes – we do this outside so I can help my preschooler dump the bucket of sand that somehow finds its way into my preschooler’s shoes
  • Wash hands – I encourage my kids to try it themselves first then I’ll help to make sure they are actually clean. Here are some tools that make washing hands easier:
  • Unpack backpack(s) – Remove lunch pack, empty leftover food into trash or compost, place empty containers by the sink
  • Prepare a snack

Evening Routine

Goals

  • Prepare and eat dinner
  • Clear the table and load the dishwasher
  • Wipe table and counters
  • Sweep crumbs
  • Pick up toys
  • Kids take a bath
  • Bedtime routine

Chore Charts

Every child, parent, and family is unique. Some kids are super motivated by sticker charts and checklists. Others get excited when they know an allowance or prize waits for them when they complete their chores. And some kids (my preschooler) literally do not care about incentives of any kind and will only participate if they agree it’s a good idea. 

You know your kids better than anyone else, so you can decide the ways they are most motivated. 

If you’re not feeling creative enough to create your own chore chart (or routine chart) there are TONS of options available on Etsy. Some are PDF templates that you can download and print, others are more whiteboard style that you can erase and reuse. Definitely check them out and determine what’s best for your family. 

Tips and tricks for cleaning with kids

And there you have it! My tips for cleaning with kids. Keep it fun and best of luck!