Getting Kids to Pitch In with Cleaning

Getting Kids to Pitch In with Cleaning

By Michelle Mady

House cleaning isn’t on my list of strengths. The weeks are made of days where I am making sure everyone’s gone to school, done their homework and eaten dinner every night. Every night someone has to be driven to music lessons, work, karate or Girl Scouts. My weekdays are in overdrive from when I wake up until my head hits the pillow at night. So cleaning gets put off until the weekend.

Again, as it is not something that I like to do or do very efficiently, cleaning the house doesn’t make it very high on my priority list. However, it needs to get done. And although I would never claim to have the cleanest, most organized abode, I will say that our mess (much like our chaos) is controlled and isn’t often overwhelming. And that isn’t because of my ability to clean; it’s because of my ability to delegate.

And although I would never claim to have the cleanest, most organized abode, I will say that our mess (much like our chaos) is controlled and isn’t often overwhelming.

I don’t call them chores, but my children do help keep our home comfortable. Well, to be honest, my priority is common spaces. Whatever is going on in their bedrooms’ is entirely on them. But common space? That’s a team effort. Getting the whole team on board for this effort might seem like an impossible task, but I have worked out a few ways to ensure we are all working together.


There’s something about a written list that makes the responsibilities more tangible. There isn’t (as much) of a power struggle when we are just following along with a written system. In my house, we have a chart that lists after-school activities for each day as well as who is owning what task. Daily tasks are assigned to a child each day; e.g. taking out the trash, filling the dishwasher and helping with dinner are our three daily tasks. Yes, this is three tasks for my five children - they have lighter assignments on heavy school days or after-school activity days.


I have assigned each child one space in the house. At some point over the weekend, they have to make sure that area is cleaned up. Not only does this make cleaning the house more manageable, but it also helps them to keep each other accountable. My 8-year old is in charge of the living room and will remind her siblings to pick up their trash from that room all week. After being nagged by their younger sister enough, they start maintaining the area more often.


A 5-year old is not going to organize the toys the way that you’d like it done. However, they can likely sort the silverware. A tween can’t necessarily know how to properly clean a toilet, but they can wipe down a sink with ease.  When assigning children to tasks, keep their abilities in mind. If you are asking for a job to be done in order for them to learn to do it, know that you will have to teach them and re-teach them. If it is a job they are capable of, don’t forget that they might not be capable of doing it YOUR way. If there’s an area you need done a certain way, it’s best to assign that one to yourself. Speaking of …


Put yourself on that written list! A good coach practices with their team. Giving yourself an assignment shows that you are all working together, rather than the children working for the adults. Let your children give you feedback on your cleaning and take it with a smile; they will (eventually) return that favor. Consider giving yourself a space that they use often to both show them how it should look when cleaned, as well as showing mutual support.

Cleaning the house can be a total drag. But, with some delegation, team work, and a ton of patience, your home can be as sparkling clean as mine! <wink>

About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.

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