how to get your kids to clean (without losing it)

how to get your kids to clean (without losing it)

I am an expert at exactly zero things. That especially includes this whole parenting thing. Anyone who claims to be a parenting expert is just a misguided fool asking to be blindsided by their kids’ wild and crazy misdeeds.

I’m not perfect and neither are my kids. But that doesn’t mean we all haven’t learned something valuable along the way. And while my house is a mess more often than not, there are a few little tricks I’ve learned to get my kids to help clean up with minimal resistance.

1. Make it routine.

This is probably the most important thing you can do to get those little buggers to cooperate. If they don’t even think about cleaning, they’re not going to complain about it. How do you make them not think about it? You make it something that happens everyday—like bedtime reading or brushing their teeth.

If you get them in a routine to make their bed before they leave their room in the morning or clean up their toys before dinner, they’ll start to see it as a given. That doesn’t mean they’ll never complain about it, but when it becomes a part of the day-to-day routine instead of a half-hearted argument, the push back (usually) decreases considerably.

2. Use tools that make it fun.

I don’t know what it is about mops and brooms and dusters, but my kids absolutely love them. So when Swiffer offered to send me a #BigGreenBox, I knew I had to take them up on it. A whole box full of cleaning products my kids think are fun? Um, yes please.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could take this whole “fun” thing and turn it around to my advantage.

#SwifferEffect for the win! The girls have literally been asking if they can clean and the other morning I woke up to strange noises coming from the hall only to find Ellie trying to wrestle the Swiffer Sweeper downstairs so she could do some pre-sunrise cleaning.

Since the Swiffer peeps were cool enough to send two Big Green Boxes, I decided to surprise my sister with one. With two (messy) kids and black floors, she is constantly pulling out mops and brooms to keep the mess in check. We had Ellie pop open the box with my niece in hopes of transferring some of the cleaning product excitement. Liv wasn’t so sure how she felt about it, but my sister was stoked—especially when she realized the Sweeper has both wet and dry cloths.


3. Give them options.

Like most humans, kids like options. It makes them feel like they have some form of control, even if the options are a) wash the dishes or b) take out the trash. Either way, an item is being checked off of your to-do list, the kids are pitching in, and the house is one step farther away from being declared a state of emergency. It’s another win all around.

4. Give them an allowance.

I’ve always sort of struggled with this one. I don’t want the girls to do things that they should be doing as people living in and contributing to our house solely because they want money for it. At the same time, teaching them money management skills by letting them learn the hard way that it pays to save and using an allowance as a helpful reminder to do things they can never seem to remember seems like a pretty good idea.

In hopes of making all of that happen, I put together chore charts for the girls. Most of it is straight forward stuff like picking up their toys and making the bed. I added vacuuming the carpet twice a week and Swiffering the kitchen three times a week to Sam’s chart, since she’s older and can help out a bit more. Ellie’s chart includes pictures to help her remember since she can’t read yet.

Since I wanted them to get excited, we took an extravagant trip to the dollar store where the girls picked out frames. When we got home, they painted them.

How to Get Your Kids to Clean: chore chartThe one caveat I gave them was that if I have to remind them to do something, it doesn’t count towards their allowance. This way, it will become more of a routine and I won’t have to nag. I’m just trying to work out bonus points for doing things that aren’t on the list. Ellie’s obsessed with the Swiffer Duster and would happily dust the whole house daily. It’s good to have some sort of incentive for going above and beyond, right?

5. Turn it into a game.

When all else fails, I generally turn to games. Like I mentioned in Five Steps to Organizing Your Life, I even use this trick against myself. It works.

There are so many ways to do this. Put the kids in the messiest area of the house, set a timer for five minutes and bet them that they can’t clean the whole room before the timer goes off. Or set out a couple of baskets and tell them whoever fills theirs first (with things that belong in it) wins. Or have Swiffer races down the hallway—whatever it takes!

Games make crappy tasks more fun. They’re also pretty amazing motivators. If you haven’t tried this (sort of sneaky) tactic yet, you need to.

Do you have any tricks for getting kids (or anyone resistant) to clean?

Like a Mother | How to Get Your Kids to Clean

P.S. Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet did a cute video for Swiffer with his momma. Check it out if you’re a fan.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Written by Jennifer Garry
Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she's not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.