Spring has sprung, and it’s time to go after the dust bunnies! But spring cleaning is not a job that parents relish tackling alone; and children don’t tend to put chores high up on their preferred to-do list – unless those chores are presented to them as really fun.
With a bit of ingenuity, spring-cleaning tasks can pique and hold a child’s interest. But you’ll have to get creative. How about giving your kids damp washcloths and then setting a timer? See who can attack the largest section of baseboards and woodwork before the timer sounds. When it does, have your children “freeze” and show you their progress. Offer praise or a prize to the winner and start the race again. Or give them layers of thick old socks to wear for sliding around while polishing the hardwood floors; call it a skating party.
Kids love to engage in make-believe. Pretend to be the put-upon Cinderella who needs their help. While you worry aloud about how you will ever get the palace clean enough to please your stepmother, your child can play the “cleaning fairy godmother,” magically making all your kitchen appliances shine or dusting all your furniture, as you exclaim over each “miracle.”
Or pretend you’re from a bygone era. Talk like pilgrims (using “thee” and “thou” and saying things like “pray thee kind miss” or “kind sir”) as you “churn butter” (while actually swishing around and wringing out your hand-washable drapes in the bathtub).
Capitalize on your imagination and that of your child, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish together.
Coaxing Kids to Help Out
We asked local parents to tell us how they get their children motivated to help out with cleaning chores around the house. Here are some of their comments, posted on our Facebook page:
“Rearrange their bedroom. It sparks their interest in keeping it neat!”
– Liz Trachier Burke
“The key is creative rewards!! …. Movie and picnic on the floor at the TV, a PJs ice-cream trip, ‘crazy dinner’ (they pick), cousin sleepover…”
– Sharon Simmons Chase
“I have sock-matching parties, as this is one of my least favorite chores. I even posted pics to Facebook a while back of our awesome fun. They were so excited when they found matches. Plus it’s good for visual discrimination and so many other things. My kids are 5, 3 and 2. It has become a weekly activity!”
– Victoria Peck Bagtaz
“We donate items we no longer need to a local charity. My son gets creative and comes up with stories about how another family might like something we had.”
– Darlene Coyne-Tupta
“Once when we watched Annie, my kids asked if they could scrub the floors every day for a week!”
– Deanna DeMattia Wright
Mary Alice Cookson is associate editor of the Boston Parents Paper.