10 Tips for Setting Up a Cleaning Routine for Kids

Do you struggle to get your kids help you clean the house? Are they expected to contribute to the upkeep of your home? Do they have a cleaning routine?

Today I’ll share how I organized our cleaning routine one summer when my kids were younger and some tips to help you set up a cleaning routine for your kids.

Why Should Kids Help Clean?

I think it’s important for kids to help clean the house. Even when they’re little. But especially as they get older. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps them make less mess.  Kids are messy. And they don’t usually see the mess. Piles of dirty laundry. Crumbs on the floor. Toys everywhere. Dirt from their shoes in the hallway. Stains in the toilet because they forget to flush or pee on the floor because their aim was off. And so on. And that doesn’t include the stuff they don’t contribute too, like pet hair and dust. By getting them involved in helping clean the house, they became a little more aware of the mess in the house.  That helped them make a little less of it.  
  • Kids learn valuable skills by learning how to clean. There are lots of stories of teens going off to college or university and not being able to do laundry or clean up after themselves. I didn’t want that to happen to my kids. My son is in university now and lives in a townhouse with 7 other guys. I know they don’t clean all the time, but at least I know he can contribute when they do. If you teach your kids how to clean, their future roommates and spouses will thank you 🙂
  • Kids feel important when they are a contributing part of the household.  Sure they complain about having to clean, but they also feel proud when they do. That summer my kids kept wondering if their dad would notice what they cleaned when he got home. If he didn’t… they were sure to tell him. And if he did… wow… big smiles all around!

I didn’t start out giving all those reasons to my kids. Mainly that summer I told them if they wanted me to do all the fun stuff they wanted to do, then they had to help me with the cleaning. But more reasons came out as time went on.

Our Summer Cleaning Routine

At the top of our cleaning routine I listed the things we were each responsible for. They’d already been doing a few things every day/week and they were expected to continue doing those.

Chart showing chores kids regularly do

I found it hard to put on paper all the things my hubby and I actually did, because we’re pretty flexible about a lot of the things on our lists, and it varies a lot depending on work schedules, but this was a start.

Then I broke down the cleaning tasks that I thought the kids could do into small, manageable pieces and scheduled them into a bi-weekly schedule.

Kids' cleaning schedule for each week

That summer our schedule alternated each week between home weeks and camp weeks, which ended up working really well for our cleaning routine. I put the shortest tasks into the camp weeks because we did those tasks before leaving in the morning. And I made scheduled the longer tasks during the home weeks since we weren’t rushing to get out the door those days.

A few notes…

Our basement was where our cat spent most of her time… so there was always a lot of cat hair down there. And in the summer we spent a lot of time down there because it’s the coolest place in the house. Temperature-wise that is… although it’s a pretty “cool” place to hang out too. Anyway, it needed to be cleaned weekly. The rest of the house could manage with less frequent vacuuming most of the time, with some sweeping in between.

The bathrooms they cleaned on the camp weeks were the upstairs one and the main floor one. They got the most use. It worked really well to have each of them doing a different bathroom at the same time so there was less fighting more space to work. They decided to alternate which one they did each time, since one counter was larger than the other.  

On the bottom of the page, I listed several cleaning tasks that they could do to earn extra screen time.

List of chores for kids to earn extra screen time

These were cleaning tasks that didn’t need to happen on a particular schedule.  Some I just wanted done once in the summer (spring cleaning type tasks that weren’t done that spring). Others were just ongoing tasks they could do any time they just wanted to earn a little extra screen time.

I estimated how long it would take for them to complete the task and then gave a similar amount of screen time. When projects were large, I broke them down so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Screen time was definitely the currency that summer 🙂

How it turned out

I’d planned for each task to take about 15 minutes (or maybe a little longer at the beginning when they were learning it) and overall that was a pretty good estimate. Except for vacuuming the floors. Definitely misjudged that one!  So I changed it to each of them vacuuming one room to make it less overwhelming. Then I’d finish the rest.

Some cleaning tasks my kids took on were ones they had done before, but some were totally new to them. The new tasks required some training and there was definitely a learning curve.

I quickly realized that if I wanted to keep them motivated, I had to lower my expectations. Like folding and putting away laundry. Plenty of clothes were a little more wrinkly than usual, and their drawers were messier.  But it was summer so who cares if a t-shirt was a little wrinkly? The point is they were learning. And with thousands more loads of laundry in their future, I think the learning curve was worth it!

By the end of the summer, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they had learned and improved in all the cleaning tasks they had taken on!

They liked some chores more than others. Believe it or not, both of their favourite places to clean were the bathrooms!

But they did NOT like vacuuming. Well, the couches were OK. And the laminate floors. But not the carpets. Luckily we don’t have very many of those.

Child vacuuming.

It was a bit tough for them to maneuver the vacuum and they found it hard to cover the whole floor (they tended to do it fairly haphazardly and missed a lot of areas). Plus their speed did not increase over the summer, like it did for other tasks, which only frustrated them more.  

{And yes… my son was vacuuming in his pajamas… we had several pj days that summer… especially near the end!}

Child cleaning a mirror.

Could I have done some of the cleaning quicker and better than my kids did that summer? Sure. Would they have learned as much as they did if I’d done that? Nope. So, despite some complaints from my kiddos, it was worth it.

Over the years, our cleaning routine changed, but the basic ideas remained the same. During the school year, they had weekend cleaning tasks and we focused our efforts on the spaces that needed it the most. We gave them choices each fall on what their responsibilities would be so they didn’t complain as much about doing their tasks. Over time, they did pretty much all the “usual” cleaning tasks independently and well.

Your turn!

OK… are you ready to get your kids cleaning? Here are 10 tips to successfully implement a cleaning routine for your kids: 

  1. Break each cleaning task down to something that would take you about 5 minutes and then plan for it to take them about 10-15 minutes. {In our case I separated toilets from sinks/counters, even though I would normally do those together}
  2. Introduce new cleaning tasks gradually so they have time to master each one before learning new ones. {I didn’t do this but I think it would have been better if I had}
  3. Take time to show them how to do the task, and repeat as needed until they know what to do
  4. Make it clear what you expect it to look like so they know what to strive for
  5. Lower your expectations initially. They’re kids… and they’re learning. You wouldn’t expect them to ride a bike or bake a cake as well as you right away, so don’t place unrealistic expectations on them for cleaning.
  6. Gradually and gently point out new things they may not have thought of. {For example, with bathroom sinks/counters, initially I wanted them to wipe everywhere but didn’t overwhelm them by worrying about cleaning around the drain or behind the taps. I added those in, one at a time, as I helped them clean each week.}
  7. Resist the urge to “do the job right” after they clean something. Or if you really need to do a better job, make sure you do it later and that they don’t see you do it. You want them to build confidence and pride in their skills and if they know you’ll just re-do it later anyway then there’s no motivation for them to improve.
  8. Keep the whole experience positive. Especially early on.  
  9. Praise their efforts and help them feel proud about what they’ve done. This goes a long way toward motivating them to do their best next time.
  10. Thank them for helping you and for contributing to your home and family. {Don’t you wish someone thanked you for cleaning the house?}

If you haven’t involved your kids in cleaning but want to set up a cleaning routine, which of these tips do you think will help you the most? If your kids do help you clean, how did you teach them? What tips can you share for setting up a cleaning routine?

If you need help decluttering or organizing, contact me for in-person organizing services in the Mississauga area, or virtual organizing services anywhere else.

Happy organizing!