Emotionally healthy children know that they are part of the family. They understand that they have a role to play in how their family functions. With clear and respectful teaching at an early age children become productive members of the family, helping out around the home.
You should begin to model good cleaning habits for your baby right away. Babies’ brains are full of mirror neurons that try to model your behavior.
If you want helpful children who clean up the messes they make around the house, you have to clean up your messes. If you want children who make their beds in the morning, you must make your bed in the morning, preferably while your child is in the room. Cleaning becomes a part of your family’s routine. You can clean together every day as you go about your daily life.
Set your children up for success by giving them complex tasks that are appropriate for their age. Here are some things my children do around our home.
One Year Old
I’ve been modeling good, regular cleaning habits to my daughters since they were young. My yougest daughter gets to watch her sister clean as well as my husband and I. These are gentle tasks I guide my youngest through every day.
- Pushing the dishwasher closed
- Bringing me cloths from the clean laundry basket
- Throwing several Duplo blocks into the “block bag”, one at a time
- Collecting pacifiers around the house
- Putting silverware in the dishwasher and taking it out again
At first I did these actions slowly while my daughter was in the room and watching me. I slowed the activity down when she tried to join in. Now they have become a part of our daily routine.
Three Year Old
My oldest daughter is capable of much more around the house. She does more to help out. Many of these “chores” are fun things that we do together every day. She really looks forward to them! I think this is because I have always made chores upbeat and fun for myself, instead of looking at them as drudgery. Many of these chores have been part of her routine since she was 2.
Sometimes she does give me some “push back” when its time to clean. Thankfully I’ve read Anna Dewdney’s fabulous children’s book “Llama Llama Mess Mess Mess” to her many times. She has seen how her friend little Lama helps his mom clean around the house. When I bring this up to her, she is eager to join in the group activity.
Remember: Our children pick up on how WE feel about things. They mimic those feelings. Our children also really want to do what we do every day. Let them!
My three year old does these activities every day with my supervision. Sometimes I have to prompt her nicely to do them.
- “Make” her bed with my help
- Decide between a dress or pants/jeans and pick out an outfit
- Unloads all the plastic dishes/tupperware/cups from the dishwasher and puts them away.
- Sorts the silverware into the drawer (minus the butter knives – teaches math)
- Sets the table for every meal
- Makes oatmeal for breakfast with my help (I cook it – teaches math)
- Whisks eggs for breakfast (while I steady the bowl)
- Clears her plate and puts it in the sink
- Folds all the cloths from the laundry in half, stacks them and puts them away (early mathematics teaching)
- Cleans up her books and puts them away in bookshelf when she’s done using them
- Puts away her dolls and doll clothes when she’s done using them
- Cleans up her blocks when she’s done using them
- Picks up her stuffed animals and kitchen gadgets when she’s done using them
- Picks out outfits for her baby sister
- Puts dirty clothes in the hamper
- Dusts low shelves with microfiber cloth (after i’ve cleared them)
- Takes out her art supplies with my supervision and puts them away when she’s finished (except paint)
- Sorts her gummy vitamins into weekly organizer (with my CLOSE supervision)
- Holds dustpan when I sweep
- Puts outdoor toys away when finished with them
- Takes off shoes outside and puts them on the shoe rack
- Grabs 2 washcloths at bathtime (we count them together)
- Wipe inside of fridge (lowest shelf and removable tubs) after I’ve cleaned it
- Put ingredients back in pantry when finished
My children acquired many of these helpful habits just by watching me clean every day. I did my part by gently encouraging them to do more. I always made sure the task was something that they could complete and gain satisfaction from. Some tasks I suggested to them like a game. Others, like cleaning up their the blocks, require consistency and firm, gentle guidance.
You can do it! It takes more time to teach children how to be good, productive members of the home. Your children will reward you ten tines tenfold for your efforts.
What tasks are your children responsible for every day? Let me know in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading!