Smiling curly-haired blond kid with striped t-shirt putting clean clothes into teal laundry hamper with laundry machine in background

When it comes to household messes, every member of the family contributes to their creation. That means it’s not fair for mom (or dad!) to wash all the dishes, vacuum all the carpets and put away all the toys solo.

Keeping a tidy house is everyone’s responsibility, and it’s a great message for children to learn early. Divvy up tasks according to age and skill set and watch your family come together with a common goal. Maybe you’ll even have enough time and energy left over for a little me-time.

1Start Them Young

Young kids—we’re talking two- and three-years-old—love to mimic their parents. And that includes everything from repeating swear words to tidying the house.

At first, it may seem like they need more help than they can give, but simple tasks like putting away Lego, sorting clean cutlery or organizing dirty laundry by colour can be a great way to keep young children occupied and get them into the habit of participating in household chores.

2Make It a Family Activity

Rather than saying, “it’s time to do your chores,” try “it’s time for us to do our chores.” If you simultaneously help to clean the house and have an upbeat attitude towards housework, your kids will be more likely to see it as a normal, positive part of their routine.

3Create Kid-Friendly Toolkits

Give your children ownership over certain tasks and provide all of the cleaning supplies for them to get their jobs done right.

Each kit might feature a colourful caddy or bucket and contain mini rubber gloves, a short broom and dustpan, microfibre cloths, wet wipes and non-toxic cleaning spray.

4Divide Tasks According to Age

Make sure that the chores fit where your kids are at developmentally.

A three-year-old might be only able to sort toys and clothing, while a six-year-old can likely wipe down baseboards, light switches and doorknobs, set and clear place settings, and even use a lightweight vacuum.

By age eight, your child might be responsible enough to feed pets on their own and wiping down appliances.

Use this easy chart to divvy up chores for kids aged two, three and four.

5Role Play

Pretend play is an important part of psychosocial development and helps young children to become more logical and empathetic[1]. Whether it’s playing princess, house, doctor or restaurant, many young kids have a flair for the dramatic and enjoy putting themselves into new roles and scenarios.

Your child might love to imagine they’re cleaning a hotel, running their own housekeeping company or—if your kid is obsessed with Disney princesses—living the life of Cinderella. (In the last scenario, you’re the wicked stepmother. Sorry!)

6Be Specific

Instead of saying, “clean up your bedroom,” try “put your dirty clothes in the laundry bin” or “put your books back on their shelf.” This tactic is especially helpful for young children who don’t know where to start or what is expected.

7Make a Chore Chart

To help kids keep track of their responsibilities and feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments, make a weekly or monthly chore chart (craft time!) and check off each item with a metallic sticker or bright stamp. Young children will love the visual reward, while tweens and teens can use the list to manage their time.

8Praise Effort, Not Perfection

Especially when starting a new task, it’s important to realize that your kids will take some time to get the hang of it. Take a three-part approach: Show them what needs to be done, do the task together and then leave them to do it on their own.

When the chore is done, show your appreciation for their help and, if necessary, offer constructive criticism along with a compliment. Whatever you do, don’t redo their work—at least, not when they can see you do it. If you’re really particular about the way you fold your towels, for example, save that for your own to-do list.

9Add Music

Music is an excellent motivator for almost every activity, from cooking dinner to working out. And when it comes to unpleasant tasks like cleaning the toilet or mopping the floor, it can be a lifesaver.

Let different members of the family choose their favourite up-tempo tunes and even use individual songs to encourage speed and friendly competition. Whoever puts away the most toys or folds the most clothes before the song ends wins!

10Set Deadlines

As kids get older, they may start to resist rigid timelines for completing their homework or chores. Instead of ordering your child to clean her room right away, you might ask her to clean it before dinner, before she calls a friend or before the end of the weekend.

Whatever you do, try to avoid promising an allowance for completed chores. Even though money may be a great motivator at first, it teaches kids that they’re owed payment[2] for helping the house run smoothly.

Instead, try to instill pride in the tasks themselves and ownership over certain aspects of the household. Of course, the younger you make housework a habit, the easier it will be.

Kids' Cleaning Essentials