Training Your Preschooler to Clean with 6 Simple Tips

How old were you when you started helping out with chores around the house?

One of my memories from age 5 was learning how to fold a sheet from my oldest sister. I don’t know why that one stuck, but it did! I remember feeling like I had crossed into new territory. I was in charge of something! A sheet, yeah, but it felt so good! I was expected to help now just like the grown-ups in our household.

I want to gift my own kids with the joy that can come with responsibility. The thrill of taking ownership of something and making it better than it was. Doing simple chores around the house provides a perfect platform for growing your kids in responsibility.

Maybe you’ve tried a bunch of online chore charts and reward systems and found they aren’t a good fit for really little children. I have tried some–with limited success. But the tips I keep coming back to are these:

1) Don’t let anyone off the hook.
I’ve got one kid who loves chores and one that loves to sit on the couch. When my firstborn is told to clean, she tornados around the room and picks up most of her toys within five minutes. The problem is my second-born knows if he stalls long enough, he gets out of doing any work.

My favorite solution is to ask Ms. Exuberant to clean until half the toys are put away. Then she can enjoy a toy or book while Mr. Couch Potato finishes the rest. In this way, my firstborn’s hard work gets rewarded and motivates my second-born to pull his own weight when cleaning.

2) Help them connect their choices with the effects that come later.
I have asked my preschoolers to put their stickers in one particular place. That place is their dresser in their room where Mama doesn’t have to see it every time she walks in the front door.

But, guess what? I find Elsa and Winnie the Pooh all over the floor at very inconvenient times… like when I’m ready to mop. I’ve tried reprimanding and making them clean up before. It results in cold mop water and grumpy children.

So now I’ve learned to pass out pieces of scrap paper to each child and ask them to go on a sticker treasure hunt. The person with the most stickers on their sheet at the end gets to mop the room of their choice. (This is something the two oldest fight over every week anyway.)

Mopping can proceed almost instantly and the kids are delighted to make a game out of it.

And the latest update is they’ve gotten tired of this game and have stopped putting stickers on the floor.

3) Make your expectations clear.
This tip comes from Kim Brenneman’s book, Large Family Logistics: Post laminated pictures of what you want the clean room to look like so your toddler knows exactly what goes where. He doesn’t have to ask you or read to know where things go!

4) Make it enjoyable.
You don’t have to sing like Julia Roberts or shell out expensive rewards to have fun while cleaning. Make a cleaning playlist with your kid’s favorite songs so they look forward to cleaning with you!

5) Keep it special.
My daughter didn’t like dusting until we started using Norwex’s dusting mitt. She seems to enjoy having something all to herself that only gets used at a certain time.

If you’re having trouble with a kid and one certain chore, see if there’s an area where he can take ownership. Maybe he can pick out the color or use a special product as long as it’s safe!

6) Encourage the direction.
I have one list of age-appropriate chores that each child is expected to do. But because I want to encourage them to go beyond what I’ve asked, they can also ask me for bonus chores throughout the week. These chores are one-time tasks they can complete for a small amount of money. I tell them what the chore is and how much money they’ll get. Then they can decide if they want to do it or not.

I hope these cleaning tips prove helpful to you! Let me know any that have worked well for you! 

Preschooler with a broom