My mama just finished her top-to-bottom spring housecleaning, and is rightly proud of herself for having that checked off. I’m just getting started on mine, now that my spring consignment sale events are behind me. And just as when I was growing up, there are certain aspects of seasonal deep-cleaning that are definitely a family affair around here. Which may have some of you wondering, “What jobs can kids do cleaning house?”
You’d be surprised. More than you think, I bet.
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To be fair, there are some jobs even grownups should leave to the pros. But now that we’ve gotten into a more regular family cleaning schedule, where all four of us pitch in each Sunday for a “Cleaning Power Hour,” the big spring deep-cleaning shouldn’t be so bad.
So while I’ve written elsewhere about different techniques to help get your kids involved in routine chores (including cleaning chores), this post is going to focus more on what sorts of cleaning jobs kids can handle at different ages.
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This does not mean ALL kids SHOULD be able to handle EVERY job on this list at every minimum suggested age. After all, some kids are developmentally ahead of the curve in some areas, while others lag further behind in those same areas. Also, you should not expect your child to do a given job perfectly on the first try (or even on the hundredth!). Like anything else, learning to clean involves lots of practice and trial-and-error.
But at the same time, you might be surprised at all the ways your child is willing (or at least able) to “help.” Especially if you
- start this process early, when they are in that super-“helpful” toddler phase of wanting to help with everything;
- give lots of positive reinforcement for effort and improvement over time;
- make a big deal out of being “big kid” enough or “qualified” enough to take on certain jobs as they get older;
- build their cleaning jobs into regularly-scheduled routines;
- incentivize the process appropriately, especially as kids get older (show them what’s in it for them – e.g., time for a fun outing THEY want to do);
- involve them in cleaning up their OWN messes; and
- (related) tie these behaviors, when possible, to jobs they have in other settings (school, sports, camp, etc.)
Ready to learn age-appropriate ways to encourage your kids to pitch in? Then read on!
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What Jobs Can Kids Do Cleaning House? List By Age
Ages 0-24 months
Yes, seriously! You are your newborn’s first and most important teacher! Now is the time to be building those good habits that will lead to cooperative helpers later on!
And there really ARE so many things little ones can learn and practice at this age:
- Handing things to you when you ask (be sure to practice YOUR “please” and “thank you,” and reward them with a smile!)
- Practicing putting things away (their books back on a low shelf, their toys in a bin, those little shape cubes into the correct holes in the shape-sorter, etc.)
- “Washing” dishes in the sink
- Retrieving things for you and bringing them over (note: this is a great chance to practice colors, numbers, etc. – “Can you please bring me the cup? Can you please bring me the RED cup? Can you please bring me TWO cups?”)
Working on these skills will give your child practice in social interaction, number correspondence, color and shape recognition, and motor skills. Not to mention quality one-on-one time with her favorite grownups!
Once kiddos enter preschool (which in our area is at age 2), you’d be surprised how many new “cleaning” jobs they get to practice every day at school. There’s no reason you can’t use this fact as a starting point for jobs at home. (Learning what your school’s “cleanup” song is will go a long way toward cueing them on what they’re supposed to do.)
And not only can kids do many jobs, but teaching them to help out gives them a sense of accomplishment! All while teaching them motor skills, counting skills, etc.
Jobs that kids this age can learn to do (and practice doing correctly over time) include
- Hanging their coat, putting away shoes, putting dirty clothes in the hamper
- Putting away their toys after playtime
- Cleaning up after themselves (toys, paper scraps after a craft project, clearing dishes after they eat, etc.)
- Practicing sweeping with a broom (kid-sized brooms make this a lot more fun) or dust-mop (The featured image at the top of this post is my niece Abby, “helping” dustmop the kitchen floor, a week before her second birthday!)
- Helping sort laundry, and get laundry to the laundry room (even if it means tossing one piece at a time!)
- Putting wet laundry that someone hands them into the dryer to dry
- Getting dry laundry out of the dryer (with adult supervision)
- Wiping up spills
- Practicing sweeping up small messes on the floor with a whisk broom and dust pan
- Drying clean (non-breakable) dishes
- Practicing washing dishes
- Removing marks from the wall with melamine sponges (aka Magic Erasers)
- (Once they’re tall enough to reach) Make their bed, strip beds, and set the table
By the time kids reach kindergarten, teachers expect they’ll already know how to put away toys, clean up their own messes, etc. This is all the more reason that practicing these skills at home with them is important. Likewise, just as teachers teach your kids that these chores are part of being a “good citizen” at school, you need to help your child learn – and take pride in the fact – that contributing at home is part of being a member of the family, where everyone pitches in and helps each other out.
Skills your child can work on at this age include:
- Clean floors, whether with a broom or dry-cloth sweeper (hard surfaces) or a small electric broom or carpet sweeper (carpeted surfaces)
- Clean up both (small) wet and dry spills
- (As they’re able, based on size and strength) Clear the table completely after meals; load and empty the dishwasher
- Keep their rooms tidy: clothes off the floor and in the hamper, books and toys put away at the end of each day, etc.
- Fold laundry and put it away; put items on hangers and (once they’re tall enough) hang in the closet
- (With adult help and a step stool) Sort dirty clothes into the washer and start a load of laundry (Not that I’m saying your 5-year-old HAS to do this, but my mama taught me how to do laundry the summer I was 5, because she had knee surgery and was on crutches for six weeks. Even though I had to stand on a chair to reach the washer controls!)
- Empty smaller trash cans’ contents into larger ones
- Learn to dust surfaces and (with an extendable cobweb brush) clean cobwebs from ceiling edges and corners
- Clean bathroom counters and sinks; once they’ve mastered that, scrub toilets (with gloves, after a grownup adds the cleaning agents first)
- Scrub stains out of their own laundry
- (Once they’re tall enough) Make beds properly, hang up towels on racks, and start to learn to remake beds with clean sheets
Once kids get a little taller and stronger, there are all sorts of things they can do to help keep the house tidy. They may not ENJOY doing these things, mind you. But if you started early with teaching them to pitch in around the house, then you should be well on the way to rewarding them for being “big-kid” enough to take on these additional tasks:
- (Once they’re tall enough) Wash mirrors, windows, and cars; remake a bed with clean sheets with little to no assistance (they may need help tucking sheets under mattresses still)
- Vacuum with a full-sized vacuum; move small pieces of furniture (e.g., small chairs) to clean up those cobwebs and crumbs
- Scrub out bathtubs and shower stalls, height permitting
- Wash, dry, and put away dishes/pots/pans
- Clean out pet areas as needed
- Wash cabinet fronts and countertops
- Deep-clean their rooms periodically as needed, including putting things away where they belong and decluttering things they’ve outgrown
As your tween/young teen continues to seek more independence, you can keep reminding them that the flip-side of greater independence is greater responsibility. After all, you’re getting them ready to go out into the world on their own in a few years. And some of them may already need some of these skills, whether at sleepaway camp (which I first attended by myself at age 9), or on a group trip for school. (I was an exchange student for two weeks the summer I was 13. I first learned to iron my own clothing in preparation for that trip!)
Kids this age can practice a bunch of new skills:
- Washing bathroom mirrors
- Emptying and wiping down the refrigerator and/or cabinets
- Packing for (and UNPACKING FROM) trips
- Doing their own laundry, or at least taking a larger role in helping with the family laundry
- Learning to iron
- Learning to mop floors
- Although I haven’t mentioned it before now, as size permits, teens and tweens can also take on more responsibilities in caring for the outside of your home as well (painting/touching up trim, collecting branches and pulling weeds, learning to mow the lawn, etc.)
Many of these jobs are skills that teens can continue to practice, especially in preparation for after-school/summer jobs as well as life once they “fly the nest”.
Jobs Best Left To The Grownups And/Or Pros:
There are, of course, some jobs that only adults can handle – and some that you will want to leave to the pros altogether. For example:
- Cleaning carpets with a rug shampooing and/or steaming machine, whether you rent a Rug Doctor to DIY, or hire the pros
- Cleaning the furnace – this of course is a pro job!
- Cleaning up mold in your home – Because of the health hazards, especially for those with allergies and/or asthma, this is a job best left to the pros. As we learned the hard way when our basement flooded last year, hiring a professional mold cleaner is really the only way to go when it comes to dealing with existing mold, or (in our case) drying things out before it comes to that.
What cleaning jobs have I missed? What cleaning tasks do YOUR kids help with around the house? Let us know in the comments!
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