Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. – Phyllis Diller

Spring time. It’s the season of blooming flowers. It’s the season of white pants. And it’s the season of cleaning. That’s probably why they call it Spring Cleaning. And, contrary to the above quote from Ms. Diller, you CAN successfully clean your house while your kids are young. With a little ingenuity, they can even help.

Please allow me to introduce you to the 4Fs of Cleaning with Kids.

  • FUN.  Put on some music and try to complete a different task before each song ends. If you finish early, dance it out until the last note. Not only is it a great motivator, you and your child will also get in some exercise together. If the room is totally trashed, try color-coding the cleaning process. “First, pick up everything that is … red. Go!” Then, do blue, green, yellow and so on. Before you know it, your rainbow of toys will all be put away.
  • FAST.  Consider the age of your child and set a timer to complete a certain job. Generally speaking, a couple of minutes per year of age is a good rule of thumb. Then, every time she gets something done in the allotted time frame, give her a penny. At the end of the day, let her trade her pennies in for something you’ve agreed on beforehand. The reward could be hugs or cookies to favorite activities or later bedtimes.
  • FOCUSED.  Ever feel overwhelmed at the idea of cleaning your whole house in one fell swoop? That’s how your child feels when he’s met with the simple direction of “clean your room.” Times ten. Instead, try suggesting that he tackle just the bookshelf or a certain drawer. If it goes quickly, you can always add more … in small bites, of course.
  • FAIR. Every child collects something. And before you know it, these action figures, books or Barbie dolls will plot to take over the bedroom, the playroom or even the whole house. At my house, it’s stuffed animals. Because they’re all “important,” I can’t sift through them without my daughter’s two cents. So, we have a (variable) system. For every five animals she keeps, she must give away one to Goodwill. Not only does it help us pare down, it also gets everything better categorized for next time.

The important thing to remember is that Spring lasts from March until June. So that means, technically, you have three whole months to get every closet, cabinet, counter, bin, chest, shelf, drawer, nook and cranny cleaned up. Of course, after all that hard work, don’t forget to get outside with your little people to enjoy all of the sunshine, warmer temperatures and new greenery nature offers us this time of year.

By Michele Robert Poche

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