If you’re at all like me, spring cleaning can be something of a domino situation. I might start by cleaning the baseboards, but when I get to the stairs, I’m like, wow these handrails are dirty. And so on. By the time I’m done, I’ve also discovered coffee splashes on walls, cobwebs in ceiling corners, and the dustiest blinds one has ever seen—and I’m feeling rather disgusted with myself. I’m also feeling sore, because my back is not what it once was and it seems like the worst of the dirt is either way low or way high. You know who still has good backs, though? Our kids, that’s who.
Spring cleaning should, I believe, be a family affair. From the inside of the home to the outside, there is plenty to be done. And kids (at least when they’re young) generally are willing—even excited—to help. You could have them help you as you go from task to task, but sometimes that only serves to slow you down. Instead, if your kids are old enough, I suggest you try delegating some of the work this year: Divvy up what needs to be done and put them fully in charge of certain chores.
If you’re not sure what chores kids are generally capable of tacking, this age-by-age guide to kids’ chores is a good place to start. But spring cleaning goes beyond the usual bed-making and towel-folding, so this list will include some bigger, more infrequent projects you can assign.
You’re likely to get the most excitement and compliance from little kids when you announce it’s time for a spring cleaning party. Of course, for all their sweet enthusiasm, little kids are also going to be the least independent (and thorough) when it comes to tackling their tasks. If your kids are younger than about six years old and you want to get them involved, they’re going to need supervision and assistance, so plan for that.
But by the time they’re at the age where you trust them to feed the pets and sweep the floor on their own, you can probably show them what to do and then send them off on their own. In my experience, this happens somewhere in the six- to eight-year-old range. You’ll still want to consider a couple things, though—namely, what types of chores they like to do and how thoroughly you need something to be done. Any chore where you are happy to declare it “good enough” is a better fit for this age. Those might include:
- Vacuuming or sweeping up areas that tend to get overlooked during the regular week-to-week cleaning, such as basements, porches, vehicle floorboards, and garages.
- Vacuuming up the living room furniture, removing cushions and taking care of all those old crumbs.
- Raking up any old dried leaves that are still littering the yard from last fall.
- Pulling weeds.
- Cleaning the aforementioned baseboards—spare your back and let them get all bent over!
Tweens are going to be even more self-sufficient than their younger counterparts, which means you can put their slightly more developed critical thinking skills to good use here. Tweens are old enough to do something that is often a major component of spring cleaning—the sorting and disposing or donating of Items We No Longer Need Or Want.
Here’s how tweens can pitch in during your spring cleaning extravaganza:
- Sort their clothes, making piles of anything that no longer fits or they don’t wear to hand down, donate or sell to another family.
- Sort through their books and toys for items they no longer read or play with.
- Clean out their closet and rearrange or reorganize their bedroom (with assistance moving any furniture, as needed).
- Steam clean the kitchen or bathroom floors.
- Empty out kitchen draws to wipe them down.
- Plus, any of the tasks you would have assigned to the younger group.
This group may be the least interested in helping but they’ve also got the greatest potential to be thorough—plus a little more muscle to put behind their effort. Here are a few tasks teenagers can be in charge of:
- Help organize the garage.
- Wash the car.
- Power-wash the trash cans.
- Move indoor furniture for more thorough vacuuming.
- Help with planting or mulching.
- Clean windows or mirrors.
- Clean the bathrooms.
- Assist younger kids with their tasks.
- Plus, any of the tasks you would have assigned to the younger groups.
I referred to it as a “spring cleaning party” earlier, and I was only half joking—when all is said and done and the winter grime has been wiped from every last window, celebrate your efforts and take advantage of your freshened space. Order a pizza and relax with a family movie night or get a fire going in the fire pit to roast some marshmallows and enjoy the newly spruced-up backyard.
I’m also not above dangling a little monetary incentive, particularly for the older kids and teens, to help secure their cooperation during this process.
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