Cleaning with toddlers is fun to do

Teaching children at an early age to do small chores encourages independence, boosts their self-esteem, and establishes a foundation for later skills.

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  • When I was a young mom, I overheard this conversation between my daughter, Kyara, who was then six, and my son, Romney, who was four:

  • Kyara: Do you know what my favorite chore is?

  • Romney: What?

  • Kyara: Cleaning my room.

  • Romney: Do you know what my favorite chore is?

  • Kyara: What?

  • Romney: Nothing.

  • Oh, boy. I knew that I needed to do something to make chores more fun for my toddler. I wanted him to have positive associations with work that would last him a lifetime.

  • Teaching children at an early age to do small chores encourages independence, boosts their self-esteem and establishes good habits as a foundation for later skills. In her article, Chores Are Good for Kids Nancy Darling, Phd. from Psychology Today says that helping with chores makes children feel like a part of the family because they are contributing to the common good. Kids feel competent when they act competently. In addition, they develop a deep sense of gratitude.

  • It's never too early to foster these qualities in our children.

  • Here are some ways that I've discovered to make chores fun for toddlers and young children.

  • Clean together

  • Your child enjoys nothing better than spending time with you. Chore time can be bonding time when you work together. Besides, it's unreasonable to expect your little ones to be competent at chores. Working together gives you the opportunity to teach her the proper way to do the job.

  • Turn on the music

  • Caroline Wilbert from WebMD says studies show that music boosts your mood. Playing some happy music can make any task more enjoyable. Shake your booty a little bit and you'll both be giggling all the way to the toy box.

  • Sing a song

  • Mary Poppins and Barney the Dinosaur had one thing in common: they both knew that singing makes chores more enjoyable. Some of our family favorites are "Fun to Do" and "When We're Helping." Who can resist the chorus on the latter? “Tra la la la la la la, Tra la la la la la, Tra la la la la la la, Tra la la la la la.” It's catchy, upbeat, and even a toddler can learn those lyrics.

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  • Another family favorite is Barney's original Clean Up Song. My now teenage daughter, Johnette, recently discovered that it came from the PBS show and was not a family original. She was very disappointed to learn that it was not a special song just for us, but it still brings up fond memories for her.

  • Make it a game

  • There are many ways to turn cleaning time into a game. Set a timer and have your son race to “beat the clock.” Play “statues” with a twist. Play music while everybody picks up toys. When you turn off the music, they must freeze in place. Turn the music back on, and they clean again.

  • If your daughter is learning her colors, you can have her put away all the green toys first. Let her choose the next color. Put your son's energy to good use. Have him hop or crawl to put his clothes in the laundry.

  • Use rewards

  • Children love to see their progress and be rewarded for their accomplishments. Give your daughter a sticker book or create a chart and reward her with a sticker each time she finishes a job. You can give her a treat or small toy for every ten stickers she earns.

  • One activity that my children loved was a treasure hunt. I would hide small chocolate coins under the items to be picked up. Then, when my kids cleaned, they'd find the chocolate. When they finished the job completely, they were allowed to eat all the coins they had found.

  • We all have to work, and we all have to learn sometime. Start now, and teach your children that cleaning with mom is fun to do.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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