Hi! I am Rena, a.k.a. The Robomom... I am a New York City mother of three who is obsessed with all things home. Aside from my advice column, my blog deals with design, decor, meals and more! If you like what you see, come and visit me at www.therobomom.com!

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Teach kids to clean!

That’s right. I said it. Your kids can clean. I am going to take it one step further and say that your kids should clean.

I am by no means an organizational aficionado, nor am I entirely neat. I can clam up the clutter as much as the next guy. But recently I have discovered how wonderful everything can be when it is neat and clutter free. It can be a wild boost to your day to wake up having less to do, and more time to enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my kids ask, “mommy, can you play?” and I would continually respond, “no, I am cleaning, maybe after.” Needless to say, “after” rarely came, and my house never really remained too clean for too long.

My husband asked me the other day, “why don’t you let them help you, there are three of them… ” as if they were my little troops, and they worked for me. “Yeah, right” is pretty much what I replied. “We always helped my mom when I was a kid…” he said…

Within about a half minute or so, I realized he really had something there.  Really, why shouldn’t they help? I run around like a crazy chicken on crack all day long just to keep them happy, and I need a little help to keep my energy level going. I deserve this. Kids can really be adorable, but waiting around on them hand and foot can get old real quick. Allowing them to chip in and help out, is not only good for their self esteem, but it teaches them basic skills that all humans should learn. I know, I know, how much can you possibly ask, yell, cry or even beg them to straighten up, without being wrought with defeat and simply giving in. I have been there, and I know many of you probably have too. In my quest to keep the home somewhat organized, I have developed a little system whereby they are expected to clean and have chores and keep them up, and they are rewarded. It involves a touch of discipline, a touch of craftiness, a bit of common sense, and a camera.

First off, let me say that pretty much as early as 2 years old or even sooner can be a good time to start instilling these ideas into their head, allowing them to pick up their toys or put them back. Get over the guilt of asking them to pitch in, always remember that in many other countries all over the world, children actually work for a living, and get paid. I have since gotten rid of the guilt I used to carry when I asked for their assistance, because we are a family, a team, and we all make the mess so we should all clean it up! So here goes with the master plan…

1. Choose an age appropriate chore/chores for your child/children. You would be surprised at how much they can accomplish, and praise them for their strengths.  The little tots can pick up their toys and put them where they belong, maybe wipe down a table with baby wipes… (you get the idea). As young as about 6 or 7 they should be able to remove the wet laundry from the washing machine and put it in the dryer and set it to ON. After about age 8 or so it should be smooth sailing from there, allowing them to do whatever they are tall enough to do.

2. Keep it fun! Give them little feather dusters, scrub a countertop with some bubbles, wipe it dry. Wipe down sinks after use. The easiest way to avoid disastrous messes is to put things back where they came from. Neatly. Also, make them responsible for their own spaces, rooms, playrooms, etc.  This way they will learn how messing it up can be pretty annoying to clean up, and your space wont be bothered. 🙂

3. Avoid dangerous chemicals. I don’t know why I feel the need to say this, but I am sure there is someone out there who needs to hear this.

4. Remind them that the more time you spend cleaning the less time you have playing

5. Reward them with a coin, a small token of your appreciation. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a nickel here, a dime there, a silly band here, a tattoo there…. I prefer to do a coin jar, if they reached their daily goals, they get a coin. At the end of the week or the month, they can go to the dollar store and buy something. Who wouldn’t love that?

6. This is my favorite…. Do some major spring cleaning on a room, top to bottom, left to right. Make it perfect. Take a picture of that room. Print that picture. Keep it safe, and whenever the room doesn’t look that way, allow your children to refer to the photograph. Not only can this activity be incredibly fun for them, it engages them in great visual exercises for their mind. Worst case scenario, you will at least have a great picture to show your friends how it used to look. 🙂

Below you will see my before and after basement redesign photos, I made a grand mess, bagged it up, threw it out, painted like a maniac, sold stuff, bought stuff, made it as perfect as I could, cleaned it, photographed it, and the rest is history. They now have to refer to the after picture or I threaten them with the old one. 🙂

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