As a mom who has been staying home and homeschooling her kids for almost a decade, I can tell you that one of my biggest struggles has been keeping the house clean. It always amazes me when I hear someone say, “But you’re home all day! What are you doing that makes your house such a mess?!?”
Well, living life, Karen. That’s what we are doing. I have four kids, all under the age of 12, that are in my home with me 24/7. They're always getting into something. Always wanting to eat. Always doing a craft or a project. Always learning... and learning at home gets messy.
In addition to homeschool, I also have meals to plan and prep, laundry to do, and must find time to work on my own business. At any given moment, you might walk in my house and enter a sweet-smelling haven of cleanliness. Or it might look like you just walked into a war zone. May the odds be ever in your favor.
In my 10 years of being in the trenches, I have come up with six tried-and-true ways to get the kids involved in cleaning the house. I’m sharing them now with you, in case you find yourself struggling with the kids-are-home-all-day-where-is-this-mess-coming-from blues:
1. The blitz
One of my most seasoned homeschool mom friends shared this with me at the beginning of our homeschool career and it has been a lifesaver. Get everyone lined up on an imaginary starting line, set the timer for 10 minutes, and have everyone race around picking up as many items and putting them away as they can. Kids love racing and contests, and 10 minutes is a totally do-able time block. You’d be surprised how clean things can get in such a short amount of time when you make a game of it.
2. 10 things
This is another favorite cleaning game of ours. I use this when it is time to clean their rooms. Have them go clean up 10 things in their room and report back as fast as they can. If the room is really messy, I will change the number of items after each round. Like, this time, pick up 8 things. Now 15. This method also helps younger kids learn counting skills.
3. Change up the chore routine
Kids get tired of doing the same chores every single day. Change it up every few days so they don’t get bored. If one kid is used to doing the dishes, let them clean the bathroom. If one kid normally sweeps, have them wash the windows. Kids always love doing new things. And try to pair a fun chore with a not-so-fun one.
4. Crank up the tunes!
There’s a reason why preschools sing the clean-up song. Music makes you want to move around. If nobody wants to do chores and cleaning is causing too much complaining, blast some feel-good music. Dance around while you clean. Act silly. It makes cleaning time fun and makes the time fly by.
5. Bribe them
I am not above bribing my kids to get motivated. Not every single time, but occasionally I’ll throw in a reward for a job well done. Like, if we get this whole house cleaned in an hour, I’ll put on a movie and make banana splits. Or popcorn. Or we’ll get pizza for dinner. You know what your kids like. Use it to your advantage. And then get cleaning!
6. Fill a spray bottle
Kids LOVE cleaning with spray bottles. Especially younger ones. Even if it is just water, it keeps them focused and avoids more messes being made in one room while you and the big kids are cleaning in another room.
I hope these tried-and-true tips help you keep your house clean -- and your sanity -- while you and your kids are at home.
Miranda Gonzalez is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Mansfield-Burleson, Texas.