How to Make Cleaning Fun for Kids

Blue spray-top bottle and filled cheese shaker
Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Whether you're doing a thorough spring cleaning or just attempting to contain the usual chaos, get your kids to lend a hand. It'll help establish great habits and foster a sense of independence. Try these ideas and products designed to turn housework into child's play.
Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

Clean Sweep

Go Small: Scaled-down tools that fit little hands make it easier for kids to pitch in -- and they're pretty cute! Tootle Turtle Kids' Push Broom, $12.99, and Let's Play House duster (in bucket; part of a set of six tools for $29.99 that also includes a mop and brush), both from

Wear It: A nail apron (available for a few dollars at hardware stores) keeps small supplies close at hand and makes your helper feel very official.

Tote It: Personalize a bucket with a face or initials cut from duct-tape sheets. Use it to gather gear, such as our dust monster (see Slide 3).

Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

4 Ways to Keep It Fun

Yes, cleaning is a chore, but it doesn't have to feel like one. Here are a few ways to get your crew in the spirit.

Use a toy shopping cart or doll stroller as a clutter collector. Send helpers on a room-to-room mission to find out-of-place items and deliver them to their owners' rooms.

Draw up a list of rewards to be enjoyed after each task is done—a round of bubble blowing, say, or a treat from the cookie jar.

Race against the clock to keep sessions short and sweet. Set the timer on your phone, letting the kids choose its silliest notification sound.

Add a dose of imagination by encouraging pretend play. Snow White might whistle while she works, and Inspector Clouseau might check the crew's progress.

Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

Spic-and-Span Stuff

We've found a few pint-size tidy-up aids that really do the job.

This bright broom (at top left) comes with a dustpan in some wild patterns and colors (in matching adult sizes, too). Lil' Broom 'n Pan Sweep Set, $9.99,

Your child will be proud to use this sturdy peacock dustpan-and-brush duo (at right). B. Tropicleania (part of a set that also includes a stand-up broom), $14.99,

A fuzzy microfiber dust mitt (at bottom left) is incredibly handy. Ours are $10 at Bed, Bath & Beyond and Walmart.

Fun It Up: Turn a duster into a dirt-busting monster! Simply adhere felt eyes with fabric glue.

Photograph by Julie Bidwell
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

Make Your Own Kid-Safe Cleaning Potions

These homemade concoctions are free of harmful chemicals and cost less than store-bought versions (a particular benefit when young cleaners are dispensing them). Your kids can pick essential oils (available at health food stores) in their favorite scents and have some mad-scientist fun mixing up top-secret formulas.

Super Spray: Combine 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1 cup white vinegar in 4 cups of hot water. Add 25 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and use it to add shine to countertops and tiles.

Sprinkle and Scrub: Stir 6 or 7 drops of an essential oil into 3/4 cup baking soda. Transfer the mixture to a shaker jar. Use it with a soft brush to freshen rugs or upholstery (vacuum it up afterward) or with a damp sponge to make sinks and tubs sparkle.

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