Every parent can attest that having young children means more messes, and more clutter. The increase in housework can cause parents to stress about the chores, and they start to miss out on personal time or playtime with the kids. However, once your kids reach the age of mobility and following simple commands you really don’t have to forgo your hobbies or miss out on time with your little ones in the name of a neat house.

Instead, a simple solution to having a clean house is getting them involved. Having little ones “help” around the house means more quality time and developmental engagement. It also lays the foundation for good work ethic and appreciation. You will be giving them amazing skills all while getting things done. Here are some ideas on age appropriate fun.

9-18months

At this age babies enjoy mimicking and following your lead. A great way to engage them in cleaning and give them good habits is to have them help pick up toys like blocks and toss them into the toy chest. This is especially fun when accompanied by a song.

18 months to 2 ½

You’ll find children in this age group are really interested in helping out around the house. Take advantage of this eager attitude while you still can and have your child hold the dust pan as you sweep, wipe down walls, toys, and mirrors. They might also like to stack Tupperware, climb under the table to retrieve toys, water plants and putting away the child-safe silverware.

2 ½ to 4

By preschool age, children still show an interest in learning how to do new things, especially things that Mom and Dad do. They are able to follow more complex direction and will enjoy the challenge and rewards that helping out provides. Keep in mind that sometimes they can get a bit frustrated with cleaning or may not want to do it, but presenting it as a game will get them excited to pitch in. Great activities are to have them rinse dishes after you wash them (make sure that the sharp objects aren’t around), load the washing machine, put away their clothes, put away their toys, dust, and help to make a grocery list by checking what staple are running low.

Making cleaning a success

The best way to introduce kids to the world of cleaning is to make it fun and keep it short. Little ones will have fun but watch for cues that they are becoming frustrated, tired or disinterested, and let them disengage when they need to. The last thing you want to do is make cleaning into a chore.

It’s helpful to play music to liven up the mood. Sing songs and dance here and there to keep the energy light and exciting. You can also make cleaning a game. Race to pick up toys, see who can get crayon marks off the wall, describe items that need to be picked up and let them find them.

Don’t discourage young cleaners. Keep in mind that they will not do everything right, but be sure not to go over their hard work in front of them. At a young age it will discourage and embarrass them if they think they are doing it wrong.

Reward their good behavior and hard work. The best way to do this is to show appreciation with a hug or kiss and a big thank you. It’s also nice to let them have a treat after their hard work. If they’re old enough you can have them collect the coins they find while cleaning, and add the money to their piggy bank.