Getting kids to clean up: Kitchen jobs your children can do

Children like being busy during weekends and school holidays. This guide has ideas for getting children to participate in tasks that develop skills while helping mum and dad.

Updated 27 June 2019

Blue and yellow plates in dishwasher

Key steps

  1.  Very small children will be able to help in small ways, such as holding simple items for you whilst you clean. Ask them to hold a dustpan and brush, for example, rather than anything breakable.
  2. Younger members of the family can assist with loading the dishwasher, or helping load and set the washing machine.
  3. Provided you're there for assistance, older children can be given more responsibility when it comes to tasks such as food preparation and helping to sort out different items of laundry. 

There is no need for children to be bored when the kitchen needs tidying. Inspire children with your enthusiasm, keeping them involved with joint projects that benefit everyone. Show them that cleaning can be fun!

Kids want to have fun, so choose some lively music, a positive attitude and turn kitchen cleaning into a game where everyone can win.

Cleaning up the kitchen with very young children

Tiny children lack the coordination to assist with anything complex, so don’t give them anything they can break. But they can still hold items for you, such as a dustpan, or a dish under the tap.

Young members of the family can:

  • Place selected items in the dishwasher.
  • Add dishwashing detergent to washing machines or dishwashers and push the start button.

Cleaning up the kitchen with older children

When kids get older they have better motor coordination and can be trusted to do more, although they still need supervision.

Older children can help with:

  • Unloading the dishwasher: Children can start picking out robust items with some help.
  • Laundry:  Children can help to sort the coloureds and whites, before putting them in the machine, dispensing the detergent and pushing the appropriate buttons.
  • Cleaning benchtops: Show the kids how to collect and dispose of crumbs in and around food preparation areas. With guidance children can spray multipurpose, enamel or stainless steel cleaner on the crumb-free areas, depending on the surface. Then they can learn how to wipe the cleanser off with a cloth or a sponge.
  • Food preparation is another activity that children can enjoy. They can assist with simple tasks such as washing vegetables, opening cans and putting groceries away. Later, they can learn how to peel vegetables, put cubes of tofu or meat on skewers and whip cream. As children get older they can become more involved in putting meals together.

Attitude and motivation are important when getting kids to clean up. The focus is on practical chores, but you will also need:

  • Enthusiasm and a cheerful outlook.
  • Jokes and praise.
  • Fun music.
  • Patience. If a task must be done a certain way, then you will have to demonstrate.

Long-term benefits

Cleaning the kitchen with your children might take longer at first than just doing it yourself. However, there are many positives, including:

  • Spending time with each other and showing them how people work together.
  • Giving kids useful things to do and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Teaching them essential life skills.
  • Satisfaction from achieving a common goal.
  • Saving money as cleaning is a low-cost activity.

To children, cleaning the kitchen is just another mysterious activity that occupies adults. Take advantage of kids’ desire to do grown-up things. They will probably enjoy cleaning because they are doing it with you.

Originally published 11 December 2018