How to Get Some Cleaning Done When You Have a Toddler or Preschooler

by Susan Dunn

Most children love to clean up along with you. In fact, much of the Montessori Method of early childhood education makes use of this fact, so let them! If you notice their work, praise it, and take it seriously, you'll keep them interested and you might also instill some good future work habits. Don't tune out; keep them included in the process.

  1. Have a small broom and dust pan set, but real-something that works.
  2. For littlest ones, mark off a place on the floor for them to push the dirt past.
  3. Let them empty the 25 lb. dogfood into the big container, one cup at a time.
  4. Give them a damp sponge and let them "clean" appliances. You can put water in a very clean, well-rinsed spray bottle.
  5. Give them a plain cloth with nothing on it and ask them to "dust."
  6. When you're cleaning the bathroom, put a little water in the bath tub and let them "scrub" while you're doing other things. Remember to keep checking on progress; this keeps them interested.
  7. A lot of housework revolves around the kitchen. If you're lucky, it leads to the back door and possibly car port or yard. Keep a sandbox near the back door - you can leave the door open and check on your child as you move about. That's how I prepared many a gourmet meal for company when my son was little.
  8. I let my grand-daughter "wash" the car port (at her house) and the back patio (at mine). I give her a brush, broom and bucket of soapy water. She scrubs away, proud of helping.
  9. Washing low windows can work for a while - some newspaper and a plastic dish with a little Windex in it. (No spray bottles for safety reasons; they tend to want to turn it and spray themselves in the face or eyes.)
  10. When you're working outside, give your child a bucket with a scoop or plastic cup and let them water the flowers.
  11. Give them a large sturdy spoon and ask them to dig for earthworms for the garden.
  12. Child's garden gloves here: Child's watering can is great too: .
  13. Most children can empty the clothes dryer into a hamper. They also like to load clothes into the washer, and, if old enough, add the washing powder. Pushing all those buttons is great fun too.
  14. My grand-son, not yet 2, knows the sounds when the dryer is through and when the coffee is done. As you work, identify these sounds, and then ask the child to let you know when the buzzer goes off.
  15. Let your child "fold" his or her underpants and socks while you're putting away the laundry. Unless you're super-compulsive, it doesn't matter what goes in the underwear drawer, and it can keep them busy.
  16. Keeping a floor-length mirror in the bedroom is a clever trick my daughter-in-law uses. Her preschooler will often get involved preening and prancing in front of the mirror.
  17. Put on some music you'll both enjoy so you can 'dance' your way through your chores. Marches are fun!
  18. Children love to dress for the occasion. Here's a great "work" apron that signifies the seriousness of the occasion: .

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About the Author

Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, . Susan offers coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional development. She also trains and certifies EQ coaches. Free ezine: Get Daily EQ tips; send a blank email to

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