Cleaning with Toddlers & Small Children

After finding a nifty list of suggested chores for kids, I figured I could blog some thoughts I have about cleaning with kids. I have a two year old who loves to copy Mommy, which sometimes works as an advantage OR a disadvantage when cleaning your house – depending on how much time you have to be patient while they explore the task, or whether you just need to get it done in a hurry!

If you involve your child with cleaning behaviour from a very early age, they will be more likely to internalize the values associated with having your living space clean, and chances are they will be more likely to independently engage in the same behaviour when they are older. The earlier they can be come involved with taking care of their living environment, the better – IMHO!

If you clean your house with toxic and poisonous chemicals, you likely will be keeping toddlers and small children out of your cleaning routine. Nobody wants their kids breathing in / mouthing these kinds of cleaners. BUT if you start making your own safe cleaning products, you will feel more comfortable involving your kids in these activities. Got a kid who likes to use a spray bottle? Your all purpose vinegar spray cleaner is perfectly safe for them to use, and fairly gentle on the skin. Have them spray the mirror or floors for you and help you wipe it!

One thing my two year old loves to copy is sweeping the floors – so much so that we bought him his own mini broom to help sweep. He is now at the age that he even targets pieces of dirt – usually just flings them around to another part of the kitchen, but it’s pretty cute to watch 🙂

Kids usually love doing the laundry, too – you can have them add the laundry soap, turn the dials, press the buttons, and transfer the clothes from one machine to another. Folding laundry can be fun – start them with washcloths and hand towels! Finding the matches for socks can be a thrilling exploit for a two year old ;). My LO also loves taking the clothes to the proper bedrooms and putting them in the drawers. Especially the underwear, for some reason!

If you have a LO who loves to copy, but you can’t have them involved in the task either for efficiency’s sake or safety – try and have them either pretend with some imaginary / distracting objects, or give them an empty bottle to “spray” or “pour” with. If you are using a bucket, give them their own empty bucket to carry around. Be creative – it will work to your advantage later if you have tried to have them involved in the task in their own capacity rather than dissuading their participation!

If your munchkin has not taken an interest in cleaning and tidying, sometimes singing a song or making the activity into a game can be helpful. My LO loves counting, or singing the ABC’s – this has been a great strategy when completing a task involving steps. “Score a goal” with dirty socks or when putting toys in bins. Sticker charts can be a great initial motivator, too.

I thought I would make up my own list of the hierarchy of easier to more difficult “cleaning” tasks, and out them in categories, rather than lump them into age ranges – every little cutie develops at their own rate and has varying levels of interest in household activities. This way you can pick and choose from the list by category of interest! Check it out:

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CAUTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS:. I wouldn’t have a toddler shaking around the powdered scouring cleaner, as breathing in the dust from it is not super great for you – but it is certainly FAR safer than any other scouring cleaners you would purchase commercially! Your school aged kids should certainly be able to use this cleaner with supervision. If you involve your small children in mixing some of your cleaners, watch out for recipes with a lot of powdered dust floating around – have them wear a scarf over their face if they are joining in.

Cleaning your mirrors

I often get asked how I clean my mirrors and windows without leaving streaks or using harsh chemicals / alcohol based cleaners. Back in my ‘chemical days’, I never had much luck with Windex – I found this left extreme streaks, no matter how much or little I tried to use. I couldn’t understand how this was such a popular product, as it never seemed to work for me!

Well, in my natural cleaning days, I started to use two tools to clean my mirror – my All Purpose Vinegar Spray – which is basically just half water, half vinegar, with some tea tree if desired – and a great window cleaning micro fibre cloth, like this one:

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These cloths are AMAZING – you can even use them with straight water, but I find the vinegar solution gives it an edge. There is something about the weave on these particular cloths that make them work so well. I can’t vouch for all mirror cleaning cloths, only these in particular! They are super durable. I also use them to shine up my faucets! You can buy one here – I also have them available for purchase at my DIY parties.

And there you have it – mirror and window cleaning without chemicals! Gotta love it 🙂

Two Basic Cleaners

So let’s start with cleaning your home. I find people are more comfortable making the initial switch to DIY with basic cleaners, as these are both the simplest and cheapest recipes.

These are also the most toxic products in your home, and therefore are in my opinion the most important to replace. If you have small children around, family members with respiratory issues or allergies, you may find making the switch to natural cleaning products gives you peace of mind.

Let’s get started with the two basic cleaners that do almost all the general cleaning jobs in my home! Get ready for the simplest recipe of them all, my…..

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER:

Find yourself an empty spray bottle. Fill with:

1 Part White vinegar
1 Part Water
10 Drops Tea Tree essential oil

Shake well, and spray away! The vinegar and tea tree are both antimicrobial agents, the vinegar being acidic, and the tea tree working naturally to eliminate bacteria. Worried about your home smelling like vinegar? Don’t! The smell absolutely does not linger, and you will get more and more used to it during use. I add citronella to my cleaner sometimes which I find masks the vinegar smell very well during use.

What can you use it for? Spills in the kitchen, a tile or laminate cleaner, surface cleaner for your bathroom, mirror cleaner, and a disinfectant for toys. You name it! Stuck on mess? Spray and let it soak. Need a more abrasive cleaner? Coming up!

TOUGH SCRUB – BATH & TOILET BOWL CLEANER:

Need an abrasive cleaner for that brown ring in your tub, or stubborn stains in your toilet bowl? A really stuck on mess that your all purpose spray can’t handle? Try this recipe on for size.

I find this product dispenses great from one of those large costco size herb / spice shakers with the large holes. Grab one of those, or something similar that you can shake this product out of, and add:

1 Part Washing Soda
1 Part Baking Soda
1 Part Borax*

Mix these ingredients well (if you find you are breathing in a lot of dust from the ingredients, wear a mask or tie a scarf around your face while you are mixing, or mix them on your stove with the exhaust fan running. Although these ingredients are generally benign, it’s not great to be breathing in a large amount of any kind of particulate).

Scrub your toilet or bath with this mixture and they will be clean in no time, with very little elbow grease! If you are cleaning a dry surface, you will want to use a bit of water with this! For your tub, after cleaning, spray down with your all purpose cleaner and rinse well – the sodas can be slippery. The vinegar in the all purpose cleaner will neutralize the sodas so you don’t slip in the shower! For really stuck on messes, scrub with this mixture, and then spray with the vinegar cleaner, and scrub again – this creates a fun foaming reaction that lifts off messes no problem!

*If you would like a borax free recipe, simply replace the borax with an equal part washing soda. I find the borax just gives it that extra kick, but isn’t fully necessary.