Whether it’s “Dust, Dust, Dust”, or “We are clothes in the Washing Machine”, our families are learning some great songs and activities that help make housecleaning routines at home something to look forward to.
In the Our Time program, Milk & Cookies, children become actively engaged in real life issues, but in a more playful way. Amazingly, when they think cleaning is fun, and got some good tunes to go with it, they are more likely to start some spontaneous housecleaning at home. (Mine has, and many other mothers are reporting the same phenomenon.)
In ALL levels of my Kindermusik classes, we sing “Put Your Things Away so Carefully” to encourage children to put the instruments and props away when we finish an activity. This is very tough for some children ! But as they hear the same song repeatedly, and see other children happily picking things up and putting them away, the process begins to work it’s magic. Pretty soon, even if they are reluctant at first, they relinquish their cherished object. And parents LOVE the way it works at home. This song and process has generated SOO many comments from parents – like ” As soon as my son hears this song, he starts putting his things away.” “That song works miracles at my house.” “This week, my son just started singing the song and putting his things away without me even asking.” (Uncommon… but true!)
The “In My House” song has also generated it’s share of comments from parents. This semester, homes throughout the United States, as well as in over 60 other countries, have little children with dust cloths in their hands trying to dust anything they can reach. The repetitive rhythmic ostinato of “Dust, dust, dust… ” makes a soothing backdrop for the melody to be sung above it, and it is so easy for the children to sing along and feel confident in their abilities. The repetitive phrase also tends to help keep them focused on the task – well, mostly… they are children after all.
I simply love to put on CDs of upbeat music while going about the housecleaning process. We dance and sing, and may not be as quick about it, but it is done with a more joyful spirit. Of course, there are several Kindermusik CDs which have great “cleaning” sections (two are listed above). My favorite music for cleaning, other than Kindermusik, is actually Benny Goodman, or some other big band jazz music to get me bouncing along to the task. And I come up with more fun ways to engage my children in the tasks at hand.
- “Can we get all the clean dishes put away by the time this song ends?”
- Folding clean laundry together often ends up in a sock tossing contest of some sort.
- And there MUST be dancing celebrations upon completions of each task. Well, there IS a lot more floor room for that now.
When done right, children take pride in their ability to contribute to the workings of the home, they feel “useful”, like “Thomas, the useful little engine” takes such pride in his work. They can do more than is believed that they can do, given the right tools, and proper training in the housecleaning tasks. We need to really break down the task into steps and teach each part, and give them a little part to do, increasing it as they show their skills are improving.
Two year olds, and older 1 year olds) can help set the table, put their shoes, or toys, away in a specific box, put their dirty clothes directly into a hamper (my son called it the laundry “hamster” for the longest time – I didn’t correct him.) Two year olds should be given ONE request at a time (it is likely to confuse them if given multi-step directions).
Three year olds can sort the dinnerware into the drawer (matching the pieces correctly). They can START to help match the socks, and fold the smaller towels – AND put them in the right drawer. Three year olds CAN follow 3 – 4 step directions, like “Please, fold these towels and go put them in the kitchen drawer, then come touch my shoulder and I’ll give you a spinning hug!” Setting up the last request as a return to the parent provides them a “finishing touch”, some recognition for their achievement, and gives parents a way to know that it was done… maybe.
Four year olds, and every age after that, can do more and more. A good friend of mine purchased a little hand held vaccuum cleaner for each of his daughters at the age of 4, so they could easily help clean up messes that were made. And they LOVED having their OWN vacuum, in the color of their choice, to use in the cleaning process. They would race to see who could get their vacuum out first. Children thrive on having their own real tools, in their size, for the job at hand. A great resource for finding these tools, and or getting ideas, is the “For Small Hands” Catalogue and online shop of Montessori inspired materials.
I personally believe that it is important for children to realize that as they get older, they are allowed to learn additional responsibilities that will help them become successful adult when the time comes.
On my son’s 3rd Birthday, he had a wonderful birthday, and recieved many wonderful things. He also recieved his first family chore of sorting the clean silverware while I emptied the rest of the dishwasher.
On his 4th birthday, he learned that his new family responsibility was to sort and put away all the socks for the family. And each birthday thereafter, he has received a new responsibility. These are added to the previous responsibilities, instead of replacing them. Although, some of the earlier responsibilities were given to his little sister when she became the right age.
I truly believe that being a useful part of the family in this way helps to build a family team that works together to support each other, and build bonds that sustain them during hard times, gives them the skills and feelings of personal responsibility that they need to lead sucessful lives. It also helps them learn how to pass these skills along to their children as well.
Yes, there are times when tasks don’t get done as well as when I do it… ugh. That just means more training is needed. No, my children are not always cooperative and willing. But music does help, even in the teen years when they only want to listen to their own music and complete the chore at their own painfully slow pace… ugh. But, they know how to make it happen even if they are not in the mood for it. Music can help with that. Kindermusik can make it easy for parents with younger children… we’ve got it all set up for you to engage your children in housecleaning. And you should SEE how clean our beautiful studio is after a week of little dusting helpers.
How old is your child, and which chores do they do around the house? What songs keep you motivated in your cleaning process? Please share your ideas of how YOU make it fun !