Real Moms Talk: How I Got My Kids to Help in the Kitchen

Moms share their top tips for getting their family to take part in the big cleanup.

Getting dinner on the table can be tough, but it’s nothing compared with the cleanup operation that takes place afterwards – food on the floor, crumbs on the countertops, dirty dishes in the sink. But a clean and tidy kitchen can be yours, and despite your kids’ protests, you can persuade them to get in on the act, too. (Remember that kids should always be supervised by an adult when working with food or equipment in the kitchen – and all cleaning products should be kept out of their reach.)

These moms share their advice:

“We have three children, aged 11, 9 and 2, so there’s a bit of an age gap,” says Stephanie, 42. “Because Celeste copies everything the older two do, I’m able to impress upon them the importance of setting a good example. Pretty much every mealtime now, Hugo and Marie-Claire clear their own plates before helping Celeste with hers. Every night they do it they get a sticker on their star chart, and if they have five stars by Saturday, they each get to choose a small treat. So a bit of healthy competition works, as does the fact that the role of ‘teacher’ is one the older two have both embraced – especially the middle one, who definitely likes to be in charge!”

Laura, 38, completely agrees with Stephanie’s outlook. “My daughter is 7 and more than capable of both laying the table for dinner and helping clear up afterwards. I link her chores to weekend activities – if she’s helpful, we can go trampolining or horseback riding, but if she’s not, she misses out. Learning about cause and effect works.”

When Roberta, 39, observed her son’s emerging talent for baking, she took the opportunity to teach him about cleaning while he cooks. “I love to cook, and Luka, who’s 10, has always spent time in the kitchen with me,” she says. “He loves baking, but I was getting really fed up with the mess. So I told him, ‘Unless you clean up after yourself, no more cakes.’ Now he cleans up as he goes – he gets out the Dawn Platinum to wash up the food mixer and big bowls in the sink and stacks the dishwasher with the smaller items. He even sweeps the floor! My friends can’t believe it.”

Sheanne, 40, is on Roberta’s wavelength – she used her daughter’s passion for a pet to encourage her to help clean up the kitchen after meals. “Elle is nearly 5 and desperate for a pet rabbit, but I won’t get her one until I see proof that she’s responsible enough to keep its cage clean,” says Sheanne. “I think having responsibility for a pet is great for kids’ development, so I’ve told her that if she can help me load the dishwasher after dinner each night for a whole school term, it’s a great way to prove to me that she can be responsible for something long term. We’re six weeks in, and so far it’s working really well.”

How have you encouraged your kids to help you clean up? Share your tips with us here.


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