Nurturing My Nest Blog

Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
Intentional Homebuilding & Custom Built Education
 Based in Tennessee. Available for travel.

Expect and Inspect Method: Teaching Children to Clean

If you have children, they need to be part of the daily and weekly responsibilities of cleaning and maintaining the space they live in with their family. Implement this method to expect quality work and inspect a finished job. It is only fair that everyone who lives in a space contributes to the maintenance of the living area. Practicing this value by starting young will encourage your young ones to be prepared roommates in college, apartments, as a spouse and then as a future parent. Keep in mind that if your child does not learn to clean, cook and organize when they are growing up, what makes you think that they will know what to do when they become an adult? Many young adults are completely unprepared for adulting. Don’t let your kids be unqualified for independent living. Create a cleaning routine with teamwork!

Daily and weekly responsibilities create habits and skills. Even if they are never happy doing their contributions, they have been taught. Many of my kids were never happy helping, but now as an adult they demonstrate these cleaning skills with skill. Who knew!! Sometimes you just have to determine that you are the grown up!!! It is your responsibility as a parent to teach your children what they are supposed to know how to do as an adult. For a parent or parents that are doing all the work solo, please stop! You might be overworked and even resentful. I understand. For so many reasons, it is important for everyone who lives in a space to contribute to the maintenance. While you are the parent of underage children, you are in charge! Consider the ideas presented with the “expect and inspect” method. It is not easy. It takes time. It works!

If possible, as a parent you clean your bedroom, bathroom and declutter most areas. Putting things away on a regular basis is work that requires discipline, but it is what keeps order. Give yourself grace when you are exhausted. Make a list of the needed jobs for your home and sort them out based on the number of children and their abilities. Utilize the Age Appropriate Chart to identify what your child should be capable of doing based on his or her age. If you are new to this idea, locate your child’s age and teach them everything in their age group and below. They will be able to catch up easily on work they are competent enough to complete. Personalize this concept for your family and space with this Contribution Chart. If you see a sample of how this might be personalized for your family, check out this sample contribution chart.

You may continue the process with your own jobs once the kids finish and you have inspected their work. Once you practice this system for a while, patience will win out. Your children will surprise you and slip into the flow of the work. For those children who tend to always resist work, be patient and keep plugging away. Don’t quit. Don’t be discouraged. Even if they never embrace the system that you create, they will be progressing in their skills. Remember, progress not perfection.

“She is energetic and strong, a hard worker” (Proverbs 31:17 NLT). Communicate the value of hard work which leads to a job well done.

Note: Whoever is cleaning a living space, such as a bathroom, is responsible for restocking it.

For instance, the bathroom may need more toilet paper or hand soap.

My messiest child was most definitely my oldest. He participated in the above process, but really struggled to maintain his own space. This boy would panic when Katie (child number two) and I would lock ourselves in his room with garbage bags and start cleaning. Usually, the floor was not visible. First, we grabbed up all the paper and empty packaging. Then we located all clothes and shoes determining whether they needed to be put away or washed. While he was my oldest and first “project,” he experienced delayed maturity in this area. He was an excessive reader whose first ACT was a 33, so we can celebrate those things. Update: He is now 26 and is embracing cleanliness. As a single, young man, he is living minimally. This month, on his own accord, he bought a new vacuum cleaner and mop. Just this week, he called and asked me to help him pick out a rug for his entrance to keep less dirt from coming into his living space. Miracles never cease!

Individual letters on this list represent the names of my children. The numbers are their ages. This is a sample chart. Remember to access the information on the Age Appropriate Chart Insert the names of your children. This list was created with four of my children. My oldest had already gone to college.

Sample Weekly Contribution Chart:

K (15) Laundry Ironing

Plan food prep, purchasing & cooking Straighten pantry

M (13) Downstairs bathroom Kids bathroom Sweep & Mop all 1st floor

Clean glass on all outer doors Litter box

J (11) Dust 1st floor, Vac 2nd floor

Straighten & vac school room Shoe basket

clean & vac one vehicle

J (9) Straighten & wipe out refrigerator Straighten pantry Vacuum stairs

Collect garbage – whole house Sweep outside front door Sweep back steps and back door

Age Appropriate Contributions

ages 2-3

make their bed with help

pick up toys with supervision

put dirty clothes in laundry chute or basket put clean water in pet dish

food in pet dish brush pets

dust with a mitt

age 4-5

get dressed with minimal help bring own things from car help unload groceries

set the table

help with some food preparation match socks

fold washcloths and hand towels hang towel on hook in bathroom wipe off bathroom sink

wipe off kitchen table

age 6-7

make bed every day brush teeth (with timer) comb hair


write thank you notes supervised vacuum own room vacuum other rooms

fold laundry with help empty dishwasher with help prepare food with help

empty trash cans throughout the house

age 8-11 personal hygiene

work toward independent routines clean bedroom

school work

keep up with own items

wake up with alarm clock independently wash dishes, dry and put away

wash family car inside and out with help, complete easy meals alone clean a bathroom with help

put all clean clothes away

ages 12-13

all personal hygiene

all personal belongings all school related work keep own room tidy

vacuum and dust own room

set alarm and wake independently to alarm write invitations and thank you notes change sheets

change light bulbs change vacuum bag dust


clean bathroom clean dishes

wipe surfaces in kitchen clean mirrors

mow with help

age 14-15

all personal hygiene

maintain personal space, property, and clothes (wash, dry, iron, and put away)

library checkout and return all school work

all yard work

prepare grocery list and shop with supervision prepare one family meal a week

wash windows

participate in seasonal cleaning

ages 16-18

all above earn money

spend money responsibly

open checking account and use with supervision

purchase clothes (Give a budget. Create  a  need  list  after  clean- ing through clothes for that season. Shop for needs with budget.) Responsible for maintenance for any car they drive (gas, oil changes, tire pressure, car wash, vacuum)

all yard work all house work

deep cleaning household appliances deep cleaning the garage and attic deep cleaning closets

READY to launch into adult life.

Implementing the Expect and Inspect Method Successfully

One last note about children and cleaning. Consider putting up a new chart on January first, a fresh one in the beginning of summer and another new one as the fall starts. Any new contribution chart looses its energy once it has been implemented. The changing chart keeps things more exciting. As the family launches into a new season, encourage each person that they are going to learn a new job. State that you want them to be efficient in all areas. (Anticipate moans here. It is what it is.) If you find one child is really great at all jobs, let them repeat their favorite jobs as you create a new contribution chart.

When initiating a new job, spend time demonstrating the task. Stand back, putting your hands behind your back while watching your child do the new job. Direct with your words. Be sure to speak life-giving (encouraging) words as you guide verbally. Do this with each child for new tasks. Week two might require this same supervision with hands behind the back and orally directing. By week three you should be able to assign the duty and just inspect to ensure the job was completed correctly. Remind children that they have to master the cleaning task before moving on to a new assignment. For those that are resisting doing the job correctly, remind them that they might keep the job through the next contribution chart change. Some are motivated by this threat, while others are not. 

Let me pause here and state that some kids will master these tasks more quickly than others. Some are naturally organized and enjoy sort- ing. Others will struggle to complete these tasks because they are not interested or because the skill is more challenging for them. Some will never ever complete the job to your satisfaction. With five children, I readily admit that some of mine left their rooms a disaster when they moved out. My job was to train them and I feel that I did my best. Some required more than two weeks of close supervision. Always keep in mind that your end goal is to raise a competent adult. Keeping our living space clean is really essential for all of us. Some struggle with certain tasks because of their individual limitations. Don’t lose hope. It is a journey. Do your best. Ask your child to do their best.

Some of mine needed extra encouragement to reach a standard of excellence. When met with continued resistance, remind the child that this job will be theirs until they demonstrate mastery. Such prodding proved successful for some. Remember that you may have a child that resists all the time, forever. They still need to know all that you are trying to teach them. Believe it or not, your stubborn child is paying attention and may do the task perfectly later when you are not watching. Consider what motivates this young person. Pray about your response. Taking something that they love away or delaying an activity may urge them to progress. Praise them for their efforts and progress. Part of our job as par- ents is to train them in all ways for the future. Keep the end goal in mind.

Join our conversation on this topic at Embrace Your Everyday podcast.

More inspiration on HOME and FAMILY in these two books:

Nurturing My Nest: Intentional Homebuilding and Custom Built Education

Hum of the Home: Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking

comments +

  1. […] feasible, recruit those who have enjoyed the meal to contribute in the clean up. Delegate one person to the sink to begin loading the dishwasher and washing other dishes by hand. […]

  2. Robin Bales says:

    I love the article and podcast “Expect and Inspect”. Although I have had children for over 19 years I got lots of news ideas and some direction. I appreciate you breaking down the ages and what can be expected. Appreciate your ministry!

    • Leah says:

      I am glad you found some helpful information. When I applied correct expectations to my kid’s contributions, everyone worked more effectively as team. I would love to hear your best tips.

  3. […] to participate in the cleanup or decluttering. This contribution chart system guides parents to teach their children to do contributions. A recent blog, Mom Secrets for a More Peaceful Ride, offers easy-to-implement ideas for creating […]

  4. […] Numerous resources exist to improve organization.   If you want something bad enough, you usually do what is necessary to get it.  A mom may find herself easily distracted. Visualize your goals and remind yourself of them whenever you feel off track.  Post your daily order of activities.  Planning ahead eliminates much frustration.  If you desire your student to succeed academically, school will start at the designated time in the morning. School books will be completed each year. Housework will be accomplished as a team. […]

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