Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring cleaning with a toddler

Oh, yes, it can be done.

Now, no two-year-old I know is going to organize your sock drawer (in any way you might call organized) or alphabetize your CDs, but that down and dirty deep clean you've been putting off all winter? Little kids have you covered.

Last week (yes, last week, it takes me awhile to formulate posts) we spring cleaned our bathroom. I had been meaning to do it for a few days, putting it off because I thought Ryann would need to be asleep or at her dad's before I could do any "serious" cleaning. I had already cleaned out the bathroom cabinets a week earlier, a little at a time, but how would I clean the tub and mop the floor with a "helper?" I had previously tried to scrub the kitchen floor with her help. I tried to have her watch how I did it: Dip a sponge in soapy water (Dr. Bronner's soap and baking soda is my magic cleaner), wring it out, and clean small sections at a time. This ended with one small section of clean floor, a large puddle (I thought I added so very little water too) and a very hyper, very slippery little girl.

I was trying to think of how to include Ryann in my cleaning while still allowing her to explore the tools on her own terms and not drive me batty. Then it hit me -- the bathtub! She could wash the bathtub, while IN the bathtub to contain messes, and I could wash the rest of the bathroom. And this is what we did. It was a great success. She had plenty of freedom to play with the soapy water bucket and after a few minutes she asked me to show her how to wring out the water and all the things I had tried to show her before to great frustration.

The only downside was that she didn't want to stop. Ever. I had every. single. surface. clean and she still wanted more! Unfortunately, her work was long done, in reality and in her ability, so spring cleaning turned into a bit of a mess. She threw quite the tantrum. Which I ended by suggesting a game of Memory. I've realized that Ryann has a hard time realizing when she is done with an activity and often drags it on until she is miserable. So when the Memory game reached a logical conclusion I firmly suggested she stop and things went much better. Observation is such a powerful parenting tool!


  1. Oh my goodness, yes! Knowing when you are finished is a skill that has to be learned! I remember my first year of teaching, I would get so MAD at the kids when they went from working with a material to playing with it. Nobody ever told me that knowing when to stop is a skill that has to be learned; I (and they, sadly) had to figure it out the hard way. Your Ryann is a lucky one to have a mommy with so much insight and patience. :)

  2. Thank you! I first read about this on the Moveable Alphabet ( and while it made total sense, I didn't see it in my own child until that day. It was definitely a light bulb moment! Then I realized I see the same tantruming behavior when she is having a hard time finishing other activities, even those of her own choosing.