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Parenting Feature Articles


Spring cleaning with young children

Sara Gable, Ph.D., State Specialist and Associate Professor, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension


Young girl sweeping with small broom and dust panSpring is the time of year for cleaning. Your young children can help with cleaning tasks, especially when they are members of a team that works together. Such activities help children focus on a task, talk about what needs to be done and follow through until completion. These experiences can promote a sense of competence and show children that everyone benefits from teamwork.

In the publication Young Children, Nancy Jones writes that she uses big jobs in her early childhood program. She defines a big job as “a useful, helpful task that requires several people to work together.” Such tasks typically involve physical activity, problem solving and communication for planning and directing.

During her 30 years as an early childhood professional, Jones says she has observed that children benefit from completing big jobs. After finishing group tasks, she says children work more diligently at challenging activities and are friendlier with peers. Most importantly, children experience personal satisfaction by taking charge of themselves and the world around them.

Here are some ideas for indoor and outdoor tasks for the home and early childhood setting. With the right tools (small buckets, sponges, rags, child-size shovels and rakes) and adult supervision, children can work together to complete these big jobs.

At home

  • Try on summer clothes and donate items that are too small.
  • Sort through toys and books and decide which ones can be donated.
  • Vacuum and sweep closets.
  • Sort items for recycling, such as newspapers, cardboard, plastic milk jugs and metal cans.
  • Sweep patios and porches.
  • Pick up sticks and leaves from the yard.
  • Spread new mulch on flowerbeds.
  • Turn over dirt in the garden area.
  • Spread grass seed and hay over bare areas in the yard, then water newly seeded areas.


At school

  • Dust toy shelves.
  • Select new clothing items for the pretend play area.
  • Wash tricycles and other toys for outdoor play.
  • Clean outdoor play equipment.
  • Sweep outdoor play area.
  • Pick up sticks and leaves from the playground.
  • Prepare an area for planting a garden.
  • Spread grass seed and hay over bare areas in the yard, then water newly seeded areas.
  • Fill a birdbath with clean water.


Jones, Nancy P. “Big Jobs: Planning for Competence.” Young Children. March 2005: 86-93.


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Last Updated 03/20/2017