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Dads: Get the Kids to Help You Clean

The last thing you want to do when you're home with the kids is spend your time cleaning up after them. You can encourage them to help you—and maybe even make a game out of it. Don't be discouraged if you think your kids are too young. Even toddlers can learn that toys and books need to be put back where they belong.

Yes, they can do laundry...

If they're old enough to dress themselves, kids can learn how to match socks and fold them with a little help. Show them how the washing machine works and where the soap goes; if the water isn't too hot (and you have a top-loader), let them hold their hand under the water as it fills the machine. After the clothes are washed, have them throw the clothes in the dryer. After everything is dry, teach them to fold kitchen towels or socks, and then show them how to put everything in their drawers and closets. (They will probably "forget" this skill once they reach their teens, but enjoy it while you can.)

...and dishes, too

While dish-storage cupboards may be out of reach for most kids, the silverware drawer isn't. Preschoolers can take spoons and forks out of the dishwasher and put them in the drawer. Older kids can learn where all the dishes and glasses go, especially if they're tall enough to reach the upper cupboards. If you don't have a dishwasher, get out a step stool. Young kids will love "stepping up to the plate" and learning to wash and rinse their cereal bowl.

Tackle the floors

If you use a traditional broom, toddlers love to hold the dustpan while you push dirt into it. If you use new devices that absorb or collect debris or let you mop without a bucket of water, such as the Swiffer Sweep & Trap or WetJet, kids love pushing them around and seeing what they can pick up. Older kids will have the strength to push the vacuum around, but they may need help moving furniture.

Don't forget to dust

Dusting may not seem exciting to you, but for a 4-year-old, it's really fun to "polish." If you don't feel comfortable having your child use polish on a rag, hand them a dusting wipe, like a Swiffer cloth or duster. Point out all areas that need to be polished, and keep an eye on them when they're dusting the TV.

Picking up toys

Even toddlers should be able to help pick up toys and books and put them in a toy chest or on a shelf. Stress how important it is to always pick up all the toys on the floor so no one gets hurt by stepping or tripping on them. Plus, when you're done, you can all play a game together on the now-clear floor!