About a month ago, Liefe (my four year old) asked if she could have a chore chart. Since she wasn’t concerned about an allowance or getting paid to do the chores, we agreed. So, she set to work making a list of all the chores she already does. She came up with feeding the dogs, folding her clothes, setting the table, and cleaning the house (or CLN HOZ as she wrote it on her chart). She decided to give herself a sticker when she completed a task on the chart. She challenged herself to fill the entire sheet of paper with stickers. Some days she uses her chart regularly and other days it hangs unnoticed in our kitchen. By far her favorite chore is cleaning up - what four year old doesn’t like a spray bottle!?!
When Liefe is doing chores, I can guarantee that her little sister Haydee is not far behind. They are two very good reasons why we use cleaning products we know are safe. Since they love the spray bottle, it also helps if the products are economical too. Enter: Vinegar. White vinegar is known to kill bacteria, germs and mold, yet it’s harmless to children. (Note: vinegar is likely to be gluten-free as it is not generally made from wheat, but parents of children who are sensitive to gluten should certainly double check, just in case it’s ingested.) As a naturally occurring substance, vinegar is safe for the earth as well.
Equal parts water and vinegar in a clean spray bottle makes an effective cleaning solution for most areas of the home. Vinegar not only cleans, it disinfects and deodorizes as well. The vinegar odor disappears as soon as it dries. We’ve taken the cleaning adventure one step further by cutting old t-shirts into cleaning rags. They don’t unravel in the wash and, unlike paper towels, they can be used over and over again.
With supervision, children learn to be great housekeeping helpers. Haydee’s not quite there yet, but Liefe recently started to clean windows. We use this recipe to avoid streaky windows: 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. The liquid soap breaks down the wax left on the windows from a commercial window spray.
We get rid of fruit flies by setting out a small, shallow dish of undiluted white distilled vinegar. If the fruit flies are particularly stubborn (like at our house where we’ve placed the compost bin just outside the kitchen window so that we’ll actually bring things out to the compost), add a teaspoon of sugar and some dish soap. Children enjoy checking this to see how many fruit flies they’ve trapped.
At our house, children who can dress themselves, can help with the laundry. Vinegar comes in handy in the laundry room as well. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. This has been great in our family as a few of us have sensitive skin.
It is important to make sure all cleaning supplies are well labeled and kept out of the reach of children. While it’s nice to imagine them cleaning without us, perhaps while we enjoy a nice cup of tea or a well-deserved rest, it’s probably not a great idea to leave them alone with even the vinegar-water solution. By using earth friendly cleaning solutions cleaning with our children, we model yet another way to keep our homes healthy. While Liefe and Haydee are spritzing away, they’re actually learning about personal responsibility and team work. Plus, many hands do make light work. And light work means more time to play...