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Raising Boys

My top hacks for playtime and cleaning with messy kids.

With small kids in the house there is bound to be some kind of mess, at some point in the day. My two year old is still learning to hold his cup of juice “up” and my four year old is still learning not to fight with his brother while he’s eating, things can get messy! Also playtime outside can get messy, especially if the weather is wet. We can’t keep them indoors all the time, so we need to have a plan of how to deal with the mud and mess when it happens so it’s not all so overwhelming.

So here are my top hacks for making cleaning up and making emergency cleaning easy!

Dedicated bucket for pre-soaking.

In my laundry area is a 10L bucket that is dedicated as the pre-wash bucket. When my kids mess yogurt on themselves, oats down their front, or juice spills, I just take the dirty clothes off and throw them in my bucket in the laundry. It doesn’t always get attended to right away, but the dirty clothes have a place to go while I get back to wiping up the food, and re-dressing the kids. This helps with keeping the soiled clothes contained, out of reach of the dogs, and most importantly, not making anything else in the house dirty along the way!

I can then pre-soak the clothes overnight for the next wash load and I don’t have to go fishing them out of all kinds of places and the smell stays in one area.

Pile of absorbent rags/cloths with the spray cleaner.

I have kept all the muslins, square cloth nappies (in South Africa this is still a thing) and old tea towels and burp cloths as rags. They have a spot in my laundry area and I keep the spray stain cleaner right next to the pile of cloths. When the kids have an accident, or mess food on my furniture I can grab a cloth and the cleaner quickly out of the laundry and clean it up before it becomes a deep mark or a set stain.

This was super handy when I was potty training my oldest (and the dogs) as the cloths were right off the living area and easy to get to in a hurry. Just grab, dab and wipe!

Let them get dirty, but don’t go in the house.

The only rule I have for my kids when they play outside (other than don’t kill each other) is don’t go inside the house if your feet are dirty. So play, get dirty, get full of mud, play in the puddles, go wild, but don’t you step foot in my house if your feet are dirty.

They can ask me to fetch them stuff from inside the house, and I always bring my trusty little bucket outside and a large towel for drying off if they’ve been playing in the mud or puddles. They strip off outside the back door (one day I will have a mud room for this purpose), and all the dirty clothes go in the bucket, they get wrapped in a towel and we go inside. This also applies to my dogs, cause they are house dogs, but I have a towel that they get dried off with and their feet get cleaned before they come running across my floor.

Keep an eye on the weather, then straight in the bath.

This isn’t really a cleaning hack, but more of a health hack. When it’s been raining and the boys have been playing outside in the garden and the puddles and mud, I give them a 45 min window to play if it’s cold, obviously they have jackets and boots on, but this all gets covered in mud. So then they are stripped down and I have the bath ready so they go straight into the bath to clean off and get warm. I have one kid who is prone to getting a bad chest pretty quickly if we don’t take extra precautions, so this helps to save me a doctor bill down the line as they will have warmed up in the bath and gotten nice and clean in the process.

Tip: I use a bubble bath that doubles as a soap, so they get clean and have fun at the same time, it ALSO doesn’t leave the bath dirty, so double whammy bonus on this one.

Have a snack ready after the clean-up to help “mark” moving onto quiet time.

This one works especially well for small kids. Taking a leaf out of the school’s book, after play time, it’s juice and snack time! This helps to move them from a high energy activity to a slower paced one without any fighting or moaning. I usually have a snack ready for when I tell them to come inside or after their bath (depending on how dirty they are) and they sit quietly in the lounge watching Fireman Sam or Blaze eating their snack. This more often than not leads them to playing quietly inside with their cars or lego and the transition indoors has been trauma free, and they’ve had something to eat to ease the crank.

These are my hacks for a wild afternoon of play and cleaning up easily, do you have a “go-to” hack for playtime or cleaning up after your kids? I’d love to hear it, let me know in the comments.

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