In preparation for the Passover holiday, an important task we undertake is the cleaning of our homes of all leaven (chametz) products, all of which are, according to Torah law, forbidden from being in our possession. We do this in commemoration of the unleavened matzot the Jewish nation baked prior to leaving Egypt.

I think if there is anything more nerve-racking than cleaning for Passover, it is cleaning for Passover with small children. I mean, they are walking pieces of leaven. Somehow they manage to bring pieces of pretzels, cookies, crackers and anything else not allowed during Passover into virtually any space you never thought they could possibly enter.

I can’t think of any place that has ever been totally kid-free

There is the concept with Passover cleaning that if you are sure nothing leavened entered a certain room or area during the year, then there is no need to clean it. Well, maybe it is just in my house, but with four kids, I can’t think of any place that has ever been totally kid-free. I remember one year laughing and saying that at least I don’t need to clean the ceiling, only to look up and notice that somehow, someway (my children are quite talented), a piece of some food was attached to the very ceiling above my head.

Now, while I am not trying to stress you out, the reality is that with children who are prone to eating throughout the house (and I don’t care what kind of rules you have . . . if you have a two-year-old, that child has snuck some food form in a little fist up to his or her room before), Passover cleaning requires some preplanning. And even though I am the first to claim that being organized and neat is not my forte, I have discovered some amazing tips for making Passover cleaning that much more bearable.

Now there are two ways of cleaning for Passover. One is the approach that it might as well coincide with spring cleaning, and what better time to sort through and reorganize the entire home. If that is your approach, this article is not for you. But, as a side note, if you do plan to spring-clean, this is a great time to sort though and give away clothing, toys and other things that you are no longer using. Rule of thumb should be that if you or your children haven’t worn certain things in a year (and there is no immediate sibling to pass them down to), or the kids haven’t played with it in some time and there is no sentimental value, give it away! Remember, your junk is another’s treasure…

Returning to the topic at hand, these tips can be enormously helpful for those who follow the perspective that dirt is not chametz! I am on a mission for anything leavened: nothing more, nothing less. And along with that, comes the lovely ability to “sell” places or rooms that are not being used for Passover. Essentially what this means is that come the week of Passover, at least half of my house cannot be entered, touched or used in any way, as it is where everything that has not been cleaned has been stored. (And no, children can’t be “sold” in this process . . . )

So when it comes to cleaning and kids (I know, an oxymoron), how is this done?

Let them be a part of it and add great incentives

Being that Passover is still a few weeks away, I am going to deal only with the kids’ rooms and toys. Now depending on the age of the kids, there is no reason why they can’t help with cleaning their own things and organizing. If they are old enough to, great. Let them be a part of it and add great incentives as well.

Here are the things to look out for:

First and foremost, check backpacks, bags, and anything that may have gone to school with them. Whatever they won’t need for Passover, don’t worry about. You can “sell” it. Whatever you will need, clean now and put away out of reach. Whatever they are still using that you will also need during Passover week (such as a bag that will be used during Passover), keep by the front door and not in their bedrooms.

Once you have cleaned their rooms, have them take off their shoes when they come home and leave them by the front door. There is nothing more frustrating than tracking crumbs through a room that has already been cleaned.

Also, a few weeks before Passover, start making all snacks and lunches with Passover-friendly products. For example: rice cakes, Bamba/peanut butter snacks, macaroons, marshmallows, or the endless array of Passover snacks and cookies. [These products are not used by everyone on Passover itself, but being that they are not leaven, they are optimal choices for before the holiday.] Remember to stay away from crumbly food that will inevitably stick to clothes.


It is a custom to wear new clothing

Go through your kids’ closets and see if they need anything new for Passover. It is a custom to wear new clothing for the holiday, and this makes life a lot easier. Take them shopping early, pick out a few things, and set them aside. I find this is a great time to buy a new pair of shoes. We keep them on the side and they wear them starting on Passover.

Additionally, pull out of their closets and drawers a few other outfits without which they can get by for a few weeks, make sure they are clean, and put them aside for Passover as well.

Just remember: with something like a winter coat, make sure to clean or wash it first, as it is very likely to have crumbs in the pockets.

Back to the idea of selling, try to designate only one closet that will be a Passover closet. This is the one you will really need to go through and clean. Put in all the clothes that are being saved for Passover (for the entire family) and then keep it closed, tape it shut or whatever you need to do so kids don’t enter. Then keep all the other clothes and things in the other closets. When Passover comes, tape those shut, consider them “sold,” and voila . . .


Similar idea to the above. Go through the kids’ toys and pick out all the easy-to-clean toys. These are toys that can be safely thrown in the washing machine (more applicable to baby toys, stuffed animals, etc.) or thrown in the bathtub (great for plastic toys, etc.)

Have your kids join you, fill the bathtub with soapy water, and soak all washable toys. When the toys that have been washed in either the tub or washer are dried, throw them in a garbage bag, tie it closed, and put it in the Passover closet.

Let them play with the rest of their toys until Passover. Before Passover arrives, take all of those hard-to-clean toys and store them in whatever room(s) or closets are being “sold.” You can then pull out the cleaned toys you had set aside previously. (It certainly doesn’t hurt to buy each kid a new toy in honor of Passover as well . . . )

In summary, the main idea is that a few weeks before Passover, start separating the clothes and toys that will be set aside, so that you need not worry as Passover gets closer that their favorite shirt or doll or toy is filled with crumbs and impossible to deal with.

Hopefully this has been helpful, or at least a start with the Passover cleaning. And when all else fails, do what we always do . . . spend Passover in someone else’s house!