How to Get Kids Involved in Cleaning

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A list of ideas of how to  get kids to pick up and help clean the house
Isn't it always a constant battle to keep the house organized when you've got the kids home? Yes, I could lock the doors and make them live outdoors for the summer (they do have a playhouse after all) but I think that might concern the neighbors. 

I think a better solution is to get your kids involved in cleaning and organizing. My kids are active participants when it comes to cleaning time. It's all in the strategy…

Make them independent in their cleaning. Have little kids? Don't ask them to organize the tall bookcase, assign them the task of wiping down baseboards or dusting the low shelves on your tv stand. Have them work jobs that they can achieve completely on their own. Give them a feeling of pride for doing a good job - and doing it on their own. The bonus is that it means you eventually won't have to stand over them and can use that time for something else - like cooking dinner or painting your toenails. You know, important stuff.

Have you ever stepped in a preschool classroom at the end of the day? Everything is put away, right? Those teachers are not miracles workers - they just know how to get your kids to want to clean. Games like Beat the Timer or Hidden Treasure are great motivators.  And yes, modified versions even work for older kids. Not familiar with these?

For Beat the Timer, simply set the timer and give them a set goal, like "see if you can pick up all your toys in 5 minutes." Part of the fun is the countdown so make that funny or really elaborate. For older kids you can say "We're doing XX in 5 minutes if the clothes are picked up off the floor." Give them a deadline to shoot towards.

Hidden Treasure simply means you've hidden some sort of item or coupon somewhere in the mess - the first kid to find it during clean up get to redeem it. Coupons can be for things like "being the one to choose the movie on Friday night" or a free download on the iPhone for older kids. Kids are happy to hunt for treasure - trust me on this.

Who doesn't like gadgets? I can get Kate to dust the entire house with just the promise of using this:

All it takes sometimes is the novelty of a special tool like the steam mop or feather duster or some specialty tool. It makes them feel important to be trusted with a special tool.

Older kids can be assigned the task of being in charge of a certain "difficult" job. When I taught 4th grade I had a student who wasn't terribly motivated, but after I announced to the class he was our official 'classroom fixer" he just beamed. I made him in charge of using the screwdriver - every time that stapler jammed he needed no motivation. He was so proud to be the only one to use the tool to fix it.

Your idea of clean and their idea of clean… two different things. You might as well be speaking different languages. If you can tell your kids EXACTLY what you want done, you'll find that you'll be happier with the job.

DON'T SAY: "Clean the playroom."
DO SAY: "All the stuffed animals need to be put in the baskets, books should be placed on the shelves."

DON'T SAY: "Straighten up the bathroom."
DO SAY: "Please wipe the toothpaste tube and put in the drawer, toothbrushes should be in the holders and towels should be hung."

This seems like a lot to say each time, I know. But after a while, they understand what you want and you don't have to say it over and over. I'm a big fan of chore chart sheets, which we'll get into next week - they help tremendously.

It's a simple thing, but asking your kids to do something nicely sure gets your further than snapping at them. Kids lavish praise - saying thank you is just a simple way of showing them that you appreciate their effort. And who doesn't like to feel appreciated?

I try to use 'please' and 'thank you' with my kids constantly for two reasons: I want to model good manners AND I want them to see how their hard work.

Later this week, I'll be sharing with you one of my chore charts so you can see how easy it is to keep kids focused on their chores.

What strategies work for you to get your kids involved in keeping the house clean?

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