It can feel hard enough to find a home for your household items. And how do you make sure items make it back to their home once you do? How do you get your family on board? And why do they think everything belongs on the kitchen table?
Since these are questions I have certainly struggled with, I wanted to share a few family-friendly activities to help get everyone involved in the clean-up process (without feeling like a drill sergeant ordering folks around).
This is the go-to in our home, at least once a week. Though I’d like to come up with a more fun name for this activity, the results certainly make me smile. I set the timer for 10 minutes and then everyone helps put things away until the timer rings. The focus is to get everyone working together. Before we start we even do a “Go Team” cheer, hands in the middle and everything. Yes, it is cheesy but my kids are young enough to love it!
During the 10 minutes, we pickup our own stuff first and then move on to help others if there is still time left. When 10 minutes is up, we all stop, even if everything is not quite put away. It is hard for me to stop sometimes, but it is important to give a clear endpoint to the cleaning so the kiddos don’t feel like they’ll be cleaning for the whole day. Do you remember feeling like that when you where little?
Once you’ve done the 10 Minute Pickup a few different times, everyone will get a sense that it’s not too long a time to get through. We always do a quick ending team cheer to congratulate us on a job well done. Then a fun activity after cleaning is always a great reward too.
If you have older kids, you can modify the 10 Minute Pickup and play Mystery Pickup. You may want to take out the team cheer (although you’d be surprised, they might get into it). Pick out 1-3 items that need to be put away before you begin the clean up. The clean up could be a set 10 minutes or everyone working together on one room until it is done.
When the clean up is done, you reveal what the mystery items were and whoever put them away gets a reward. It can be free and simple and still fun- a little piece of candy, stay up an extra five minutes past bedtime, pick out the next story, even a high-five.
Beat the Clock
Set a timer for 15-30 minutes for a mega-pickup! Set the expectations for what “done” looks like before you start. Once everyone is done, however many minutes left on the timer can be added to something fun like more computer time, staying up after bed, etc.
You could also use the minutes as points to try to earn a big family activity. Accumulating a certain amount of points can be equal to something specific that everyone is excited about. Be creative and find what works for your family and that is also simple enough for you all to follow through on. It can be as simple as going on a picnic, but when everyone has worked together to “earn” the picnic, it turns a simple activity into something special!
*Mom’s note: Be sure to check under the bed and behind closed doors when trying this one. Races like this can lead to jamming things under the bed just to win. Be clear about the rules ahead of time.
This is a fun game for toddler/preschool ages when they can only help so much with cleaning up. Plus, going all out in the game of chase means you burn a few calories while playing with your kiddos and cleaning up. A total win-win!
The rule is you have to have something in your hand that you are putting away (be sure the scissors are already put away before you start). Invite your kiddos to see if they can catch you before you put the item away. You can switch off who is ‘it’, the person putting an item away. To amp up the cleaning, the person who is ‘it’ can only tag while putting an item away too. Once you’re done with that item, run back to the room everyone is cleaning to pick out something else.
My kiddos are pretty young and so any opportunity for a game of chase is a big hit!
Hopefully, these four tips will get you going on Operation Team Clean! If the novelty wears off and your cries of “time for a game of 10-minute pickup” is greeted with whines, here are a few more tips to get you through. There are so many schools of thought on discipline, and only you can find what works for your family. With that said, these are a few things that have worked personally for our fam.
- Focus on the teamwork. It only takes a few times to see how much faster it is with everyone working together. Focus on how the family couldn’t do it without each person helping.
- Try ignoring the poor attitude and when they ask for a treat or fun thing to do, the simple answer is no. “You choose not to clean up with the family, therefore you may not do so and so.”
- Big praise at the end for a job well done. There was one time when the hubs and I were just congratulating each other and making a big deal out of the great job we did and ignoring the poor attitudes of the girls. They are young enough that they wanted to be involved in the after clean up party that takes place.
- Plan a fun activity for after the clean up, like a board game. I don’t use it as a threat to get my girls moving during cleaning but when the whining is particularly intense and one of the girls opts out, I do clearly state that she (fill in the name of whichever girl is being a party pooper) chose not to help the family clean up and therefore doesn’t get to play the family game. It may sound harsh, but I want the girls to learn there are consequences if you don’t work together and that we need to do the hard work first before the fun.
Although there may be some meltdowns and possibly some full-blown defiance during cleanup, remember if you stay consistent, most days will be a breeze and you’ll be amazed and impressed by the cooperation you see. Now, turn up the music and have some fun!
What is your solution to the age-old problem of kids not wanting to clean up? I would love to hear what has worked for you. Does your family play games while cleaning up? Do you give little treats for daily pickup or is it just part of chores?