Cleaning; a bone of contention in almost every household. Throw children into the mix and it becomes even more of a hot topic… Parents are always told to lead by example and to think of ways to make cleaning fun for their kids, but we think it’s fair to say that that is far easier said than done. That’s why we are here to present you with a handful of ideas (and a few games) to help get you on the right track, or at least to provide some food for thought!
This first point bears mentioning right from the start as it will set the groundwork for your new cleaning rituals. If you’re reading this article then it would be safe to assume that you have kids at home and that you already have certain established cleaning rules, which may or not be working for you. If the latter is true, then it is important to reset the rules. If you are looking to make a big change in how the kids handle cleaning up, then you had best make it abundantly clear to them that things are going to be changing around the house! We suggest bringing this up as a new family challenge or adventure you’re all going to be taking part of. If it comes across as this boring, ominous change the children will be far less susceptible to the adjustments. Set the rewards, set the punishments, and most importantly enforce them if it comes to it. It is very important not to lose credibility early on as you will struggle down the line to keep them in check!
Game 1: Commercial Cleaners!
No one likes watching commercials on television, but they are unfortunately a necessary evil in the broadcasting world. With this game you might be able to use those dreaded short breaks to your advantage. Use the duration of the commercials as timers for the kids to go clean up designated areas, this works especially well if it’s a show that they enjoy. The goal is to get them to properly clean up a specific area or number of toys before the show comes back on. The small timeframe keeps the tasks manageable and the fear of missing the show when it comes back on is a great incentive for kids.
Kids love a little bit of competition, especially when it comes to impressing their parents! You can use this to your advantage by setting up cleaning challenges for them. Prepare a visible timer for your kids and challenge them to put away X number of items (anything that needs picking up) in X amount of time. This way their mind is drawn to the competitive aspect of the task and not the cleaning itself. You will achieve the best results with this method by setting multiple small manageable goals as opposed to one large one, as to not lose their attention midway through. One thing to keep in mind however, for those with more than 1 child, is to make sure it never gets too competitive. This is especially relevant if there is a large age gap between them. The aim of the game is to keep your kids happy and your house clean, not to leave the younger ones feeling frustrated!
Game 2: Clean up boogie!
This is one that is being used in classrooms all around the world with great success, and if it works on a classroom of kids surely it can help out at home as well! Find a song that they enjoy and turn it into their cleaning theme tune. Have a little dance, do a little cleaning, and they will have cleaned up without even realising it. If you want to add a little urgency, make it a race to finish before the song ends!
Since we’re talking about ways to keep your kids happy whilst cleaning, we couldn’t go without mentioning the elephant in the room: bribery. It is the most basic of incentives and can often be effective, within reason, we don’t want you to bankrupt yourselves trying to get your kids to clean! Often times, however, the promise of reward doesn’t do quite enough to get them cleaning. This is why we suggest a combined approach of positive and negative reinforcements. If you say ‘’you’ll get X if you clean up your toys’’, that still leaves them with the option of not doing it and simply not receiving the reward. On the other hand, if you add in the stipulation, ‘’and if you don’t you won’t be able to do X’’, they are now confronted with a tougher choice. Do it and receive a reward, or don’t and receive a punishment… Try it out and see if the added risk in the equation makes a difference!
Game 3: Colour cleaners!
This game is ideal for younger children who might not quite have understood the concept of cleaning yet. You can make it your own, but the core idea is very simple: You task them with finding a toy of a certain colour that is out of place, and then put it back where it belongs. For younger children we suggest having them bring one toy at a time back to you, so that you can check to see if it fits the designated criteria, before putting them away. This activity helps clean up the house and teaches children their colours!
To finish up, an easy way to start leading by example is to avoid complaining about cleaning around your children. We know that not everyone enjoys cleaning and that some tasks can require a lot of time to carry out, time that we’re sure people would rather be spending on other things, but here are a couple things to keep in mind while doing so. If, from a young age, your children hear you do nothing but complain while cleaning (or about having to clean) then inevitably they will start to associate this negativity with their feelings towards cleaning. After all, why wouldn’t they? The grown-ups seem to hate it, so it must be bad. We are not saying that you need to whistle while you work but try to keep the negativity to a minimum, at least when the kids are in earshot!
So, there you have it, our list of tips and tricks to try and make cleaning into something the kids enjoy, as opposed to dread! If you have any games or techniques of your own that you would like to share please do let us know, we love to hear from our readers!