Family Fun magazine February 2012 cover

How to Get Your Kids to Enjoy Cleaning Up

Family Fun magazine February 2012

Family Fun magazine Feb. 2012

Turn the chore of cleaning into a fun game with three great tips from Family Fun magazine.

It usually starts bothering me around dinnertime. The mess of toys that my children have slowly strewn about our house throughout the day reaches its peak in the evening. If you walked into my otherwise fairly neat house at the end of the day, you’d likely find a partially constructed tent in the dining room, an abandoned Lego tower in the den and every matchbox car we own lined up carefully down the hallway. I know I should get my preschoolers to put away one toy before getting out the next, but their games often involve a little bit of everything all at once.

On many evenings, I have them clean up on the way to their baths. But I have to admit that on some days I’m so eager for them to get to bed that I’d rather put away wooden blocks in peace myself after they’re asleep. Still, I know I need to do a better job of involving them in the cleanup, and an article in the February 2012 issue of Family Fun magazine gave me some great ideas. I love that each tip is from a real mom who’s tried it on her own kids.

Here are a few that we will be trying at our house:

  1. Shine Your Light. Heidi Lee of Coronado, Calif., plays flashlight tag with her kids to get them to pick up their rooms quickly. She turns out all the lights and shines a flashlight on a particular item that needs to be put away. Her kids love racing around the room to grab what’s been tagged. “My 6-year-old has even cleaned up his sister’s things, just so that he could play the game,” she says.
  2. Start the Clock. This one works better with kids who understand the concept of time. Cristin Frank of Williamsville, N.Y., assigns each child  few tasks and then asks them to guess how long it will take them to do the job well. She sets different timers and they race to see who can finish their jobs closest to their estimated times. “While the kids are working, they’re focused on the clock, not on the fact that they’re doing chores,” she says. My preschoolers don’t understand time yet, but they thrive on competition. I might try setting different timers and seeing who finishes first, emphasizing doing the job well. I have visions of every dollhouse piece being shoved into the oven of the toy kitchen just to be done “first.”
  3. Make it a Mystery. Heather Tomasello of Land O’Lakes, Fla., has created a brilliant game called “cleaning fortunes and cookies.” She writes different tasks on slips of paper, such as “put away toys” or “clean windows.” Then her kids each choose a slip at random and complete the tasks they’re given. Some slips say “Mystery! Ask mom.” For those jobs, Tomasello requires something funny like dusting while walking backwards. “The word ‘mystery’ makes these slips the most popular,” she says. If you reuse the slips each time (only including tasks that need to be done that day) you can quickly implement the game when it’s needed. The cookie part comes in the end: “After all the cleaning fortunes are done, we enjoy a cookie together,” says this creative mom.