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Family Cleaning Guide: Get the Kids Cleaning During Summer Vacation

Making It Appealing
To make cleaning more fun, set up a sort of clean-up concert.
To make cleaning more fun, set up a sort of clean-up concert.

OK, no matter how hard you try, cleaning the house is not going to seem like a trip to Disney World. But it doesn't have to be a day in kid prison, either. Just a few approaches to making cleaning at the very least tolerable and hopefully somewhat entertaining include:

Make a chart

Most kids, especially under the age of 12, love charts. Especially colorful ones that move it some way, like a job wheel, or require the use of crayons or markers, like a bar graph that must be filled in with the completion of a job.

Together, sit down and create a job wheel that your child spins each cleaning day, or a graph your child fills in with the completion of each task or time period (10 minutes of cleaning, for instance, fills in a box). You may find it adds a sense of control (for your child) and excitement to the task at hand.

Make it Fun

If there are any guarantees in childhood, one has got to be the love of all things gamelike. Turn cleaning into a game or a competition, and chances are your kid will be pretty into it. This might mean timing a task and setting a challenge to break the record, or maybe seeing who can fill a bucket with weeds the fastest. You can also set up a sort of clean-up concert and take turns picking some background music for your cleaning session.

Make it Their Own

Being told what to do and how to do it is simply part of being a child; but that doesn't mean children like it. One way to make cleaning more palatable is to let your child set the schedule, deciding the order in which jobs will be done, and picking out his or her own tools. A trip to the store to get the dustpan your child thinks is the nicest will probably go a long way to getting him or her to use it.

Provide Incentives

If your helpers are teens, chances are none of the previously mentioned approaches is going turn that frown upside down. So for 16-year-olds (and 8-year-olds, for that matter), you'll want to give them a totally selfish motivation to mop: rewards.

These can be financial, in the form of an allowance or a pay-by-task system (ideal for teens); they can be special trips to the movies or the park or maybe cooking their favorite meal for dinner that night. There's nothing like good old-fashioned bribery to get a job done without much complaint. Just remember to keep the rewards short-term, especially for little ones. A plan to see a movie three weeks from now probably won't achieve as much as one you're going to see this afternoon.

Keep it Short

Whether your kid is 7 or 17, planning a 10- or 20-minute cleaning session is going to be so much easier on everyone than a one- or two-hour cleaning marathon. Keep it short, and you'll find you get a much better response, and greater effort, from your helpers.

Finally, the most important consideration when putting your kids to work …