If you have a teen who likes to clean, you probably know he's the exception and not the rule. There just aren't too many adolescents who are down with doing cleaning chores -- probably because most of them could really care less if things are a mess. It often requires reaching adulthood to appreciate a tidy household and to be willing to do the work required to get it that way. One way to get your kids on board is to make cleaning more fun by making a game out of it. But you'll want to start long before they're teenagers, so they get in the habit of doing chores. Of course, as they get older, the chores can become a bit more difficult to reflect their age. Here are five cleaning games that may help you get a little help around the house from your family.
To get your preschool-aged kids involved in cleaning up their toys, try making it a learning experience. Label different toy boxes or bins with colored shapes and explain that each one is for a certain type of toy. Maybe dolls go in the box marked with a yellow square, or all of the games go in the one with a blue circle. Stay with your child and offer positive reinforcement when he recognizes the colors and shapes by putting the toys into the correct bins. Before you know it, he may be doing it of his own accord.
Nothing inspires kids of any age to clean like the promise of something special upon completion. If you want to put the pedal to the metal, offer up a "Beat the Clock" game. Set a timer for a reasonable amount of time and make a deal with your kids -- if they can clean up their rooms to your satisfaction before the time goes off, they get a special treat. The time limit should help keep them focused on the task. Young kids may respond to some kind of sweet treat, maybe a trip to the ice cream shop. Tweens and teenagers might appreciate a sleepover, a later bedtime or a trip to the mall with their friends. Some may call it bribery, but we like to think it's just good sense.
If you want to get your entire family in on the action, plan a fun pizza and movie night on the condition that the whole house gets a once-over. If you have young kids, pair them up as a team and tell them they're competing with Mom and Dad. The key here is to get your spouse on board, too. Whoever the non-cleaner is may need a little coaxing, but having one parent not participating sends a confusing message to the kids. Make sure Mommy or Daddy plays along so your children understand the work/reward aspect of the game.
This one requires a little funny business on your end. Get an amusing outfit or costume together for yourself and name yourself the "Room Inspector." Gather your kids together and tell them that the inspector is paying their rooms a visit in a half hour, and if the rooms are tidy, it's time for a treat. The 30-mintue timeline is just a suggestion, though. If your children have rooms that are closer to a garbage dump, then you may need to give them some more time. Set a timer and blow your whistle for maximum effect. Your kids should find this pretty exciting and fun. At the end of the time limit, do your best inspector imitation and then dole out the rewards as promised.
This is a spin on the classic game of musical chairs. Label the living room sofa as the home base and then play some music. The kids are charged to go and do some speed cleaning while the music plays. When it's switched off, there's a mad dash for the sofa and the first one there gets to sit out the next round before rejoining the cleaning rotation. After a few songs, you'll get a lot of tidying up accomplished, and your kids will have fun sitting out while their brothers and sisters do the dirty work.
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- Cohen, Ariane. "How to Get the Whole Family Cleaning." Womansday.com, April 12, 2010. http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Shelter/Organizing-Cleaning/How-to-Get-the-Whole-Family-Cleaning.html
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- Seehafer Sears, Mary. "Clever Cleaning Games." Scholastic.com, 2010. http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=11690
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