It can seem like a nightmare trying to get your home clean and tidy with young children underfoot and always in need of attention. The best solution: get them involved! Of course, telling kids they must clean or tidy something is unlikely to inspire cooperation – particularly if you ever moan about having to do housework or use it as a punishment. However, encouraging children to clean up by treating it as a fun game tends to be far more effective. Clearly there are some tasks that children simply cannot do – especially if they are young. Never give a child a job that involves using bleach or dangerous chemicals, and try to avoid putting them in charge of cleaning anything delicate or fragile. For general tidy ups and chores though, there are lots of great ways to get the kids involved. Here are some of our favourites:
The only thing you need to make believe cleaning is fun is a bit of imagination. Thankfully, children are naturally imbued with bucket loads of that! You will often only need to think up a starting point of a fantasy and the kids will run with it and take it places you’d never dreamed. A good scenario for girls is to make believe that you are Cinderella getting all the jobs done so you can go to the ball (a good excuse to do a fun activity after as a reward). For little boys – a mission impossible theme is a good motivator; just break down what needs to be done into individual jobs and set these as parts of a secret mission. To make it even more fun, when each part of the mission is accomplished a key or clue could be earned. Combining all the clues at the end will lead to a prize. Another great make believe for any age is filming cleaning commercials. Give the kids a task to complete and pretend you are a director filming them for an advert. This can lead to some hilarious footage – so it might be worth using a real camera; it’s fun for all the family to watch the commercials back once the cleaning is finished and vote for the best.
Kid sized tools
Some children may be more inclined to help if they feel that the job they are given is really their own – not just part of what you should be doing. If they think that you trust them and are giving them real responsibility, they are likely to rise to the challenge – just as an adult would when given new responsibilities at work. A great way to make kids feel empowered and proud of their cleaning work is to make or buy child sized cleaning tools that are just theirs and give them a specific job to do every week. Toy cleaning supplies made for kids can be purchased from many toy shops, but a cheaper alternative is to adapt existing items or make your own. A ‘dust buster’ makes a great vacuum cleaner for a small child, or a sock puppet in the shape of a rabbit can be their own pet dust bunny!
Make it a challenge
Turing cleaning into a game is another great way to make it fun. This can also mean that tasks are completed very quickly, since most challenges will be against the clock. For instance – give each child a different colour and get them to clear up as many things of that colour as possible before the timer beeps. Alternatively, try making it into a race. The kids have to tidy the living room before you finish cleaning the kitchen. This can allow you to issue instructions without them realising – by shouting things like “oh no, you only need to put all the Lego away and you’re going to win!”