For parents, teaching kids to clean up after themselves can be a chore in itself. (And good luck trying to enlist an extra pair of hands when you’re trying to declutter or deep clean the entire house.) Though having a little one at home means it’s inevitable that mounds of toys and clothes will pop up at a whim, there are actually plenty of ways to make cleaning fun for your kids. We’ve discovered that making kids part of the solution is all it takes. And at the end of the day, keeping things tidy is a plus — the real goal is to instill good habits in your children at a young age. So if you’re wondering how to make cleaning fun for your family, here are six easy ways to get your kids cleaning (without a fuss).
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #1: Set a Good Example
Children typically enjoy lending a helping hand and take pride in their accomplishments. More often than not, they simply need you to help them get started — and to set a good example. Though you’ll need patience — lots of it — especially with younger ones, showing them the ropes in a clear, simple and step-by-step manner can help them get the hang of basic cleaning tasks before they start practicing on their own. Remember, start slow: one day, show them how to pick clothes off the floor and toss them into a hamper; on another, replace books onto the bookshelf. If you do crafts or activities with your kids, don’t let the items linger on your table — get them in the habit of putting things away immediately.
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #2: Be Specific
To get your kids cleaning, give them one simple task at a time. Telling a five or six-year-old to “clean their room” can be an overwhelming statement, but if you give clear directions such as, “put all of your dolls in the box,” it’s much easier for them to understand. As you work with your child on developing the initiative to clean their own room, it’s helpful to break everything down into bite-by-bite steps so they don’t get lost in the big picture. Have them jot down a game plan on a piece of paper and list each part of their room as its own task. For example: tackle clothes first before moving on to toys, then books, then other items.
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #3: Turn Cleaning Into Play
Make cleaning fun by incorporating play into chores. For instance, you can play a kitchen clean-up game that involves playing your child’s favorite song and telling them if they pick up all of their food wrappers and napkins by the time the song is over, they’ll get a treat. You can also play a “dice game” to divide household tasks. Simply write down six different chores, each labeled with a number between one and six, and have your participants roll a die to see their task. If you want to up the rewards and stakes (and put a bit more effort into the preparation), you can even lay easter eggs or treats around the house and devise a scavenger hunt that’s so fun your kid might not even mind that there’s actual cleaning involved.
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #4: Teach Them How to Organize
At some point, it’s worth incorporating a bit of design or aesthetic instruction into your child’s cleaning routine. After all, kids might be so eager to finish the actual task of organizing their room that they rush through it and end up sweeping things under the rug, literally and figuratively. Teaching your child to color-code their toys can be a great way to have them engage more deeply with the way their belongings are stored. When it comes to books, for instance, show your child your own library and how to organize their books the same way. Work with them to develop a purpose for every drawer or shelf, so that every object has a home that makes sense.
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #5: Stage a Cleaning Contest
Why not entice your kids to clean by offering them a fun contest? If you have more than one child, you can assign each one a room to clean and whoever can clean that room the quickest will receive a prize You can also set a sliding scale for allowances — for example, if your kids clean their room once a month, they get $10. If they clean the living room on top of that, they’ll get an extra $10. Instead of money, you can also invent a points system, where each household chore earns a certain number of points that can be traded for rewards such as an extra book at bedtime, a video game, a toy or a sweet snack, depending on their age.
How to Make Cleaning Fun Tip #6: Show Appreciation
Instead of resorting to punishments or rebukes when your child throws a tantrum or makes a halfhearted attempt at cleaning their room, try to be supportive and encouraging as often as possible. Make sure to thank them for their hard work rather than insincerely praise them for a less-than-successful execution, and find opportunities to continue practicing the task again together while giving them helpful hints that will make them more successful the next time around. If you ask them for help during a spring cleaning binge or weekend tidy-up, be sure to express your gratitude and explain to them exactly how they’ve made the space more clean to positively reinforce their contribution.