Turning Clean-up Into a Sport

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Frances Haddad 

It seems as if you’ve tried everything to get your kids to do their chores. You’ve assigned tasks, commanded, and pleaded, yet your home still resembles the aftermath of an avalanche. Your children are no more motivated than they were before you lost your voice the umpteenth time you said, “Clean your room!”  You’ve continually met resistance, and to top it off, you’ve basically forgotten what color your countertops are since they’re piled high with clutter. 

During the last months of school, kids came down with “spring fever,” and now that summer’s here, it’s unrealistic to expect them to finally buckle down and put their things away. All they want to do is run around and play sports. So, it’s time for a new perspective. Get creative, and make cleaning into a sport! Here are some tips for making clean-up time (almost) as fun as play time.  

Race Against the Clock 

Using a timer is a fantastic way to motivate kids to work quickly. Instead of giving an indefinite amount of time to pick up toys that are strewn across the living room, give them a chance to beat the clock! Set the timer on the oven or your cell phone. Make sure to countdown an amount of time in which the task could be completed, but also keep in mind that kids may get restless if the timer is left running too long. Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes is probably best.   

Set the timer and say, “On your marks, get set, go!” Before you know it, your kids will be scurrying across the room trying to put everything back in its proper place. And they may even ask for another round! 

The 10 Things Game 

Does a room in your house look like a tornado bulldozed through it? The “10 Things Game” is a great way to get rid of a big mess without the stress that clean-up usually entails. This is how it works. Take out two laundry baskets, a marker, index cards, and scotch tape, and label one basket “put away” and the other “give away.” Then get a garbage bag and label it, “throw away.”  

Here is where the game begins! Tell your kids that the object is to put 10 things from the messy room into each basket and to fill the garbage bag with all the “throw away” items they can find. Your daughter’s toys go into “put away,” the used plastic cup goes into “throw away,” and the outdated shirt goes into “give away.” Set your timer for 10 minutes. When time’s up, the “throw away” is discarded and the “give away” is sent to the local gemach. Each child should take a bunch of things from the “put away” basket and return them to their rightful place. With this game, every kid is a clean-up champion and the room becomes functional!  

Some ideas for other clean-up games: points for every toy put in the toy box, or counting down as kids collect “treasures” that fit the colors they were assigned. There are so many ways to take this, so get creative and get your kids moving! 

Pump It Up 

Music can transform even the most mundane clean-up routines into a party. Got dirty dishes? Put on a song with a really fast beat, and before you know it, the job will be done. Pop your favorite Yaakov Shwekey CD into the stereo, amp up the volume, and dance with the broom in one hand and the Bounty in the other! Your kids may follow suit soon enough.  

Superstar 

Kids love charts. Hang one on the wall in your child’s bedroom. Each time the child accomplishes a task, place a star-shaped sticker on the chart. When your child earns 10 stars, he can receive a small token. A boy may appreciate a matchbox car, and a girl may like scented erasers. Use whatever you feel will motivate your child. (Shy away from unhealthy candies and treats!) The entire family can also work together. After 50 stars from all the children’s charts, it’s time for a pizza party!  

The camaraderie that results from working together and having a blast will strengthen family bonds and will show kids that taking care of the home can be a fun and worthwhile mission. Cleaning can become a dream!