Our kids aren’t always perfect little angels, but they delight and surprise us every day.
And the most delightful things are often the most unexpected. Think of that time your child organized a recital for your birthday, or when they brought home a craft made specially for you.
If only they were that eager to do household chores.
What if we told you that it’s not hard to get your kids excited about cleaning? Research shows that regular collaboration in the household encourages children to be more helpful around the house.
We’re telling you this now because summer is the best time to get your child into new habits. Trapped at home with no school nor homework, they’re balls of restless energy who are bored out of their minds.
We’re not hiding any miraculous secrets to getting your kids to clean. However, we can suggest a few ways to keep them entertained and teach them valuable habits — without even realizing what they’re doing.
Try: Tidy bingo
You’ve probably seen chore charts before — a sort of calendar that demands your kid to complete a chore every day, getting rewarded for consistent performance.
Chore charts can be a lot of work for parents with little payoff. After a few weeks, kids realize they’re just plowing through an endless chore list. This activity may be working for some parents, but it’s still just a temporary trick that relies on extrinsic motivation — to keep them engaged over time, you’ll have to up the ante with rewards until you’re buying them ponies and trampolines. You have to be careful.
And quite frankly, chore charts are boring.
We suggest taking the chore chart concept and transforming it into a game of bingo. All you need to create a bingo board is a large piece of paper or a whiteboard. Fill each square with a chore. Explain to your child that they can complete these at any time during the week. When they fill up one line, they win the game.
The key to keeping bingo fun is to emphasize the element of competition. Whether you pin them against their sibling, yourself or another family member, your child is going to be excited merely by the fact that it’s a game.
Here are some tasks you can add to the bingo board:
- Washing their dinner plate
- Making their bed
- Picking up their toys
- Putting books away
- Wiping down counters
- Taking out the trash
Remember to keep the “activities” age-appropriate — you’d have your 9 to 12-year-olds taking out the trash and your 5 to 7-year-olds doing much simpler activities.
Try: Laundry rescue
This is an easy way to teach your kids the habit of sorting laundry.
In this game, your kids are superheroes with a very important mission: rescuing lost laundry and returning clothing to their homes. The more props you put into the game (e.g. capes or full costumes for them to wear; labels for the laundry baskets), the better.
Scatter the clothes you need to wash all over the floor of your bedroom or the living room. Put some of them in harder-to-find places to keep the game challenging. Keep the rescue centres (laundry baskets) in separate rooms so the kids get to run back and forth to put laundry away. With two or more kids — ideally between 4 and 8 years-old — this can turn into a high-energy competition.
Amidst the fun, they’ll learn to sort lights and darks while practicing the habit of picking clothes off the floor.
Try: Folding together
Marie Kondo folds clothes with her kids, and they apparently love it. That’s probably not because they actually enjoy folding clothes—it’s a pretty menial activity.
What they really love is the quality time they get with their mother.
Try sitting on the floor with your 5 to 9-year-old and play their favourite music while you fold clothes together — and teach them step-by-step your preferred folding method. This can be a weekly activity that they look forward to.
It’s a small habit that will pay off when they’re a teen. By that time, they’ll be accustomed to folding their laundry immediately and more efficiently.
You can apply this chore approach to anything, from baking brownies to raking leaves to making beds. Teachable tasks are best taught as bonding experiences. That’s how they become not only skills and habits, but moments your children will remember for the rest of their lives.
At the end of the day, you know your children better than anyone. You know what bores them and what weird games they’ll totally devour.
The common thread between all these suggestions? They involve quality time between parents and kids.
So, the real key to getting your kids into the habit of cleaning is to make it a family activity rather than a chore. Material rewards can get them excited about anything, but extrinsic motivation can only get you so far — take away the prize and they won’t do the task anymore.
Offering your kids exciting moments of bonding, discovery and freedom is the only way to take the bore out of the chore.
Sadly, your child will never clean the whole house for you. Ask an expert about how house cleaning services can alleviate your stress and give you more quality time with your kids.