November 17, 2009

Getting Kids to Clean

As I've mentioned in a previous post, cleaning the house is not my favorite thing to do. Here are a few fun things I invented to help my boys clean their junk without complaining.

Secret Ninja
For this game I whisper their mission, "Secret Ninja, go pick up 8 toys." They give me a little bow and quietly run off to pick up 8 things and then return and report, again with a little bow. I keep giving them different numbers, all whispered, and they keep running off to do it. The goal for them is to be so quiet that I can't hear them leave or return.

The younger boys get smaller numbers, and the older boys get up to the 20s. The beauty of this is that they'll clean for hours and I can do other things like wash dishes, fold laundry or lay on the couch reading a book. I'm not sure how to adapt this for girls. Perhaps they'd like to be secret ninja princesses.

Draw a number
We started this when the oldest boys were 5ish. I wrote down the numbers 0-10 on separate pieces of paper (I made two sets) and put them in a small box. When it was time to clean they would draw a number then pick up that number of toys. The number was put back into the box and they'd keep drawing until the room was clean.

As they got older we added the numbers through 20. Just make sure you have that zero in there because there's nothing better than getting that 0 and watching your brother put 13 things away!!! After doing this a few times they were able to run the system on their own. I just handed them the box and they cleaned the room by themselves.

The picture chart
It was/is often overwhelming for the boys to enter a completely trashed room and know where to start. A shovel? Bulldozer? Move to another state? I made a simple chart with pictures of various items with the written word next to it. For example, there would be a picture of "books" then the word "books". They would start with the first item listed and put all of those things away, then move to the next item listed.

I sometimes cut pictures out of magazines, printed them off the internet or drew them by hand. We had pictures for Books, Action Figures, Balls, Cars, Trains, Animals, Clothes and Magnetics. Everything else I would help take care of because a) it was mostly clean by that time and b) the chart was for the little guys and they were usually pretty tired by the end.

As the boys got older they didn't need the chart anymore. The 9-yr-olds are golden now, but the almost 6-yr-old still needs some direction.

What fun things do you do to get your kids to clean?


  1. You thought of wonderful ideas! Today is cleaning day at my house. I was supposed to take the day off the computer..but I had to pay a bill and then I wandered over I have used a basketball approach. I let the kids sit the toy box at one end of the room and throw the toys in the box that needed to be put away. Now, this doesn't work for every I also used the Room Fairy idea. You give your kids the expectations of how their room should look. Then every now and check their room. If the room is clean you set candy on their pillow..and a note from the Room Fairy. If the room is not clean you sprinkle confetti all over and then they have to clean everything up. It was cute. It works for a ton of people. I had to make my own enforcer fairy to give the room fairy back up. lol. Now, I just tell the 11 and 9 year old to clean. I'm really bad at keeping up with charts and programs. I think your way of turning into games on the spot is fantastic! I will have to use that with my 4 year old.

  2. I really like your ideas, especially draw a number! I'll have to try that one.

  3. Yes, I love these ideas. Thanks for sharing them. I love your blog. Just recently found it.