Originally posted February 3, 2011. Updated for your usefulness, and for my own amusement.
This idea came to me on a rare Saturday when we didn’t have anywhere to be, and my kids were driving me nuts already by 10am. I tested it again yesterday, day 2 of our 4-day school hiatus from the infamous ice storm, and it was a hit once more.
My 6.5 yr old daughter has a nasty habit of not putting her toys away in her room (“Shocker!”). Then when you have clothes here, Polly Pockets there, scraps of craft paper here, and Squinkies there, and there, and there, it becomes too overwhelming for both of us.
I ‘get’ that brains are wired differently, and some, like my daughter’s, need to compartmentalize in order to process it all. Taking an overall look at her room results in a tearful, screeching, “I CAN’T DO IT!”, with a little foot stomp for added emphasis.
So I started a fun “game” (anything with ‘game’ added to it gets instant buy-in from my kids). It’s called the Cleanup Countdown.
The premise is so simple, and yet so rewarding: Get the kids to pick up their stuff, without having to nag them about it. Then reward them. And guess what, the more kids you have, the faster your house gets cleaned!
Here is how our game worked, you can adapt it to your levels, rooms, and messiness factor. These directions are per child, so 10 toys on the basement floor really means 20! And I recommend doing this on-the-fly, just look around the house and come up with your list. It will change every time you ‘play’!
- Put 10 pieces of dirty clothes into the hamper.
- Put 9 pieces of folded, clean clothes into the correct drawer.
- Pick up 9 Lego bricks and put back with their correct set.
- Throw away 8 scraps of paper from your floor.
- Find 7 markers/crayons/pencils and put them in their boxes.
- Put 6 books back onto your bookshelves.
- Find 5 things you’ve taped to your bedroom walls or door and toss them into recycling.
- Put 4 stuffed animals back on their shelf.
- Put away 3 Barbies/action figures/baby dolls.
- Remove 2 of your papers from the refrigerator, and toss them into recycling. Right after I take a picture of you holding it.
- Make your 1 bed.
The reward can be as simple as a special dessert for dinner, or if they worked extra hard then treat them to a Redbox movie rental. The bigger your eyes and your own excitement get when describing the reward in detail, the more exciting it will be for your kids. Happy cleaning!