When the Baker family sat down to breakfast in Cheaper by the Dozen, they probably weren’t expecting a frog to leap from the chandelier right into the bowl of eggs. The ensuing chaos resulted in shattered glasses and flying lunch sandwiches, creating a large mess that probably took all 12 children to clean up.
Family life often means messes. Keeping the house clean isn’t only important for the appearance and warmth of your home, but also because a clean house contributes to the space’s overall wellness. A clean house can prevent issues like mold, which typically isn’t covered by home insurance.
But the burden of keeping a clean house doesn’t always have to fall on the parent or babysitter — in fact, teaching children to clean will help them mature responsibly and help them develop clean habits. Making cleaning days fun can help teach your kids not to fear the vacuum cleaner, but to actually enjoy it.
Though managing kids isn’t always easy, you can help yourself by teaching them good habits early on. One way to do so is to turn cleaning into a fun game while your kids learn to do their chores. We’ve compiled a list of fun chore games that can make your kids not only learn to help clean, but to have fun doing it.
Stop and go
To play this game, stream some fun dance tunes through speakers and let your kids boogie while they clean. When you pause the music, your kids have to freeze like statues and hold their position until the music starts again. Get the kids even more involved by having them help make the funky playlist for cleaning day.
The excitement of finding a special treat can motivate your kids to cover more ground, faster. Hide a few treats — dollars, candies or small toys — in various places around the house that your children can uncover as they complete their tasks. For example: If your child is set to fold and put away laundry, hide a pack of fruit snacks at the bottom of the laundry basket. (Need to teach your kid to do laundry? Check out our guide!)
Everyone loves a fun game of make-believe. Let your kid become a superhero trying to save the house from dust bunnies by arming them with “weapons” like a broomstick or washcloth and their own superhero costume. While a blanket is a good choice for a cape, you can also use these superhero printables to make your superhero come to life.
Create a competitive edge by setting up a cleaning race for your kids. Give each kid a task that will take the same amount of time — sweeping the bathrooms, cleaning a window or dusting a surface — and have them compete to finish their job first.
Once the laundry is dried and folded, have your kids race to retrieve their baskets and get it put away first. Create a starting line, say “go,” and have your kids race to the laundry room to retrieve their basket and then race to put their clothes away. You can add additional obstacles to the race, such as having each child shoot their socks into their laundry basket like a basketball before they can move on.
Chores and ladders
Let fate decide your child’s chores with a game board that assigns the tasks for you. All you need is a six-sided die and some game pieces. Then, set up your children on the “go” square and have them roll. Each child continues rolling and completing tasks until they reach the end of the game board. Game pieces can be paper clips, bottle caps, coins or any other small trinket.
Set your kids up for success by arming them with their own child-sized cleaning equipment. Many department and kid’s toy stores sell child-sized cleaning products such as brooms, dustpans and mop buckets. Buying your child their own cleaning set will help them feel more motivated and excited to use their very own broomstick.
Turn your cleaning experience into a concert by pretending that brooms or mops are microphone stands and jamming out while you clean. Have your kids perform a concert while cleaning the floors and singing their favorite songs into the microphone.
Your kid’s mission, if they choose to accept it: clean the house! Turn your kids into spies who are on a mission to capture the elusive dust bunny by making them their own spy dossier. Each objective (or chore) completed gets them one step closer to completing their mission. Make it more authentic by giving them a hat and sunglasses to complete the spy look.
Clean your kid’s room while teaching them colors and shapes by turning the experience into I-Spy. Put a basket in the middle of the room and have your kid fill it with laundry, toys or anything else as you give them prompts. For example, if your kid is putting toys away, say, “I spy a green dinosaur,” and have them pick up the green dinosaur toy to put into the basket.
Make a movie
It’s fun to perform. Turn on the video recorder or record on your phone, and interview your children as they clean the house. Make them feel like celebrities who are starring in a documentary about their lives. This will create a cute keepsake you can look back on while also helping them have fun while cleaning.
Dustpan target practice
Turn your dustpan into a monster who is hungry for dirt and dust. Attach a printable monster mouth to the dustpan, so it appears to be “eating” the debris as your kids sweep it up. A little creativity goes a long way.
Turn your house into the good kind of zoo by playing animal charades while you clean. Take turns picking an animal and acting out their walk and roar while performing a task. The rest of the family guesses what animal the person is acting out, and whoever gets it right goes next.
The best chores don’t even feel like work. When you’re outside gardening, washing the car or cleaning the windows, turn the experience into a fun outdoor day by putting on your bathing suits and setting up the sprinklers. If you don’t have an existing sprinkler system, the hose works as a great substitute.
Toy tidying speed trials
Create your own Cleaning Formula One by creating timed trials of various tasks and challenging your children to beat themselves or each other. See who can sweep the bathroom, clean the counter or scrub the toilet the fastest. For added ambiance, play sound effects of cars revving and people cheering and keep score on a printable scoreboard.
Tips for cleaning with kids
Getting kids interested in and excited about cleaning can be a challenge. Giving too much to do too soon can deter them from picking up clean habits. It’s important to gauge what your child can reasonably accomplish and encourage them to keep going.
Tailor activities to your kid’s age
Make sure your child can feasibly accomplish the task assigned. For example, a child under the age of six most likely won’t be able to hold or operate a vacuum cleaner and may become overwhelmed or discouraged when asked to do so. Some ideas for age-appropriate cleaning activities are the following:
- Ages 2–3: Clean up toys, wipe up spills, help make beds
- Ages 3–5: Make their bed, sort laundry, feed pets, pull weeds
- Ages 6–9: Sweep the floors, rake leaves, clean bedrooms, load dishwasher, vacuum
- Ages 10–12: Take out trash and recycling, do laundry, wash the car
- Ages 13+: Make dinner, care for pets, clean the bathroom, deep clean the kitchen
Keep cleaning sessions short
Cleaning sessions that take multiple hours will start to make chores feel like, well, chores. Get your kids interested in cleaning by starting with short cleaning sessions with just a few tasks to accomplish, so they don’t lose interest or start to get overwhelmed by the amount there is to do. More frequent, shorter cleaning sessions can also help them develop good habits.
Consider a reward system
Rewarding kids for a job well done with money, toys or candies is an excellent way to get them excited to clean again in the future. As they get more used to cleaning, the rewards can become less and less until they are nonexistent. But when just starting, a small token of appreciation for hard work can go a long way.
Lead by example
Children are likely to emulate their parent’s behavior. If you want a kid to appreciate cleanliness and hard work, make sure you give them a good example to follow. If you live a clean lifestyle and show a positive attitude toward keeping the house tidy, your kids will pick up on that mindset as well.
Clean with them
Turning chores into a family affair can make them feel less like work and more like a fun activity the family does together. Set aside an hour on the weekend to do a few tasks as a family and make sure to have fun while doing it.
All things considered, froggy eggs splattered throughout the kitchen were the least of the Baker family’s concerns, especially when they’ve got 12 kids to make cleaning competitive, fun and fast.
Some damage caused by the Baker’s antics — such as a fallen chandelier — might not be so easily solved with a broom and dustpan. Some messes might require an outside contractor to assess the damage and determine a fix, and that just might require home insurance.