We all want to live in a tidy house but it's not easy with kids around. We have a lot of responsibilities in our busy lives, and it's hard to enjoy chores. They probably didn't seem fun when we were young, and we can pass on these negative associations to our children.
In her article here, Patty Wipfler explains that we often assume children should do their chores alone as most of us had to do when we were young. However work is so much more enjoyable when we can work together. So put the emphasis on fun and connection, and the chores get done as if by magic!
Here are 25 fun tips for tidying up with your kids. Thanks to my friends, Hand in Hand instructors and and parent educators who have shared what works in their household.
1. Do special time beforehand. Connection breeds co-operation so our children are much more likely to enjoy helping us out if we've spent some time doing what they love.
2. Have a clean up song, My friend Deanna and her son sing this together, ”Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up clean up everybody do your share.” I sang this with my daughter and also added in some silly verses, like ”put mummy's clothes in the bin” and then I would say in a playful horrified tone. ”Oh dear! why I did I sing that. I don't want my clothes in the bin!” My daughter found this hilarious. Laughter is a great way to increase co-operation, and all the giggles release tension and grumpiness.
3. Song Race – Ariadne Brill from Positive Parenting Connection says, ”We like to race against some of our favourite songs. One of our favourite chore songs is a astronaut and space song so sometimes my youngest will also put on a space helmet to put her laundry into her closet or to dry dishes.
4. Playlistening – The art of getting our kids laughing while we're in the less powerful role, is the perfect way to get the chores done. There's lots of possible ways to incorporate playlistening into your tidying up fun. Stephanie Parker, Hand in Hand instructor in the UK recommends saying in a loud, playful voice, ”there is so much to tidy up, but there's no way I am going to do it. I am going to sit here and do nothing instead.” Then get your child to force you to tidy up, with lots of giggles to release any tension about tidying!
5. Making Mistakes Tidying – Playlistening is all about making mistakes and doing so while tidying is a recipe for a giggle fest. So put away your forks in the fridge or your milk in the dishwasher, and then exclaim, ”oh no! I didn't mean to do that.” This even works for the under two's and is ideal for clingy little ones that won't let you tidy up. This can make tidying up take a little longer, but in the long run it can build the close connections children need to play independently while we got on with tidying.
6. Soapy water mop up Julianne Idleman says, ‘My daughter used to love to be given a dish pan of soapy water to splash around with on a floor that needed mopping. Then she would happily mop up all the bubbles and all I had to do was the final sweep through to get the corners and make sure the bulk of the water was up.”
7. Shower or Bath Clean With Colourful Sponges ”My daughter would also happily scrub the (bottom half) of the shower glass as long as she got to be in there naked playing with colorful sponges while she did it. Drawing soapy pictures on the shower walls was always a good way to get them an eventual clean.” – Julianne Idleman
9. Tidying Emergency – We have a toy ambulance with a siren, so sometimes I turn it on and say, ”Emergency! There's a giant mess, somebody save us now!”
10. Tidy up your child – If you're tidying up, pass by your child and say, ”hmm what needs tidying up, perhaps this”' and start to pick up your child, and then say ”oh whoops! sorry, that's (insert child's name). I don't need to tidy you up!” The laughter and connection can help your child feel upbeat about helping.
11. Have some sort of vehicle that can deliver objects. My daughter has a scooter with a small basket that hangs on the handlebars. She loves playing ‘tidying up scooter' where I search for objects and put them in her basket while she delivers them to the right place. My daughter will even stop watching TV to play ‘tidying up scooter.' It has been a tidying miracle for us.
12. Reverse Psychology – Roma Norriss, Hand in Hand instructor in Bristol, UK says to her kids – “I'd be SO shocked if some elves came and tidied up this room… I'm just going upstairs for a minute.” And then I come back and fall over with surprise.”
13. Gadgets and Spraying, Anything that involves spraying and my kids are in. Also the mini-hoover is a huge hit at the mo. It is all about the gadgets for them, says Hannah Gauri Ma, from Loving Earth Mama, in the UK.
14. Animate Objects – My daughter is much more likely to put things away if I animate them asking to be tidied up. For example when she takes her shoes off and throws them down in the middle of the floor, I pick up the mummy shoe, and say, ”Oh where are my baby shoes, I want them close to me on the shoe rack!”
15. Dirty Laundry Basketball – ”We pretend that the dirty washing is the basketball, and the laundry basket is the hoops,” says Deanna.
16. Have A Tidying Up Party Parenting coach Torsten Klaus of Dad's Talk Community says, ”Turn the music up, have a dance with the vacuum cleaner and wear the kitchen apron on your head. In no time your offspring want to join in and help. Believe me. Yes, you look silly. But that’s part of the parenting, isn’t it?”
17. Fairies For Extreme Mess – Skye Marilyn Munroe of Nurturing Connections says, ”If things are out of control messy in my home I do mock gasp “oh nooo the mess monsters have been again , please please cleaning fairies come and help us! We pop on some wings and clean together.”
18. Electrify Them – Suzy says, ”I used to “plug” my kids in like they were a vacuum and send them off to pick up toys. Also pretending that the bag or box is hungry for the toys and say “Yum, yum” when things are put in.”
19. Tidying Up Cupboard Monster – (or other less scary animal) – Pretend there is a very hungry monster living in your cupboard/draw that needs to be fed with the right things, says Jessica.
20. Jigsaw Puzzle ”Some toys (like blocks) actually become an interesting puzzle to put back into a box in a way that fits and we often comment how that is the best bit.” Says Hannah Gauri Ma of Loving Earth Mama
21. Setting Limits – Okay so setting limits might not sound like much fun, but with Hand in Hand parenting, it can be a way to build closer connections and actually can involve some fun and laughter! When we see that our children are old enough to take responsibility for helping with chores there may be times that they can't get motivated. Sometimes it can help to set a limit, and listen to the feelings under the surface that make it hard for them to find the joy in daily tasks.
22. Washing Delivery – My husband gives my daughter clean washing bit by bit and she delivers it to the right bedroom using her tidying up scooter. Yesterday evening, I was in our bedroom feeling really tired and she kept coming in with more washing for me to put away. I kept playfully complaining, ”Oh no, please, I'm so tired, please don't bring me any more washing,” and of course this only encouraged her to bring me more and more washing while laughing with delight! I hid under the covers and told her I was hiding so I didn't have to do anymore, and she threw washing on top of me and ran away laughing. The play got a bit wild, but this isn't a bad thing. Giving our children the freedom to be ‘naughty' in a controlled way, while we are there to connect with them and get the giggle flowing, helps them get behaviour out of their system and get back on track.
23. Recycling Team Ariadne Brill from Positive Parenting Connection ”We build a chain passing paper and bottles for example from the storage area to the front of the house on pick up day. Working together like this keeps everyone motivated and more likely to play along.”
24. Laminated Cards. Hand in Hand instructor Sabina Veronelli from Melbourne Australia says, ”We use a Montessori inspired idea. We have created sets of laminated cards, every set has one task broken down into steps (eg for doing laundry: carrying laundry basket, loading washing machine, the cycle to choose, the amount of laundry liquid in its dispenser, close door, press on. ). So, when it is time to clean, we divide numbers of chores equally. My son is able to be independent, while I don't need to repeat how to do things, which can trigger me. This gives me the energy, to staylisten, playlisten or set limits if I need to, to get the chores done.”
25. Tidy up for them.There will be times when we just want to get the job done, and that's okay. Children love to imitate us. Tidying up for them can actually be a great model. And if do have the energy to do it in a fun, joy-filled way, they may just want to join in too!
I hope this list inspires you. If you try them out please let us know how you get on in the comments below, and If you have any other playful games that worked for you we'd love to hear them!
Kate Orson is a Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor, and mother to a 4 year old daughter. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland. She is the author ofTears Heal, How To Listen To Our Children, which will be published in 2016. Connect with Kate on Facebook or follow her blog Listening To Tears.
Kate has an online parenting class beginning January 13th at 10am Pacific time (7pm central European time)