5 Games That Make Decluttering and Cleaning Fun For Kids

Household messes are taking a huge toll on American families – and there’s research to prove it. According to a survey conducted by Closet Maid, 92 percent of parents describe their kids as “messy.” Astoundingly, parents pick up their kids’ toys an average of 1,456 times per year. (Oh, if we could only have all that time back!) Eighty percent of parents give their kids chores, but half of them admit to doing the chores themselves to “make sure it’s done properly.” Two out of three parents say their children’s messiness leaves them in a bad mood.

January is a time of renewal, where many of us feel hopeful about achieving cleaner, more harmonious homes. There are ample reasons why picking up with your kids is good for their development as well. Find a way to make it fun and interactive, so you can exhale clutter and breathe-in sanity.

Benefits of Encouraging Kids to Declutter and Clean

There are many reasons why you should make family decluttering and cleaning a priority:

  • You show your children they are part of something greater than themselves. The most important message cleaning together sends to the kids is that they are part of the family, too. They are expected to contribute to the household, just as mommy and daddy contribute time, money, and care. They eat the food, wear the clothes, play with the toys, and dirty the dishes, so they should also be part of the cleanup effort. Starting in toddlerhood, kids have the intrinsic desire to be with others; if they see you or an older sibling cleaning, they will naturally want to join in and be a part of the group. This is important for their happiness and emotional development.
  • You are the first teacher. On a practical level, training how to diligently wipe a counter top or fold clothing provides real-world skills that will become useful later in life.
  • Kids can experience the joy of accomplishment. It can be rewarding to see a trashed space become more habitable. It’s easier for your child to appreciate a space’s transformation when they are part of the process.
  • Cleaning encourages thoughtfulness and situational awareness. Regular enforcement of chores breeds responsibility and teaches children the value of work. In time, your child will begin to think twice before walking across the floor in muddy boots or leaving a dish on the table – knowing that this small carelessness will create more work for someone else in the household. In Mexico, they have a term for volunteerism within families: acomedido. It’s not just doing what you’re told or helping out; it’s knowing the kind of help that is appropriate because you’re paying attention and situationally aware.
  • Kids are more creative in clean work spaces. Not surprisingly, research confirms that children work better and feel less stressed in spaces that are clean and free from clutter.
  • The time is now to create healthy lifelong habits. Brown University found that routines and habits in children – including household chores and responsibilities – are unlikely to vary after the age of nine, all the way through high school.  

5 Games That Make Decluttering and Cleaning Fun for Kids

1. Guess the “secret” item: This game works great for a room full of toy clutter. If you have more than one child, give each one a bin to fill. Write down the names of two or three “secret items.” Whoever collects these items gets to choose a prize. You could fill a small treasure chest with Dollar Store items, pass out a treat, or use reward stickers if your kids are into that. If you have only one child, have them pick up a bin and then play a guessing game with clues where they get a prize for a correct answer. Remember, it’s best if you collect a bin to show you’re “all in it together,” rather than bossing from the sidelines.   

2. Learning scavenger hunt: Little ones who are learning to count love the challenge of finding certain items. You can use scavenger hunts to reinforce learning. “Can you find eight dinosaurs and put them in this bin?” you might ask. “Can you put four round plates into the sink?” you might add. If you’re creative and your kids are in kindergarten or beyond, you can draw up a visual scavenger hunt chart to see if they’re up to the task. If your child is learning about colors, you can say, “I spy with my little eye something that is… blue!” and have your child find all the blue items until you’re ready to move onto another color toy.

3. Pretend play time: Cleaning doesn’t have to be a dull exercise in drudgery. It can be the time of day where we can all be our best selves – whether that’s a super hero parent or a dinosaur child. Need to make beds? You can pretend you’re a bunch of buccaneers hoisting the sails. Need to pick up toys? You can put on techno music and walk around the house like a fleet of cleanup robots, bending stiffly at the waist and speaking in robotic voices. Need to clean counters? Have an older child wield the squirt bottle like it’s a firefighter’s hose. Need to do the dishes? Pretend you are Snow White and the dwarves whistling while you work. There are countless scenarios.

4. The toy gobbler monster: Nothing motivates kids more than the threat of the “Toy Gobbler Monster” (a.k.a. your vacuum cleaner) hungrily sucking up all their toys. This only works for a certain type of child who is more physically active than sensitive. Keep it in good-hearted fun by announcing with mock-worry, “Oh no, I think the Toy Gobbler is waking up in his lair… you’d better get these toys put into their beds before the greedy Toy Gobbler gets here!” Meander ever so slowly with the vacuum until the toys get put away, pointing out priority items for your child to collect so they feel particularly accomplished.

5. Smile, you’re on camera: Kids are natural hams and love to be in front of the camera. Tell them you’re going to film “commercials” of them doing whatever chore needs to be done – whether it’s mopping the floor, doing the dishes, or sorting laundry. Or you could tell them you’re filming a documentary about “kids who help their families around the house,” and ask them to narrate what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. These videos will be yours to cherish for years to come.

Want the fun party without all the mess? Leave setup and cleanup to Shine!Contact us to learn more.

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