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How To Make House Cleaning Fun For Kids

Fun for kids is not usually the norm when parents ask their children to clean their room.

So, How do you make house cleaning fun for kids? Today on Ask a House Cleaner we discuss the psychology of “Being Mommy’s Big Helper” and “reward the behavior you want to be repeated.”

Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru has a Blue Ribbon contest that’s fun for kids and adults alike. And a proven incentive to getting chores done.

Raising kids is tough enough but with a messy house, it becomes overwhelming. Check out these tips and inspiration for family projects on housekeeping.

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: How Can I Make House Cleaning Fun For Kids?

 Today’s question comes from a Mom and she wants to know “How can I make cleaning fun and exciting for my kids?”

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Answer: House Cleaning Never Was and Never Will Be Fun For Kids

Alright, Mom, I got news for you, cleaning is not exciting and it’s not fun for kids. Not usually.

Okay, you have to inspire your kids. And we’ve learned from psychology 101 that the behavior you reward is the behavior that’s repeated.
And so instead of yelling at your kids and nagging:

“Hey! I asked you guys to clean up this room.”
“How many times am I going to have to ask you?”
“What is going on here? Why is this room such a mess?”

Okay, none of those things inspire your children to pick up their toys. Begging your kids isn’t fun for you as a parent and it’s certainly not fun for kids.

Be Specific About What You Expect Your Kid To Do 

But if you come in and you are specific. Very specific; “Hey guys I’m seeing a whole bunch of Legos scattered all over the room” 

The winner gets to pick out the bedtime story tonight house cleaning fun for kids - loose legos

(There might be gobs of other things scattered all over too, but focus on one item at a time.) “I need all of the Legos picked up and put inside this tub. We’re going to have a race. We’re going to see who can pick up the most Legos in the quickest amount of time. The clock starts now.”

All of a sudden, it’s a game okay that’s fun for kids.  It’s exciting,  it’s very specific, and your child knows exactly what to do. Pick up Legos, quickly.
We’re not talking about puzzle pieces. We’re not talking about video games, or dolls or plastic toys or anything else. We’re talking specifically about Legos.

And you can race, and then you can let the kids count and see who picked up the most. And you can have a little reward at the end for whoever picked up the most. You can make it a game. The prize can be something simple like choosing the next toy or item to race and clean up. Keep playing rounds of this game until the entire room is spotless. Bam! 

NOTE: Avoid edible and food related rewards. We don’t ever want to associate rewards with food or treats. A rewards system built on treats leads to obesity, cranky and overactive children.

Turn Your Frustrations into Games That Are Fun For Kids

hoarders, house cleaning fun for kidsNow, I learned playing games with people whose houses I used to clean.

I used to work for a school teacher. This is like 20 years ago.
She had five girls, and they were all between the ages of eight and thirteen. Just one every year. And by the time I finished cleaning for them they were adult teenagers.

When I first arrived at their house they were hoarders. They hoarded clothing and books and toys and shoes.
And you would open the girl’s bedrooms, (they each had their own bedroom) And in every bedroom looked like a bomb had exploded.

There was stuff hanging from the mirrors, and hanging from the closet, and stuff hanging from the lights. The beds were so full of crap that I don’t even know where they slept.
There was stuff strewn all over the rooms. You couldn’t even get a vacuum in there to vacuum it was just a mess.
And the first time that I walked into the bedrooms I just freaked out. I was thinking “Oh my goodness, I could spend 10 hours in this one room alone.”

How Can People Live Like This?

And then my second thought was: Five Sisters, Future House cleaners, house cleaning fun for kids
“There are five girls that live here. Are you telling me that there aren’t a single one of these girls that have any house cleaning or tidying up skills?”
And I started looking at the mother. The mother is a school teacher she’s very busy. She comes home at night and busy with papers she has to grade. She doesn’t have time to teach her kids how to clean house.

And it was very confusing to me that people could live in that kind of a space and be proud of their home.
So, I decided to play a game. A game that was fun for kids and their parents.

I purchased at the homeschooling store some blue ribbons that cost me about $0.50 apiece. It was a very inexpensive. And I started billing those blue ribbons into the cost of my cleaning supplies.
But what I did was I would give an award at the end of every house cleaning for the “most improved.”

Make House Cleaning a Competition That’s Fun For Kids

Teacher grading papers, while the maid makes house cleaning fun for kidsThe first time I cleaned, I could do very little other than just a whole bunch of tidying and picking up and trying to clean up after the girls. The next week I came back nd the place was exactly the way it was before. So, there had been no improvements.

There was one girl that seems to have made kind of a half-hearted attempt, at “kind-of” “sort-of” picking up some of the stuff.
So, when I left that day along with my worksheet, I left a blue ribbon. And I said, “Margo wins the blue ribbon for having the most improved cleanest room.” 

When I came back next week, three or four of the other girls made an attempt to pick up their room.

Now, they wanted a blue ribbon too.
And so, it got to the point where every week I would leave a blue ribbon with the most improved or the cleanest room and I was very specific.

Make the Award or Reward Something That is  Not Edible

She gets an award for this because the clothing was picked up, and because the dolls were arranged and the books were put away on the bookshelf. Blue Ribbon Awards make house cleaning fun for kids
And I left specific instructions so that the other girls could say “Oh I’ve got to arrange my dolls. I have to pick up my clothes. I have to put the books back on the bookshelf if I’m going to win a blue ribbon.

And so, they all started doing these little things around the house where one day even dad got a blue ribbon for having the tidiest closet.
And then suddenly grandma was involved. And the mom was involved. And everyone in the house got involved in this little game. That their reward, the reward for all this extra effort that they were going to, was nothing but a $0.50 blue ribbon.

And they would proudly hang them over the mirrors in their bathrooms or over their bedroom mirrors. Like “Hey, I got three blue ribbons.” And somebody else only had two. And they would compete during the week to make sure that they have the cleanest in the tidiest room. They worked in their rooms all week between my paid house cleanings.

And this game went on for five years.
And they proudly displayed their blue ribbons all over their bedrooms. And I mean you had to dust around them, you had to clean around them. But you know what? It made my job so much easier. But it became this game.

And every week when I was done with my cleaning,  I would leave at 4 p.m.

Get As Many People Involved In the Reward Process As Possible – Even Tiny Children Have Egos

And I got to the point where everyone in the family would show up to see who got the blue ribbon of the day. It was a really fun game.
Then it got to the point where the mother who taught school would host an afternoon tea at her house. She invited the other school teachers to come over after school.

And the other teachers would then get to see this award presentation of who gets the blue ribbon of the week.
And it turns out that I ended up cleaning for seven of those school teachers that worked at that same school.

It’s always really a fun game it was really bizarre, but I took the blue ribbons with me and I took them to a variety of other houses.

Not all the houses, because not all the houses needed to play that game.
But the people that were really super cluttered. They found joy in being appreciated and being acknowledged and that positive attention being paid to.

Rewarding Positive Behavior Will End Nagging

I never nagged or hounded, I never highlighted the fact that “some of you really still need a lot of work to do in your bedroom.”
I never highlighted that, but it stopped the mother from complaining and the mother from nagging.

Because what happened is; now there was an inspiration. There was a joy in “Hey, maybe this week I get the blue ribbon.”

And every week there was only one blue ribbon given, only one.

And the reason I did that is that if I gave everyone a blue ribbon it would dilute the joy of striving so hard for this competition to win the blue ribbon.
Now the truth is the blue ribbon didn’t really mean anything. It only meant something to them.

Kids Need Parental Approval/Attention – And They Will Do All Kinds of Things To Get It

angry boy about five years old

But for $0.50 I could get everyone in the house to start picking up their clutter which then made my job (when I go up to clean baseboards, and vacuum floors, and wipe windows, and mirrors, and all those things,) it made my job a whole lot easier.
So as a mom how can you inspire your kids? There’s a variety of games that you can play but the joy is in making your kid feel needed and appreciated and acknowledged.

Kids will jump through hoops to try to get parental approval.
And instead of doing that through bad mischievous ways, which a lot of kids do.

You can switch the script. And you can start finding them doing things that are right.
And get a really good, I mean become a pro at saying “Oh My Goodness!”
“Oh, My Goodness! Do you see this great big happy smile on my face? I am dancing on the inside for what you just did. I cannot believe you just, cleaned up after yourself. And you made everything looks so tidy.
(And be really specific) “That you cleaned up all the toothpaste around the bathroom vanity. Or that you made your bed this morning. Or that you picked up all the socks in your room.”

Be very specific because then the kid knows: “Oh if I want to make Mom happy all I’ve got to do is pick up all the socks in my room. Or I’ve got to make my bed. Be very specific about what it is you’re rewarding.
And you’ll find that your kids will jump through hoops to try to help you and to be “Mommy’s Big Helper”.

Shh, But Reward Positive Behavior Works on Grown Adults Too

And I’m not kidding, (My husband is probably going to listen to this and it’s going to be a little embarrassing but,) even for my husband I say “Oh my goodness you’re Angela’s, Big Helper!” (This is my husband, and he’s so delighted. He’s like a little kid all over again.)
This works on grown adults. This works on business people and it works on tiny children, (it also works on employees that you have.)
So, catch people doing things that are right. And we reward that behavior, and you will be surprised and amazed at the hoops people will jump through to try to be your big helper.

So, Mom, that is my suggestion for you. If you’re going to make it fun you’ve got to make it inspirational. You’ve got to inspire them to want to help you.

Alrighty, so that’s my tip for today.

If you had one takeaway from today’s time together leave it in the notes below. I’m really curious, your one takeaway.

And until we meet again, leave the world a cleaner place than when you found it.

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About the Show

Learn how the show came to be, interesting facts about the show host, and other frequently asked questions about the show.

Resources From This Episode

1st Place (Blue) Premium Award Ribbons with Card & String – 25 Count Metallic Gold Foil Print – http://amzn.to/2tHs8w2

Free Electronic House Cleaning Game for Kids by Amazon Digital Services – http://amzn.to/2sDvwJF

Free Bathroom Cleaning Game for Kids by Amazon Digital Services – http://amzn.to/2sDNxrp

Kids Clutter Chaos: The Only No-Bull Clutter-free Guide to Decluttering Kid Clutter You’ll Ever Need Ever – http://amzn.to/2tHA6oQ

Cleaning House: How To Get Your Kids Begging For Chores – http://amzn.to/2t7SHxd

Zone Cleaning For Kids Clean ‘n’ Flip – http://amzn.to/2sDkOml

NEATLINGS Chore Cards Household Deck | 48 Household Chores | Reward & Responsibility  – http://amzn.to/2t7U6nn

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