1. Fight the Wolves (Shelley)
This game was created by children and is a favorite for them. We pretend that every toy or item left out is an angry wolf that wants to eat us. We act scared of the hundreds of wolves waiting to attack, but then decide as a group that the only way to beat all those hundreds and thousands of wolves is to put them away to go to sleep. The items have to be put in their appropriate place to put that particular wolf “to sleep”. Add in some fun phrases such as: “Watch out! There’s a big one right behind you!” or “Quick! Put that wolf to sleep before he gets you!”
2. Round Robin (Ali Mae)
Split your family up into two groups (preferably with an adult as the leader of each group). Pick rooms of the house and have a race to see which group can clean up their area the fastest. Make up a silly victory dance or cheer or pick a treat to share around with everyone when you’re done.
3. The Old Blind Witch (Shelley)
Let your kids know that the Old Blind Witch will be coming to inspect the house (or room) in ____ minutes. This witch is very old and very blind. She is friendly and nice, but she also is a pack-rat and loves to collect new things for her house. But since she is so blind she can only see things that are out of place. Help your kids clean up and put everything back in place so you can welcome the old blind witch and she won’t take anything home with her. You sneak out as the kids finish up and put on a funny pair of glasses or an old shawl or just pretend to come hobbling in with a funny voice and squinted eyes. Be friendly but show immense interest in any item still out of place (you may be slow enough at picking up that they still have time to grab the item and put it away!). Speak with a old grandma voice and say things like “Oh my dearies, I think I see just the thing I need, its hairy and it has legs and oh yes! Its a barbie doll!” “Oh my heavens I need some new things for my collection, do you have anything for my collection?”
4. Super Hero Powers (Cami)
Let your child choose to be their favorite super hero. Then they can use their super hero power to defeat the bad guys (which happen to be the stuff that’s out of place). For example, if they pretend to be the hulk they could smash the stuff and quickly put it away. If they pretend to be Captain America, they would throw their shield at it and then put it away.
5. Sleeping Mommy Spell (Shelley)
This works particularly well if you, as the parent, are sick (or pregnant!). Wander into whatever room your children are in that needs cleaning in a very sleepy way. Start yawning loudly and sit or lay down sleepily explaining that an evil fairy just cast a spell on you. You will fall asleep and the only way that you will ever wake up again is if the kids will clean the room and then each give you a kiss on the cheek. Then pretend to doze off and stay “asleep” (or you may really fall asleep) through your children’s silly attempts to wake you. You may choose to sleep talk to remind them of the curse if they need reminders. They will rush about and clean up to break the spell. When they kiss you, hop up and exclaim loudly about how glad you are that they saved you and how clean the room looks!
6. Don’t You Dare Clean Up This Room (Melissa)
This is basically reverse psychology that works really well with certain ages and certain personalities. (Read a full article about this idea here) Stomp downstairs and say something like “GOOD! Its messy! That’s the way I like my house! Keep messing this place up and don’t you dare clean it up. If I come back down here in a few minutes and its clean, why i’d…..i’d probably throw the biggest tantrum you’ve ever seen! I hope you don’t make me that mad!” Then stomp back upstairs while your little ones scurry to clean up. Loudly talk to yourself upstairs or as you come back down the stairs about how much you hate clean rooms and the HUGE tantrum you’re going to throw. Then, when you discover their clean area….. pretend to throw a huge tantrum. You will love the giggles and they will love to see you pretending to act out! If you’d like, you can stop after a minute and give them all a hug and tell them you were just teasing and that you really DO like clean areas and how impressed you are with how well they cleaned up!
7. Chapter Book Clean Up (Shelley)
Once again, this is a great way to get help cleaning up when you are sick or pregnant and unable to clean up as well as usual. Start a really great chapter book and as you read out loud, the children clean up! If they stop cleaning- you stop reading. Only read while you see their little hands busy. You can move with them to different rooms, if necessary. After their cleaning is through, invite them to come and snuggle under the blanket with you to read an extra chapter on the couch since they did such a good job picking up!
8. Escape the Dungeon (Savannah)
Pretend that you are princes and princesses that have been captured and thrown into a dungeon. The only way to escape is to clean their way out room by room. When every room is clean, they can escape to the backyard to play. They usually continue playing this game even after the cleaning up is done. It sometimes lasts for hours…..
9. Break the Spell (Shelley)
Kids love magic. With this game, pretend to be a magic fairy (or wizard) who comes into the house to cast a terrible curse. You can choose any curse you’d like. You could curse that the house is frozen shut, chocolate has been banished, or you can only talk by singing, etc. You tell the family that they only way to break said curse is to clean up a certain area. Generally its better to stick with just one room at a time, rather than the whole house! After that curse is broken and you’ve had fun… the evil fairy/wizard may return again, angry that their curse was foiled, and cast another curse for which another room must be cleaned!
10. Timed Clean-Up (Ali Mae)
Gather your family into the room that you wish to be cleaned. Tell them that you’re going to set a 2-minute timer (or whatever time you’d like!) and that you’re going to see if together, you can beat the timer! Stay happy and involved in the cleaning and see if you can’t beat that timer! If they are still energetic and wanting more, then you can move to the next room! Perhaps offer a prize for each room where you beat the timer. A quarter in a jar to save up for ice cream, tootsie roll, tickle fest, horsie ride, or whatever will help your kids stay motivated!
11. Guess The Item (Melissa)
The parent sits down and silently chooses an item that is out of place. The kids pick an item that needs to be put away, hold it up, and asks something like “Mother dear, is this the item you’re thinking of?” and you say “Yes it is!” and then start the game again or “No, its not. Put it away before you get to try again!” The kids have to put the item away before they get another guess. Continue the game until the item is found and then you can choose to give the kids a turn to be the chooser, or the parent just continues and chooses all the items.
12. Laundry Dump (Shelley)
Gather all your kids together and dump a basket of clean laundry on top of them. You can count down to the dump to add some fun! As you dump yell out the type of laundry you want them to sort and deliver to the appropriate location. As soon as the laundry is dumped and they have begun their sorting scramble, start counting to 20 (or whatever amount of time you think you'd kids might need). As they run to deliver their armloads, quickly gather the rest of the laundry back into the basket and stand up, ready to begin the dump again when they return. Wait until all the kids have returned and then, once again, count down, dump, and yell the new type of laundry to sort. Continue this game until all the laundry is put away. This is a nice way to sort all your laundry without having to move much (helpful when sick, pregnant, or just downright lazy).
13. The Hot Lava Game (Ali Mae)
Everything has to be put away without touching the floor. So kids can climb on the couch or create a “safe” pathway of pillows to walk on while putting things away.
14. Cleaning Robots (Jaime)
Play some music from WALL-E, or any music that sounds robotic. Tell your kids to become cleaning robots (or even press imaginary buttons on their foreheads to turn them “on”) and clean until the music ends. Whenever the song ends, the robots run out of power and have to freeze until a new robot song comes on.
15. Cleaning Spies (Jaime)
Play some music from Mission Impossible or James Bond. Encourage your kids to roll and crawl as they put things away or to put things away while sneaking around and trying not to be seen.
16. Sorting Race (Savannah)
A parent starts as the caller. Call out a set of instructions such as “Pick up 3 yellow things” or “Put two square things away!”. The person who accomplishes the task first gets to be the next caller.
17. Animal Cleaners (Ali Mae)
Pretend to be puppies or kittens while you clean up. Kids get a kick out of crawling around and making animal noises. They can even carry items in their mouth to where they belong. Once in a while, try calling out a new kind of animal to become. You may consider trying elephants, frogs, cows, snakes, birds, tigers, or any other favorite animal!
18. You’re the Mommy (Ali Mae)
Allow one of your kids to be the mommy during clean up time and they get to tell YOU what to do. Take turns, using a timer, being in charge and being the mommy.
19. Tear Down the Mountain (Ali Mae)
First, throw everything out of place into one giant pile into the room to create your “mountain”. Tell your kids to grab their Tonka trucks, buckets, or whatever. Tear down your “mountain” by sorting items into the child’s carrying container and having them run to put the things away.
20. Sock Train (Tabitha)
When you have a ton of socks to match, let the kids lay them out in a long curvy line. The kids pick up the sock at the front of the train and then walk along the train until they find the match. They bring the match to mom (the conductor of the train!) to roll together and sort into piles.
21. Magazine Photographer (Shelley)
Tell the kids that you just got a message that a REAL magazine photographer is coming to your house in “X” number of minutes (decide how many minutes your house needs for cleaning or how much your kids can handle). Inform them that the photographer will be taking a photo of every CLEAN room in the house to put into their “Beautiful Homes” magazine. Rush about with your children and clean up as quickly as possible, making sure that you focus room at a time so that at least one or two rooms can be ready for the photographer. As the end of your time approaches, sneak away and put on some sort of disguise. Perhaps sunglasses, hat, scarf, or whatever you can grab quickly. Grab your camera and ring the front doorbell. When the kids answer the door, assume your character (complete with some sort of fun accent!), and proceed to tour the house and take photos of all the clean rooms. The more you get into your character the more fun the kids will have! They’ll beg the photographer to come againl As an added bonus, you could consider posting these pictures up in the rooms they were taken to show the kids what a “clean” room looks like.
22. Five and Five (Kirsti)
As a family we pick a job to work on together for 5 minutes and then we get to watch show together for 5 minutes. You can add additional rounds of cleaning and watching as long as the kids want to continue!
23. 2 Ticket Song (Shelley)
We all go into one room and pick a fun cleaning song. Whichever child cleans well during the song can earn up to two tickets (we use a treasure box system where they can buy things they want from the treasure box with earned tickets). When the song is done, I hand out the earned tickets and talk about how many they earned and why. Then we move on to the next room, even if the room we just worked on isn’t perfect yet. We usually hit about 4-5 rooms before the kids start feeling burned out.
24. Soldier Clean-up (Shelley)
I have my kids line up like soldiers and bark out instructions for cleaning. Usually I tell them that I will count to 20 and the room needs to be cleaned or else they will have to do push-ups, sit-ups, or jumping jacks. We count like this : “1 soldier, 2 soldier, 3 soldier…” This works really well for quick clean up jobs where we’re moving from room to room. After the room is completed they line up again (I yell: “Line up soldiers!”) and if its not clean yet or someone wasn’t participating, they get a “consequence”. They actually really enjoy when I order them to do 20 jumping jacks or tell them to drop down and give me 10 push ups. Its a fun way to get things done, maintain order, and keep the mood light! We use a similar soldier system for getting ready in the morning.