How do you motivate your kids to help clean up?


“I put a big, black, yard trash bag out for them to see and then tell them to get to work. Totally kidding. Sort of.”

Kristen, four kids and one on the way

“I make it a game. Right now our game is much like musical chairs, so when the music is playing we are all cleaning. But when the music stops we all come to the couch for a little break”

Kara, two boys

“My older daughter loves fun competitions, so I say “Let’s see if we can beat the clock!” and then offer a prize (like going outside to jump in the leaves, or reading a well-loved book) if we beat it. Her little sister wants to do whatever she’s doing, so she’s a shoo-in.”

Annie, two girls

“For my 9 year old, I give a small weekly allowance based on helping to clean up. My 4-year-old just wants to follow his big brother, otherwise, a gentle suggestion is enough for him. It’s important to keep clean-ups a constant routine, then no one gripes about it.”

Ingrid, two children

“It’s a little different in our home since we’ve got a big age range. For my 19-year-old, I remind her how fortunate she is to live in a home, rent and utilities free. I ask that she at least pick up after herself and take that one extra step to help out when not asked, such as take the trash out when full or unload the dishwasher. For my 6-year-old, I also remind him how fortunate he is but mainly I tell him if he wants to see it the next day or later, he’ll make the right decision and pick up or I’ll donate or toss the item (which I have in the past, so the kids know I keep to my words). My 1-year-old watches his older siblings clean up, so hopefully he’ll learn from their examples.”

Anabrenda, three children

“When they were little we made it a race to see who could clean up something first. While it may not have been perfect, at least their bed was made or their stuffed animals were shoved in the closet! Now as they’ve gotten older the race isn’t that exciting to them, but if I throw in a trip to Blue Palm Frozen Yogurt that seems to work. In all honesty, my kids are pretty cool about cleaning up — I just ask and they are always willing to do so.”

Staci, two children

“Allowance and points for desirable activities, like going to a movie or a hockey game or Blue Palm, for example. Also try to instill the value that “you are part of the family, and everyone helps!”

MaryClaire, two boys

“Break a leg. Just kidding ... kind of.”

Jennifer, two children

“My kids (like me!) need to know that cleaning up isn’t going to take forever, so I set a timer for 10 minutes and ask them to put away as many things as they can before the timer beeps. It becomes a game, and we’re all encouraged to see how much difference even 10 minutes of cleanup makes when everyone pitches in!”

Sarah, five children

“Screen time is king at our house. Chores above and beyond the standard daily list earn additional minutes to use for Wii, TV or online.”

Jennifer, two children

“First, MUSIC! The groovier the better. Some of our family faves: Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, or the Jackson 5. Make a game out of how much your kids can get done by the end of each song. As a bonus, any dancing or silly antics help burn off extra energy. Second, I try not to overcorrect the chores done with kids’ hands. Any help is better than none.”

Megan, three children

“I find that I go between a few methods. Usually I like to put on music, declare it’s clean up time, then begin with giving each person a simple task to start with, including Mom and Dad so they can see everyone is chipping in to keep the house picked up.

Sometimes it’s a phrase like “children who help clean up get a piece of chocolate/ice cream cone/horsey ride from Dad, etc.” If more motivation is needed, we let them know they get to keep the toys they pick up and put away. If Mommy and Daddy have to pick it up, it will go up for a while and they can earn it back.”

Keyara, two children and one on the way

“I have a few ways that I employ to help motivate my three kids to clean up.

1st — There is Jaws the vacuum cleaner. He gets really hungry after not eating for three days and will eat most anything. Legos are a favorite! If the kids want it back we’ll take the bag out and send them outside with it. Have them dump a small portion of the contents onto some newspaper. Say, have fun searching and be sure to clean up when your done. My kids were completely grossed out!

2nd — We have introduced the “circular G File” more commonly known as the garbage can. Not the best method.

3rd — We have a Rubbermaid bin to collect anything that is left around. This bin can get full quickly and tends to be a “nuisance and a hassle” for those who have to go through everything in it to find what they are looking for. This bin is kept in the garage and Mom and Dad are not the ones inconvenienced by it. The kids quickly got tired of having to go to the garage and rummage through a bin to find their things ... that is, once they realized that they were missing.

4th — Ultimately we put the responsibility on the kids. Comments like:

“That’s a real bummer that you can’t find your things. Pretty frustrating, huh? Well, guess you’d better start looking to see where it is.”

“Hmm ... well you made the choice to not clean up your things so then you have also made the choice to (lose playdate, video games, etc.”

“You’re bored? Well, let’s see ... I have a list a mile long of chores that includes dusting, toilets, mopping ... you can feel free to choose from my list or choose from yours of cleaning up your things.”

5th — You as the parent can always “go on strike.” This works well with older kids. Be patient, it may take a couple days for them to clue into what your doing. Once they do it turns into a GREAT lesson with a huge impact.”

Alexis, three children


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