My daughter is an only child. For over 4 years she was an only grandchild. She is quite indulged. As a result, we, like so many, are buried in “stuff.” From expensive electronics to endless art supplies, an overflowing dress up wardrobe to every Happy Meal Toy and birthday party favor ever received, we are thankful and at the same time overwhelmed. While she loves each and every little piece of this “stuff”, she doesn’t always love putting it away. Clean up time can be rough, especially when I’m exhausted and have little patience left over for the negotiations that inevitably ensue – I’ve coached state champion debaters, and yet I’ve been bested by a preschooler more than once. But here are 5 ways to make cleaning a little less awful for young children – and their parents:
- Grabbers – I believe that these are actually called “reach extender tools” and designed to accommodate a variety of physical ailments that make bending and reaching difficult, but they also make “grabbing” into a fun game! As a bonus they also help with motor skills and hand/eye coordination, patience when working on small or oddly shaped items, and even some physical sciences as kids notice how objects feel, move, or otherwise react when touched by the grabber. Super bonus that we recently found some cheap lightweight grabbers at our local Dollar Tree! They broke eventually, but we had several rounds of clean up game show, and were only out a couple bucks in the end.
- Costumes – Okay, okay, this is partially a shameless plug – my dress up shop sells this AMAZING costume we call “Cinderella’s Scrubbing Dress”and EVERY TIME we’ve put it on a kid, she has immediately started sweeping or scrubbing the floor. It’s especially awesome for those days it’s too hot or cold to go outside and you feel trapped inside a house with multiplying messes – have a little dress up time, channel your inner Lady Tremaine, and start shamelessly barking orders while you sit around petting the cat. It’s possible this is my favorite “game” ever.
- Kid-size cleaning implements – Kid-sized vacuum cleaners are THE WORST TOYS EVER INVENTED. The sounds they make, even the little “popper” toys that just look sorta like vacuums, bounce around in my brain and immediately fray every tiny nerve that I have. But know what toy is similar, not painful, and actually quite awesome? Kid-sized brooms and dustpans. Most sets we’ve seen are actually fully functional, and even fairly small kids can start to sweep up hard floors, either into a general pile or eventually a dustpan. Kids seem more willing to engage and take ownership of pint sized sweepers (and can do less damage than with the full sized versions).
- Race – does your kid have a competitive streak? It might just come alive if you make regular chores into timed events. You can have a head to head battle with multiple kids – who can get the most stuffed animals back into their rooms, match the most socks, or get the most small toys into their bins in a set amount of time? For a solo cleaner race the clock – a kitchen timer can count down, or let them time THEMSELVES with a cell phone or stop watch. A large colorful hour glass is another good option (just make sure the time frame is short enough they don’t lose interest). Even kids who can’t yet grasp the number comparisons like to “win,” and the best side benefit here is that the work gets done QUICKLY!
- Toy Rotation – We’ve been following Non Toy Gifts “Toy Experiment” on Facebook, and we are so intrigued. Basically, you limit the mess in the first place by boxing up toys into totes or bags, and only allowing access to a few at a time. You encourage clean up by making it a requirement for trading out toys – each day or week one tote is available and only those toys can be played with. At the end of the desired time, those toys must be boxed back up and exchanged for another set. We’ve heard parents who have tried this report that older, less played with toys find new life when presented without as much competition, and many kids get excited just by the prospect of “new” toys to play with each rotation day. I just cleared out a set of shelves in my basement, and can’t wait to try this!