For the most part, my kids are responsible for cleaning the downstairs on their own. However every now and then our downstairs gets into such a state of disrepair that we need more drastic measures. I think we all have those days where getting kids to do chores is a hassle, or please say that’s not just me having that hard time? That’s when our cleaning scramble game enters into play.
I hit on the cleaning scramble one day when I looked around my kitchen and saw loads of jobs that would take less than five minutes. Clean the counters, scrub a pot, dust the windows. All of these things were quick and easy to do, just tedious. But I knew how to make it fun and getting kids to do the chores would transform from a chore for me (eh, you see that pun) to fun for all.
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Setting up the cleaning scramble
I walked through my downstairs and every time I was a job to do I wrote it on a post-it note* (my daughter and I use post-it notes whenever we go to our “War Room”). The post-it notes are key because there’s something fun about unfolding it and revealing the secret chore. I put the jobs into two separate piles.
- set-up chores, ones that had to be done first like sweeping the floor
- follow-up chores, like mopping, you can’t mop if you haven’t swept
Then I put the post-it notes into two separate bowls and gave the kids the challenge (I know my picture is of a jar, I’m starting to set up our summer cleaning jars). Once every single one of these chores was done we were having ice cream (pick your small treat that is fun, but doesn’t really cost anything).
My daughter is competition-averse because otherwise, you could turn this into a “who gets the most post-it notes done” game, instead, I set timers to encourage going fast.
This encouraged a lack of dawdling. Princess has been known to take 20 minutes to unload the dishwasher. TWENTY MINUTES.
If you’re really serious about this you could put negative consequences for missing a timer, but we just said, “We’ll get the first bowl done in 20 minutes, and the next bowl done after that.”
With this, our entire family got the downstairs clean in about 30 minutes, minus mopping the floor. We opted to eat our ice cream first, and then mop.
Once the cleaning scramble is done, celebrate. That’s the key to keeping them going. You have to celebrate the wins, even if it’s just dance party in your kitchen.
Why does this work for us?
I’m not exactly sure, but here’s a few theories:
- You never know what chore you’ll get. Sometimes it’s tedious like dishes, sometimes it’s quick and fun like dust a table.
- Everyone is doing it. From Dad and Mom to the kids, so it doesn’t feel like you’re picked on.
- It’s a short time frame. That seems to be key for my kids.