Put the Fun in Clean Up

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Vacation time means it's time to clear out the clutter from the holidays and look ahead (do you really need those pumpkins and reindeers that you've stuffed in the hallway closet?).

The task of cleaning the entire house can be daunting. There's only so much time you can devote to cleaning, and you have to keep the kids entertained at the same time. Wouldn't it be great to have the kids actually look forward to helping not only clean up their toys, but cleaning the garage, the den and, yes, even the bathroom

For the Younger Kids

Kids love to help, but when the little ones so, things sometimes take twice as long. But, the sooner they learn basic skills, the sooner they'll become your little helpers at cleanup time. Here are a few tasks that even toddlers can do with just a little training.

  • Laundry, Laundry, and More Laundry: Matching socks is a good way to get started. Most adults don't like to do this anyway, and it can keep a toddler occupied for quite some time. Begin by asking him to separate the dark colors from the light ones, then see if he can match up the pairs.
  • Dishwasher Duty: Show your child that the wider rows on the top rack are for items such as glasses and small dishes, while the narrower rows on the bottom are for thin plates. While helping, they will also learn about shapes and sizes. If you can't stand the thought of a broken dish, consider buying a set of plastic plates and cups for everyday use.
  • Making the Bed: A toddler can bring up the corners, press down the wrinkles, and tuck in the unseemly overhangs with a fair amount of skill. Whatever you do, let her arrange the pillows (and resist the temptation to straighten them out).

For the Older Kids

  • Trash Dash (two or more): Have your child or children put toys in different containers or large plastic bins. Have a race to put away the toys and see which child can do it faster — or if your child can do it faster than you can. The winner could get a special prize or treat for winning games related to cleaning.
  • Musical Chores (two or more): Designate a project such as dusting, scrubbing the floor or picking up toys to each child and start the music. Every time the music turns off, the children switch chores.
  • Puppet Dusters (one or more): Make sock puppets and have children slip them on their hands for dusting. Start a contest to see whose puppet gets the dirtiest.
  • Puppet Shiners (two players): You and your child each wear a sock puppet to clean the patio door window. You are on the outside and your child is on the inside. Make it a game to follow one another's hand movement as you clean the window.
  • Race on the Floor (two players): Start two children on opposite walls in the same room. Give each child a sock or rag for dusting the top of baseboards. The child that gets to the end of their wall first wins a prize.

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