April 7 is No Housework Day. We’re planning ahead and anticipating a day of relaxation complete with the latest pop-fiction novel, a beer, and some cookies we hid on the top shelf of the pantry last week. In order to survive this No Housework Day without allowing a massive pile-up of laundry, dishes, and dust, we’ve been working to get the kids into cleaning!
Read Related: How a Working Mother Organizes Household Chores
Genius, we know, but seriously. Today, and every day, kids benefit from learning how to take care of the homes in which they live so we see a celebration of No Housework (for mami) Day to be an educational opportunity for the children! So, celebrate with us! For the children!
Legendary comic Phyllis Diller once joked, “Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?” We agree, but since our kids are young and resilient, we’re happy to let them live dangerously and pick up a broom or dust-cloth. Here are 12 ways to get the kids to actually enjoy cleaning!
1. Bribery. Promise to share your cookies after chores are done! Then, don’t forget to save a few because they might actually follow through! If you’re not the sharing type (we don’t blame you), promise to take the kids to the park or to a movie once the housework is done.
2. Make doing chores into a game. Perhaps take turns “shooting” clean laundry from the dryer into the basket or sing the clean-up song while picking up toys. Finding ways to turn cleaning into a game will not only make it more fun for your kids, it will make it easier on you!
3. Reward kids for finished chores and give them feel a sense of accomplishment. This is different than bribery in that children are rewarded on a regular basis for doing what they’ve been assigned. In some cases it may mean a regular allowance and, in others, it may mean verbal praise and accolades from you. Make it meaningful and stress how important their contribution is to the household as a whole.
4. Assign chores by age. Kids will feel more grown up as they graduate to different household responsibilities. Kids love growing up and feeling more mature. Don’t be afraid to make a big deal out of “graduating” from little kid chores to big kid responsibilities!
5. Make chores part of kids’ daily routine. We know a 3 year old who remembers to feed the dog when mami forgets… ahem…
6. Don’t overdo it—keep time spent on chores reasonable. You want them to enjoy them so that they’re ready to tackle their tasks again the next day. Make them too long or tedious and you’ll never get them done again.
7. Listen to your kids and give them choices about what chores to do. Have regular “family meetings” in which your children are allowed to voice how they’re feeling about their assigned chores and what they’d like to do differently. Listen to what they’re saying and be open to changing things up! You never know what it is they actually want to do around the house anyway. You might be pleasantly surprised!
8. Mix it up—have them do different chores now and then. Some families like to have all kid-appropriate chores on little pieces of paper in a bowl. Each child gets to choose a number of chores based on age and then they all go nuts to get them done before dinner. While this strategy might not be for everyone, it does create a fun and ever-changing chore routine for the kids.
9. Do chores together—make it a bonding experience. Doing anything as a family will bring you closer together, including cleaning the playroom. You might start out hearing some moans and groans but as the kids see how much faster things get done when you work as a team, they’ll appreciate doing their chore with company.
10. Make it a challenge—kids love competition. Little kids (and big kids too, sometimes) love races. Whether they’re competing against one another to get their job done faster or running against a clock to get their chore done before the ding of the timer, you’ll get better buy-in from them if it’s fun.
11. Ask rather than ordering, but not the way you think. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to ask your kids for help in a way that makes them feel empowered and important as a member of the family. Instead of demanding that they do their chores, remind them how integral they are to the smooth running of the household and ask them to be sure to take care of their responsibilities so that everyone can enjoy the fruit of the entire family’s labor later! Then follow up with the appropriate ‘thank you’s’ and recognition for contributing to the overall well-being of the family later.
12. Stand your ground—don’t give in to whining. A little “Love and Logic” inspired lesson for you… Feel free to explain to your kids that you only have a certain amount of energy each day and if they expect you to spend all of your energy doing their chores, well you certainly will not have the energy to a) take them to the park, b) drive them to that movie they want to see with their friends, or c) go to work to make money to buy the latest thing on their wishlists. Genius, right?