You’ve assigned chores to your children. An immediate chorus of complaints follows. Sound familiar?
Although it requires patience and perseverance, one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself as a mom is to train your family to work together. They learn teamwork and life skills, and you receive much-needed help around the house. A family workday, however, seldom feels like a family fun day.
So, the next best gift you can give yourself is to take a break from the monotony of cleaning by making chores fun on occasion.
How to Convert Chores into Family Fun
There are heaps of ways to inject joy into regular household cleaning. I’ll share three of our family’s favourites a little later in this post.
But first, I’ll share one clever and playful tip I learned while reading Mindy Starns Clark’s book The House That cleans Itself: 8 Steps to Keep Your Home Twice as Neat in Half the Time.
Mindy’s Playful Tip for Family Cleaning
I’ll illustrate Mindy’s wisdom through a story of how our family converted a chronic mess into a playful game…
Part One: The Annoying Chair Mess
Does your family designate chairs for suppertime? Mine, too. This eliminates fighting; but in our family, it actually created a cleaning conflict.
Whenever we tidied the house and run across an item that belonged to a specific child, we dropped it on their designated chair at the table and moved on.
These items piled up.
Day after day, the kids neglected to transfer these items from their chairs to their rooms. Until one day, I would get so sick of staring at those growing piles that I’d blow up.
Then, all the kids would groan as they carried their things upstairs to their rooms and dropped them in heaps on the floor because there was too much to put away all at once.
And then the chair cycle would begin again.
Part Two: A Dash of Mindy-Wisdom (Before I Reveal Her Fun Tip)
Barking at my kids wasn’t kind. It wasn’t playful. And it wasn’t working.
But as I continued to work through Mindy’s book, she continued to surprise me with fresh wisdom that I could apply to my chronic cleaning frustrations.
“The first step in solving a problem like this with a team approach would be to ask your child why he or she thinks it keeps happening. Sometimes children aren’t being lazy or inconsiderate as much as they are avoidant for some undefined, subconscious reason. If you can broach the topic in a non-accusatory way and refuse to accept the pat response of, ‘Sorry, Mom. I’ll try harder next time,’ the two of you just might be able to get past the frustration of the issue and come up with an actual root cause.”Credit: The House That Cleans Itself, Mindy Starns Clark, p. 108, Copyright © 2007,2013, Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408, www.harvesthousepublishers.com
Following Mindy’s advice, I sat down with my children to chat about the chairs.
Turned out, we all felt that climbing the stairs several times in one tidying session was too much work. The kids also felt it was unfair for them to put in that much effort when those items were really their sibling’s responsibility in the first place.
Part Three: The Stairway “Fair” Way Solution
Together, we chose three steps on the staircase and labeled them with the children’s names. From then on, whoever was tidying could place personal items on those labeled steps rather than on chairs. Anytime a child was on their way upstairs, they were obligated to bring their items to their own room. That way, the dining room chairs would remain clear, and the items on the steps would never pile up.
By now, you may be thinking: “Hey, Sara. You said this was about making work fun.” Yes, I did. But…
We needed to lay a foundation of respect and teamwork before we could add in the joy.
Now, here comes the fun part…
Part Four: Mindy’s Playful Tip and The Joy of “Eagling”
“…a good sense of humor can go a long way toward keeping the peace as you solve the various messes around your home. Try to keep things light, perhaps even assigning nicknames to some of your worst habits.
“For example, one term my husband and I coined years ago is ‘barnacling’ in reference to the way barnacles will latch onto a ship’s hull and stay there. In our house, barnacling is what we call the tendency to utilize any available horizontal surface by piling stuff on it that doesn’t belong there. For some reason, the words, ‘Don’t barnacle the coffee table,’ goes over a lot better than, ‘Get your stuff off the coffee table.’ The latter sounds like nagging while the former makes us both smile – and is a lot more effective in the long run.”Credit: The House That Cleans Itself, Mindy Starns Clark, p. 107, Copyright © 2007,2013, Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408, www.harvesthousepublishers.com
To make sure our family stuck to the plan, I added a fun twist. I showed my kids a YouTube video of an eagle swooping down to snatch a salmon straight out of the water before soaring back up into the air with its catch.
“You’re the eagle,” I said. “Every time you go upstairs, imagine yourself as an eagle snatching up your treasure on the way to your nest.”
I called it “eagling your items.” (Two of my kids thought this was hilarious. The other hates it; which I find funny, so that’s still a win.)
To add accountability and turn it into a bit of a game, I decided that if any of us catch someone not “eagling,” the culprit must then “eagle” all the items on all of the steps to each child’s room.
Part Five: A New Playful Perspective
I don’t have the energy to be fun all the time. Just ask my kids. But I’m learning to add a spark of joy when I can.
What about you? When’s the last time you tried to add some fun into your family chores?
Playful solutions don’t always need to be planned out like our “eagling” game. You can be more spontaneous.
See what happens when you:
- give instructions to your child in a sing-song voice or make up a rap.
- tickle your child or play wrestle until they finally get up and tidy their room. (Don’t torture-tickle, though!)
- blast dance music while washing dishes.
- have a competition to see who can put away the most items (in their proper places, of course) before the timer rings.
What would happen to your child’s attitude toward chores if, many times, those chores were mixed with fun?
Sara’s Three Favourite Ways to Add Joy to Family Chores
Here are a few fun ways I’ve added joy to family chores over the years.
They’ve been so successful that it’s not uncommon for my children to request one of these games when they know it’s a family workday.
#1: Pick Jobs Out of a Bowl
Write down the chores you want to be completed. Cut them out, fold them up, and pop them into a bowl.
Now, write down a few surprise items to add to the bowl. Here are some examples:
- Do 20 jumping jacks.
- Give Mom a high-five.
- You’ve been working hard! Take a 10-minute break, then get back to it. You’re doing great!
- You get a treat! (This could be as simple as five chocolate chips.)
- Run around the table 10 times.
Here are even more ideas:
You can play this cleaning game two ways:
- Don’t divide up the jobs. This teaches teamwork and accomplishes each task quickly. Everyone works together to complete the first job before the next slip of paper is picked from the bowl. And everyone gets to enjoy the fun when a “silly” slip is picked. Things can get silly when four people try to clean the bathroom at once. But imagine the laughs!
- Each child picks a slip of paper. They each complete their task separately. Just remember that when someone picks a “fun” item out of the bowl, it applies to all the kids.
With this game, there’s always the risk that you’ll pick, “You’ve been working hard! Keep it up!” on the first draw. This happened to us a while ago, which made us giggle and set a cheerful mood for the rest of our work.
Don’t want to write out your own jobs and silly items? Print this list and cut out only the slips that will work best for your family.
#2: Make a Pac-Man Muncher
Make a Pac-man muncher, also known as a paper fortune teller. Personally, I think they look like frogs, so I drew a face on mine one time and named it Mr. Clean-up Frog, which my daughter loved.
If you’ve never made a Pac-man muncher before or don’t remember how to fold this paper toy, you can find simple instructions at Vintage Toys Blog in this article.
This cleaning game is played in much the same way as picking jobs out of a bowl, only it’s repackaged in a more playful way, which makes it feel new and exciting for the kids.
You’re limited to only eight tasks, however; so, use it on a day when you only have a few chores for the kids to get done.
Write a mixture of chores and surprises inside the mouth of the toy. Once the kids have completed a task, cross it off inside the toy’s mouth so they don’t pick it again.
Keep going until all the tasks are done. And have fun!
#3: Offer a Sense of Control and Reward
Write down all the chores you need to be completed. Add a blank line beside each chore. Then, write a separate list of rewards or fun activities.
- Each child can take their turn writing their name on the blank beside the chore they choose to complete.
- When all the chores have been claimed, show them the list of rewards or activities so they can choose something to look forward to after they’ve completed their work.
Offering our children (especially teenagers) a sense of control over which jobs they get “stuck” with and providing fun motivation can keep the peace during, and add joy to, your family workday.
Always remember: Your family is beautiful and unique.
Keep trying new things until you find solutions that suit.
Don’t give up on training your kids to work. It’s good for them – and it’s really good for you.
Help for Frustrated House Cleaners
God cares about the whole you and every part of your life, even the cleaning frustrations that arise as you train your children to help out.
“Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.”Proverbs 22:6 GNT
Why don’t we quickly pray together before you continue on with your day?
A Frustrated House Cleaner’s Prayer
Dear Jesus, You gave us a huge responsibility when you gave us children to raise. Not only do we need to intentionally train them for life, but they’re always watching us – taking note of how we tackle life and how we treat them. Please forgive us for the times when we have hurt our children out of our own frustrations.
Father God, thank you for your endless grace toward us through the blood Jesus shed for our sins.
Holy Spirit, come refresh my friend with your energy, your wisdom, and your creativity so that she can tackle her day in a way that suits how you made her and her family. Fill us with your joy in everything we do. Not a fake happiness, but an inner joy and peace that only comes through you. Amen.
Your Takeaway Challenge
Pick one of the following two approaches to family cleaning to try out this week:
- Implement the “Dash of Mindy-Wisdom” by allowing your family to trouble-shoot and brainstorm together to find a solution for a chronic cleaning problem in your home.
- Try out one of “Sara’s Three Favourite Ways to Add Joy” while cleaning with your family this week, or browse a few family/cleaning blogs and pick a fun method that would suit your family better.
Today’s blog post is the fourth article in an 8-week series written to offer you hope and help for your house cleaning frustrations. It’s an honest account of my journey through Mindy’s book.
Other articles in the “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners” series that may interest you are:
- Sweep Away the Lies You Believe About Your Home
- Outsmart Your Messy Zones
- Create Handy Stations Around the House
- Take Your House on a Prayer Walk
- Embrace Your Cleaning Personality
- How I Changed My Entrance, Bathroom, and Laundry Room to Fit My Family (Help for Frustrated House Cleaners)
- 21 Practical Home and Family Management Hacks
Stay tuned for more helpful articles as I journey through Mindy’s book – tidying and changing my house to work with who I am and implementing many of Mindy’s amazing tips. I hope that as you read them, you will also find hope and freedom for your own messy frustrations.