Who couldn't use a hand with all the cleaning that needs to be done around the house? And why do we have children, if not to make them do the tasks we don't want to do ourselves? Even if your motives weren't quite so self-interested, it's still a good idea to get kids used to the idea of pitching in around the house. These are skills that will serve them well throughout their lives -- and if it makes your own a life a little easier, so much the better.
Here are 8 ways to make cleaning fun for your kids:
Beat the clock
Set a timer and challenge your kids to get a task done before it rings. "Can you get all ten of these books put away in one minute? Go!" You can expand on this as necessary: "Can you put the laundry away in five minutes?" and so on.
Encourage friendly competition
Have a floor full of toys and two or more kids? Give each one an empty bucket, set a timer for a minute, and see who can collect the most toys. You'll be amazed at how fast the floor gets cleaned.
Set up a cleaning relay
Start in one part of the house with an index card with short, simple instructions. One child might start off with "Make the bed, straighten up the bathroom, bring down dirty laundry." In the laundry room, that child hands off to the next one, who then starts the machine, loads the wash, and grabs clean clothes from the dryer. You get the idea.
Figure out which jobs they like
If you seven year old enjoys washing dishes, teach her to do it right and encourage her to do it often. Even if you occasionally have to rewash a dish, you're building lifelong skills. If your son enjoys the dusting dance, let him have at it. Work with what you have.
Put on music
Have a mix or a CD that's reserved just for cleaning time. Blast it at high volume, and have fun while you work. You might also want to let your child listen to music your iPod or iPhone while he or she cleans -- and only while cleaning.
Set clear rewards
Let your kids know exactly what they'll get when they finish -- and make it worth their while.
Hide and seek
Hide a few quarters (or dollar bills, depending on your kids' ages) around the house. Tell your kids how many there are, and let them know that if they clean properly, they'll find them.
Short and sweet
Your kids are not going to enjoy a five-hour marathon cleaning session. But they can get into a couple of 10 to 15 minute sessions over the course of a week. Make a habit of daily clean-ups and you won't need to do the longer sessions as often.
Establish a regular cleaning schedule and make if part of your routine. Make it clear that this is simply what you do in your house and make it fun and easy for everyone to participate.
More about cleaning with kids