Inventing a few handy cleaning games has really made a difference in our home.

The I Spy Game:

This is a great one for kids of any age, from preschool to pre-teen . When kids are in charge of a certain space, accountability becomes an issue, doesn’t it? I used to get so irritated when one of my kids would say “mommmmm! I’m donnnnnne!” and I’d go look and I would be thinking “did you do anything?? I seriously can’t tell.”

I think that’s a big part of teaching kids how to clean up after themselves and to clean: kids really don’t see the mess that we see! Cleaning games like “I Spy” encourage kids to look for the mess in a room on their own without me standing there saying the equivalent of “you missed a spot.”

So here is how you play “I Spy,” which is just like it sounds. We sit around the living room (or wherever) and look at the big huge mess and take turns identifying two or three problems, like “I spy with my little eye…a red shirt on the floor, some blocks and my backpack.”

Then after everyone identifies some mess, we say “ready, setty, GO!” and we all race to put away the items we ourselves identified and then race back to our spots.

Usually a room looking like a tornado hit it starts to look normal again in about three or four rounds. Cleaning games like this one mixed with some gentle competitiveness has been a great combo for our family.

Use Your “Tidy Eyeballs”

Sometimes a goofy family phrase can really catch on and make a chore silly and fun.

If no one is around to offer a second opinion, or if you have one child, I suggest the “tidy eyeballs” approach.

I explain that they need to look at the room as if they were me and see what more needs to be done. I make a dramatic display of pretending to take my eyeballs out and hand them over, and they give their eyeballs to me (really not as gross as it sounds).

They really get into the role of pretending they’re Mom, and I’ve even heard more than once someone saying to himself in my voice “That’s a great start, but it looks like you missed…..”

This is another great exercise in helping kids see the mess they create so that they can tidy up without your involvement.

Beat the Clock

A timer is a great housekeeping tool, and not just for kids. Some of these cleaning games can work with grown ups too. You yourself probably have certain household chores that you despise (for me it’s sweeping and mopping the floor—UGH!) Take a guess at how long it would take to complete that job, and write it down. Seriously! Now put that time on the microwave timer and GO! I’ll wait here…

When I try this, the dreaded chore is almost always significantly less time to complete than I had imagined. Kids are no different, and are further motivated to beat the clock.
Beat the Song

An adaption on beat the clock, where you try to get as much of a chore done before the song is done. This is a great game for picking up lots of little things like lego or duplo or blocks. Little kids really like this game if the song is fast and fun – we have even used the batman theme turned up loud!

Do you have any cleaning up games you would like to share?

By Lorin Spangler Young – Lorin is raising three boys and fighting clutter in Colorado. For more tips on involving kids in household chores, visit Chores and Checklists.