Get Kids to Help Clean with These Games

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The easiest way to get kids to help clean house is by making it fun. Try a few of these games that turn chore time into playtime.

Parents watch as boy helps clean house by vacuuming and girl folds laundry on sofa.

The easiest way to get kids to help cleaning is by making it fun. Yes, it would be nice if they pitched in around the house for the sake of being helpful. But toddlers and school-aged kids aren’t old enough to have developed that kind of internal motivation.

How to Get Kids to Help Clean House

If you turn cleaning into a game, your kids will be glad to help clean the house. In the process, they’ll learn the skills to do the job, how to plan their time and the order in which to clean. As adults, that kind of knowledge will be useful to them in their own homes and their workplace.

Cleaning House Games for Kids

Pick a room and choose a game, then watch your kids eagerly help. They’ll have fun while learning how to clean, and you’ll get help around the house without all the whining.

1. Here’s Your Mission

This game teaches kids to clean in a logical order. To play, you need to plan a reward for completing all of the Cleaning Missions. A treat like ice cream, thirty minutes of screen time, or even a small toy from the dollar store all work.

Write down simple tasks on brightly colored index cards. For example: “Put dirty towels in the hamper.” “Make your bed.” (Find more ideas on this age-based list of kids’ chores.) A good rule of thumb is one job for each year of age. So, a 3-year-old would have three tasks while a 9-year-old would have nine. Have them turn in completed Mission Cards to get the next one. When they’ve all missions, they get the reward!

2. Dusting For Treasure

This game teaches kids to be thorough when cleaning a room. To play, you’ll need stickers or other small items to hide. For older kids, coins work, too.

Go around the room and hide the treasure on surfaces that need dusting. For younger kids, be sure they don’t have to climb to find things. You can hide treasure underneath things, too, so they learn to pick up items when dusting surfaces. Then turn your kids loose to start cleaning. If you want to make it more challenging, set a timer. Make sure you know how many things you’ve hidden, so you know when your kids have found them all.

3. Goodnight, Toys

This game helps kids get in the habit of putting things away every evening. If you’ve ever read Goodnight, Moon to your kids, you know the basics. Be sure to follow the game with some quiet reward like extra reading time or a second book before bed.

To play, you guide your child to say goodnight to toys and put them where they belong. For younger children, you’ll want to be specific. “Say goodnight to your blue stuffed bunny,” for instance. Older children can handle more generic descriptions. “Say goodnight to your cars,” for example, or “Say goodnight to your Legos.”

Child playing cleaning game to put away Legos in wooden crate on bed

4. I Spy…

This game helps children learn colors, shapes, and numbers. The giggles alone are usually enough to motivate children to play this game, but you can always reward them with a favorite book or story after they’re done.

To play this game, tell your child “I spy…” then describe an item they need to find and put away. For younger children, you’ll want to stick with one simple thing at a time. For example, “I spy a pair of dirty pants on the floor!” Older kids can handle bigger challenges, like “I spy three blue things.”

5. Smile, You’re On Camera!

This cleaning game helps children learn to clean thoroughly. If your kid loves to ham it up for the camera, this will put that trait to good use.

To play, grab your phone and open the camera app. Tell your child you’re going to make a pretend cleaning infomercial in which they’re the star. Now, pick a surface for them to clean. Give them some soap and water — or one of my non-toxic homemade cleaning mixes — and have them show people how it’s done. As the commercial’s director, you can coach them if needed. “Uh-oh, looks like we missed a spot. Let’s show our viewers how thorough we can be.” You’ll be surprised how fast they pick up cleaning skills with this game.

6. Beat The Parent

This game teaches kids to stay on task. It’s perfect for those times when you’ve got housework of your own to do but don’t want the kids just sitting around. Get them to play this game, and you’ll keep them busy while they help clean the house, too. Be sure you’ve got a good reward planned so your kids are motivated to stay on-task.

To play, write down 4 or 5 things you need to do and an equal number for your child. Then, set a generous time limit and start cleaning. If you finish your list before your child does, find other things to keep busy. When the time’s up, check their work and give a point for each thing done correctly. Let them check your work, too. Then reward them once everything on their list is done properly.

Cleaning Games that Kids Can Play

Cleaning Tools for Kids

Having the right tools — in the right size — makes it a lot easier for kids to help clean. Although most of these games don’t require any specialized equipment, your kids will find it easier to clean if they have child-sized tools. Here are some I’ve given to my kids and grandkids that they love to use.

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