Monday, May 26, 2014

I am not a maid! Ways to engage your kids in the cleaning routine

"I am not a maid," I say for what seems like the 500th time today. Ten minutes later as I scrub dried Popsicle and strawberry jelly off the kitchen floor I mutter, "I am not Cinderella." Half an hour later as I stub my already broken toe on a toy car carelessly strewn on the living room floor my frustration escalates to, "Fine, I am just going to get a garbage bag and throw everything out." Have you been there? Do your kids say, "I really want a drink," when their already filled cup is lying within walking distance where they carelessly threw it ten minutes earlier? Do you sometimes feel more like a domestic engineer then a parent and active participant in your family? I have days like that all the time, but I am consciously trying to change things and here is how.

First, instead of asking for help with mundane kid-safe chores, I take out three sponges and just tell them what we are doing. For example, our outdoor toys took a beating this winter as did our gardens. Yesterday was warm and sunny and there was no homework or after-school activities. We got home from school and I told the kids to put on their waterproof shoes and play clothes and follow me outside. I filled a bucket with dish soap and water and gave them sponges. The youngest just flung bubbles around but my middle daughter, who is five, actively engaged in helping me. Little Miss M was scripting but willing to be outside with us so I took that as a victory. We cleaned the toys and then moved on to the gardens where I showed K-bear which weeds to pull. It was a very successful and dare I say fun time while we got some house work done.

Second, I remember that kids are kids. We have a rule that they must make their beds each morning when they get up. Making a bed is a very complex motor task. Very rarely do the beds get made to the standard I require, but if they are actually trying and focusing then they get points in my book.

My third piece of advice is to require chores that are matched with the child's ability level. We ask the kids to clear their dishes, but only if they are using plastic dishes and not if there is liquid or food left on the plate. We do require that the children put their own dirty laundry into the basket, and although they often need reminding even the youngest at two-years-old will complete this chore.

Next, I have visual reminders posted of expectations. There are only four things listed and there are pictures to view. Visuals help to cue the kids and keep me from feeling like a broken record.

My next thought is something new we are just starting and working the kinks out of. I am so sick of the toys all over the floor. I love that the girls play with their toys and that they use their imaginations so much but they never ever clean-up without being asked and it drives me bonkers! So, I've instituted the used toy basket. I have it up in our living room. Around seven o'clock in the evening I will go around and pick up any toy that has been left out. I will place it in the basket. The kids then have until they go to bed to put the toys where they belong or they will be donated to charity. I've tried reasoning and threatening but nothing has worked. We will try this method and see how it works. I pick up the toys anyway, but now I'm giving them ownership and responsibility and ultimately hoping to eliminate this step entirely.

ChoreMonster: make chores fun for kids! Lastly, I stumbled across a cute app for parents to help with chores. I've just started exploring it, but already I am thinking of ways to incorporate it into a rewards system for completing expectations. ChoreMonster allows parents to create an account and customize chores to children with reward points and trackers. If I want Little Miss M to clean her desk off every Tuesday by 5:00pm then I can schedule it and click when she completes the task to award her whatever amount of points I set. I found the app to be easy to customize and use.

If you'd like to download ChoreMonster to try for yourself, please support Smart Apps for Special Needs by clicking this link:
(Free, iPad/ iPhone)

From iTunes:
  ChoreMonster makes chores fun by engaging and rewarding your kids!

● Kids earn points by completing their chores
● Earn rewards like ice cream, an hour of Xbox, or a camping trip
● Win monsters at the Monster Carnival (over 250 available, more being added monthly!)
● Parents manage their children’s chores and the rewards they can earn
● Takes the tension out of household chores

Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what ChoreMonster users are saying:

“Set the kids up on @ChoreMonster. So far it's a hit in the household with K wanting to complete a week's worth of chores by 8:00 am.”

“Incredible things happening since I installed @ChoreMonster app. My boys can't wait to help around the house!”

“Day one of using @ChoreMonster and the kids were pumped...woke up early to log on and asked for more chores when I tucked them in.

Good luck engaging your family in chores, and remember it could actually be fun. Well maybe not scrubbing the toilet! Please share with us in the comments what you do to get those chores done.

Amanda would like you to know that stepping on toys with a broken toe really hurts!

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