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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting Little Kids to Straighten Their Rooms

Getting kids to clean their messy rooms is a task that (I thought) ended when my kids grew up. Despite all the begging and pleading and time it took to get them to straighten up their rooms, however, the way they were when they lived with me is entirely different from the way they live now. Each one of them is neat (they didn't get that trait from me) and their homes are clean and orderly.

But now I have grandchildren and my job (I used to call it a chore) is sometimes to get my grandkids to straighten up their rooms. Every week I care for three of my grandchildren, and every once in a while their mother asks me to get them to clean their rooms.

Only Kaden and Zac were home this past week (Taylor was practicing for her first play), so I had only two little people whining about having to clean their rooms.

The first thing I had to consider was a reward. They wouldn't go willingly. Maybe a favorite DVD, a snack, or a game.

Taylor, Kaden, and Zac's mom owns a frozen yogurt shop, and I decided that after the boys finished cleaning, we would visit Mom and get some frozen yogurt with the intention of each boy getting to hold down the lever on the frozen yogurt machine for 3 seconds. After their bowls were filled each could choose two toppings.

The next task was to get over their objections.

And then I remembered the game I had played with them the last time they had to straighten their rooms. Ah, yes! Only this time I would make it a little different.

Last time I set a timer and said, "I'm going to set this timer for 5 minutes, and I want to see you work as fast as you can to see how much you can get put away in 5 minutes."

They were astounded by how much they could accomplish in only 5 minutes. So we did 5 minutes more, then 5 minutes more, etc. until the room was straightened.

This time I decided to go by the number of items they could clean up and I told them I would take pictures of their progress. Kaden is quite competitive, so when I said, "Let's see how it looks after you each put away 10 items," Kaden said, "Let's make it 40."

So I said, "Nah, let's just keep it 10."

I'm kidding. I was enjoying his competitive nature and his enthusiasm.  We could see faster results with 40 items, but I think it's wise to start small and let the kids decide if they want to do more.

Kaden and Zac after completing the job

Almost there

Still a ways to go

Whoa! Look at that mess!
So, hearing about the game, Zac rushed to the closet and sat down. Apparently Zac doesn't have the same competitive nature as does his brother. And I said to Kaden, who was complaining that his brother wasn't helping, "That's OK, Kaden, if Zac doesn't help you, you get his yogurt and his toppings along with yours.

And Kaden said, "That's OK, Zaccy, you don't have to help."

Zac, still in the closet, must have been thinking about watching his brother enjoy all of HIS yogurt, because he appeared suddenly (I had to stop myself from saying he came out of the closet) and began cleaning.

After the 2nd picture was taken I had to adjust the reward I had promised them, because Zac had decided to stop cleaning.

"OK, Zac, you get to hold down the lever for only 1 second and you get only 1 topping," to which Zac responded, "I only want one topping – strawberries."

Well, there you go. Kaden finished cleaning, the room looked great, nobody was complaining, everybody was happy, and we all had frozen yogurt.

So my suggestion is that rather than tell your kids it's time to clean their rooms, make a game out of it. See how many items they can put away in 5 minutes, or have them count the items they are putting away.

Also, kids need to know when cleaning up their rooms, where to put everything. You may have to show them where everything belongs, and if they're really young, you may have to show them several times, but if you make it a game and have a reward they'll want, they'll be more agreeable to straightening their rooms.

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