If a chore is interesting, he'll cooperate with enthusiasm — or, in the case of teenagers, at least with resignation. So try these tips to pump up the fun factor:
Make a "to-do" list that's clever and inspiring. Try a tongue-in-cheek menu of cleaning tasks, and let your child decide which jobs to tackle by ordering from it. For example:
- Surf and Turf: Clean the garage, organize sports equipment, hose off boogie boards and surfboards, inflate basketballs and beach balls, rake the lawn.
- Hot Tamales: Clean the stovetop, dust the radiators, empty the crumbs from the toaster.
- High Tea: Banish cobwebs from the ceilings, replace burned out light bulbs, dust the chandeliers.
- Have a cleaning-product treasure hunt. Do you have half-full bottles of cleanser stashed upstairs, downstairs, and in the garage? Save money and help protect the environment by using them up before you buy more. Have the kids take inventory, pitting them against one another to see who can find the most.
- Keep cleaning sessions short. A five- or 10-minute cleanup session, accompanied by upbeat music, is something the whole family can get into. You'll be done in no time, and it's painless enough that kids won't mind doing another round every so often.
- Find chores for all ages. Preschoolers enjoy helping with cleanup, and can easily dust lampshades, books and tabletops, line up CDs, and sweep with a little broom. Armed with the proper (nontoxic) cleaning solution, soft rags, and gloves — kid-sized rubber garden gloves work well — elementary-age children are experts at polishing mirrors, brass knobs, door knockers, outdoor house numbers, and chrome car bumpers and trim. Teens can wipe car interiors clean. Indoors, give them fine steel wool to shine your stainless-steel sinks and faucets, for instant results!
- Assign animal attributes. Make a joke about each person's cleaning style, likening it to the behavior of a particular animal: jackrabbit (fastest), turtle (slow and steady), squirrel (stores things away), bat (fast and fearless), and slug (goes to sleep when chores are mentioned).
- Play dust-ball derby. Whoever finds the biggest dust bunny gets to choose a movie for family film night — or play DJ for your next 10-minute tidying session.
- Spray and wash. Your teenager, a garden hose, and a bottle of window cleaner designed to be attached to the hose can make your outdoor windows sparkle in no time — even those on the second floor. Who doesn't enjoy messing around with water?
- Be gone books. Have each family member gather three or four books she doesn't need anymore. Designate a box in the car as a collection point, so you can donate the books when you drive by a library, hospital, or thrift shop.
- Repaint your child's bedroom. There's a cleanup factor built right in and your child can work alongside you every step of the way. Prep includes pulling furniture away from the walls and piling things in the center of the room. Inevitably, some things won't fit and have to be moved elsewhere or tossed. In the end, the room gets a fresh new look (your child picks the paint color), and the room is, for the moment, clutter-free.