Huckle Buckle Beanstock!
It sounds a bit odd, I know, but this unique phrase may be the solution to saving a little piece of my sanity. Let me explain...
Lately we have had more than the usual struggle to get Sophia to clean up. She will tell me, "No, I'm sorry, but I don't think I want to right now. And I may not ever." Yes, she is three. When she eventually does participate in the cleaning process, she just plays with the toys rather than put them away. My frustrated mommy response is a very stern: "It is not play time, it is clean-up time!"
And then I think-- Wait, I know this could be fun. She would respond so much better if I made it a game--clean-up time could be playtime, but how?
I know! I know! Huckle Buckle Beanstock!
This is a game I learned from my Grandma Mac. It is simple, all you need is one small object to hide. It could be anything--a small stuffed animal, a sock, an apple, a hairbrush, even just a piece of paper. One person hides it in a visible place, meaning that it cannot be completely concealed in a drawer or covered by a blanket--it must be at least partly visible and no player should have to move anything to find it. Then all the other players try to find the object. The first person to find it yells, "Huckle Buckle Beanstock!" and then runs to sit on the couch until everyone else has found the object. The person who finds it first then gets to hide the object to start the next round.
You can adapt this for children of all ages by hiding objects of different sizes and difficulty to find. And now, when things look like this...
...all you have to do is hide your object somewhere amid the mess--this time it can be completely hidden because you actually want them to move things while searching--move them and put them away! Explain to your children that if they are the one to discover the item while cleaning, they will get a special treat or reward. Then when they do find it, you can re-hide it and give them opportunities to earn as many rewards as possible. If you want to have lots of rewards, hide it somewhere quick and easy to find. If you want to have only one or a few rewards, hide it somewhere difficult that will be found near the end of the chore. If you are comfortable with sweet treats, the reward can be a Hershey Kiss or something they can munch on while they continue to clean--this will help them continue cleaning if they are young and need immediate and effective rewards. If you have older children and want them to earn other rewards--TV, movie, video game or computer time (we call them "media points")--then the reward can be something gained later, an extra five or ten minutes for a special activity.
We tried this tonight. The result was enthusiasm for cleaning and participation with the family in the task at hand. It was completed quickly because of the race to find the object, and clean-up time became playtime. Playtime was a much more peaceful family time, and we all got a treat in the end.