Idea for Kids: Cleanup Countdown

by Ann-Marie on February 3, 2011

This idea came to me on a rare Saturday when we didn’t have anywhere to be, and my kids were driving me nuts already by 10am. I tested it again yesterday, day 2 of our 4-day school hiatus from the infamous ice storm, and it was a hit once more.

My 6.5 yr old daughter has a nasty habit of not putting her toys away in her room (“Shocker!”). Then when  you have clothes here, Polly Pockets there, scraps of craft paper here, and Squinkies there, and there, and there, it becomes too overwhelming for both of us.

I ‘get’ that brains are wired differently, and some, like Mallory’s, need to compartmentalize in order to process it all. Taking an overall look at her room results in a tearful, screeching, “I CAN’T DO IT!”, with a little foot stomp for added emphasis.

So I started a fun “game” (anything with ‘game’ added to it gets instant buy-in from my kids). It’s called the Cleanup Countdown.

The premise is so simple, and yet so rewarding:  Get the kids to pick up their stuff, without having to nag them about it. Then reward them. And guess what, the more kids you have, the faster your house gets cleaned!

Here is how our game worked, you can adapt it to your levels, rooms, and messiness factor. These directions are per child, so 10 toys on the basement floor really means 20!   And I recommend doing this on-the-fly, just look around the house and come up with your list. It will change every time you ‘play’!

  • Put away 10 toys on the basement floor.
  • Find 9 things you’ve taped to your bedroom walls or door, and either throw them away or put them in a folder for keeping.
  • Pick up 8 pieces of clothing from your bedroom floor.
  • Find 7 markers/crayons/pencils and put them in their boxes where they belong.
  • Put 6 books back onto your bookshelves.
  • (Mallory): Find 5 hair pretties and put them away. (Dylan): Find 5 army guys and put them away.
  • Put 4 stuffed animals back on their shelf.
  • Find 3 of Carlie’s toys and help her to put those away. (She’s 2).
  • Remove 2 papers from the refrigerator, and either throw them away or put them in a folder for keeping.
  • Make your 1 bed.

The reward can be as simple as a special dessert for dinner, or if they worked extra hard then treat them to a Family Movie Night with a Redbox video and popcorn. The bigger your eyes and your own excitement get when describing the reward in detail, the more exciting it will be for your kids. Happy cleaning!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew De Luna January 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Definitely have to try this with my youngest. Trying to teach him that he needs to start helping his brother clean up their room.


kids Activities June 13, 2012 at 2:07 am

Yes this is basic problem for kids and younger. The cleaning schedule should be short enough to allow you to actually accomplish it and after the cleanup that you will feel the most positive effect. The kids use common things when they should need anything to be picked up or put away in specific manner.

Kids Activities


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