Rudey's Room

5 Tips to Make Your Cleanup Campaign Fun and Easy

“Many hands make light work.”

-John Heywood


“It’s time to pick up everything and put it away. Clean up the room and put it away. It’s time to pick up everything and put it away. ‘Cause that’s the only way to end a perfect day.”

Do you remember that Bert and Ernie song?

Are you singing along?

I know … It’s a classic.

If, like me, you were a product of the ’80s, it’s a classic.

I grew up with it. My mom would sing the Put It Away song and like on Mary Poppins birds would appear and my brother, sister, and I would work together to clean up. And by birds, I mean our guinea pigs Hot Dog and Cinnamon were in their cage, nibbling on pellets. And by clean up, I mean that we would tidy our play room.

This song kicks Barney’s to the ground and is on the same album as Tiger Hunt!

Tiger Hunt! That song is a fun way to spend ten minutes with your kiddos (They act it out and you watch – easy-breezy theatrics). If you don’t have Havin’ Fun with Ernie and Bert, it’s a great one to download or buy, if you can find it (I came up empty handed on Amazon, which is the source of most of my ordering).

Songs motivate kids to move.

Of course, my girls aren’t moving if I’m not. It’s a must that I whistle while they work.

Chez moi, we call tidying up the house a Cleanup Campaign.

I’ll say, “okay ladies, it’s time for a Cleanup Campaign.” I always stress that we are a team to get them to buy into the end result – a tidy living space. The group mentality seems to enlist my girls on my side, making for less of a battleground. Not perfect, good Lord, but less.

5 Ways to Hold a Cleanup Campaign at Home

I’ll start with my roots in #1 and #2.

1. Put on a Song: I use this tactic at home and at school. Recently, I tried It’s the Hard Knock Life and bam! instant winner. With my elementary students, we have a clean-up song. It’s 8 chocolats. When my students hear the song, they get going. They know they need to finish cleaning up the classroom by the end to earn a pompom

2. Beat the Clock: I set a timer to get it done. A microwave or iPhone works as well as the timer that I use in my classroom and at home. Whether it’s beating the clock or knowing they have X amount of time, it works like magic. In fact, setting the clock works for me too. I HATE doing the dishes, so I set the time on the microwave for 10 minutes to make this household chore less painful. Setting a timer enables me to let go and just take care of business, knowing it’s only 10 minutes. I usually beat the clock, as do my girls and students.

3. Play Your Cards: I pull playing cards out of our junk drawer and fan them. Each girl plucks a card. The rule is they have to pick up the same number of items as the number on the card. If she draws a 2, boom, she finds two items that need to go back “home”. If her number reads K, well, trouble! It’s a face card. But I’m easy and say 11 toys to pick up and put away.

4. Keep it a Secret: This is genius. You choose something to be the secret toy, set a timer, and whoever picks up the chosen item wins a prize.

5. I Spy: This is a clean-up game where I’ll say, “I spy a dog,” and the girls will rush to be the first to pick up the dog to put it away. Truth be told, this works best on my four year old. My oldest still gets involved, but I’m sure she’d get more motivated if I offered something in return, say, if you find five items you get to 10 minutes on Minecraft.

If all else fails, set a time and offer a threat. Yes, a threat! I don’t recommend this as a habit, but I’ve done it once and whoa, it was effective. The girls’ ears were tuned off to my please-pick-up-your-shit-requests, so I got their attention by stating: I’m setting a timer and anything left on the floor when the beep goes off, well … gone for a week. This did not happen because boy did they move and did not lose nary a toy.

P.S. Here’s how we handle the “it’s my turn” argument.



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