After writing about possible ways to trick your kids into cleaning, I spent the last ten days putting some of those methods to the test. We've had failures. We've had successes.
Remember the idea about pretending the carpet was an ocean and all the toys would get eaten by sharks if your child didn't pick them up quickly? I thought FOR SURE, that would work. Not even close.
Here's how that scenario played out…
ME: Let's pretend the carpet is an ocean and we have to pick up all the toys before the sharks eat them!
MAZZY: No! I've got a better idea! Let's pretend the toys are food for the sharks and if we pick them up the sharks will eat us instead!
ME: What? No. We don't want the sharks to eat the TOYS!
MAZZY: NO! We don't want the sharks to eat US!
ME: OH MY GOD. Are you serious right now?
MAZZY: The sharks are eating all the food! We have to throw more food into the ocean!
Then, I kid you not, Mazzy started tossing everything in the toy chest out onto the floor. So, instead of cleaning up, Mazzy made more of a mess.
That's what we call a "PARENTING FAIL".
I quickly ran over to my computer and consulted the comment section of last week's post for other ideas. A few people suggested a race to see who could clean up the fastest.
ME: Ok! Now we have to see who can put all the toys away the fastest!
Mazzy looked skeptical.
ME: On your mark. Get set. GO!!!!!
Hearing "GO!!!!" must have triggered some sort of Pavlovian response because Mazzy immediately started putting toys away as fast as possible, screaming "I WIN!!!!" every time she thought we were finished.
ME: There are three more blocks!
Mazzy quickly sprang to action to pick them up before anybody else, and shoved them into a drawer.
MAZZY: I WIN!!!!!!
ME: There's some plastic vegetables under the coffee table!!!!!
Mazzy grabbed the vegetables and hurled them toward the mini-kitchen cabinet with so much speed I was suprised they survived impact.
MAZZY: I WIN!!!!!
ME: I see a book behind the chair!
Mazzy grabbed it and stumbled over her own feet in a race against herself to put it on the shelf.
MAZZY: I WIN!!!!!
Wow. A sense of urgency and the fear of losing really does a number on a three-year-old. The whole room was clean in about five minutes. SUCCESS!
Then after dinner, I suggested Mazzy put away her dishes in the dishwasher like she does in school.
Uh-oh. What now?
ME: Mazzy, do you want to play school?
MAZZY: Ok! You be the teacher and I'll be the kid!
ME: Ok! Students— it's time to put away our dishes!
MAZZY: Can I put them in the dishwasher?!
Really, kids are much dumber than you think.
Then I had a CRAZY idea.
ME: How about you wash the dishes yourself in the sink?? You can shoot the dishes with bubbly soap!
I showed her the Method Power Foam Dish Soap. Made a fancy flourish with my hand.
Phew. That was easy.
Mazzy pulled a kitchen chair up to the sink, and went to work. She got so into the spraying action, I had to stop her before she filled a mug entirely with foam.
ME: I think that mug is clean.
MAZZY: Now, I have to do a plate!
I brought her a plate.
MAZZY: Now I have to do a bowl!
I brought her a bowl. After a while, I started bringing her clean items since she didn't want to stop. Really, you should have seen her excitement. It was hard to capture because she wouldn't stop moving. She even made a big deal of rolling up her sleeves, even though she was wearing short sleeves.
Did the dishes get clean? Who knows. Did we waste a lot of dish soap? Probably. But Mazzy was truly enjoying cleaning, which will hopefully translate into real help in the future.
Next up, LAUNDRY.
I asked Mazzy to pump Method Laundry Detergent in the washing machine. She jumped at the chance and treated it like the most important task of her life, counting four pumps out loud. Later, she helped me transfer all the wet items to the dryer.
But I wasn't prepared for what happened after the clothes were dry…
MAZZY ASKED ME HOW TO FOLD.
I spent the next half hour teaching her how to fold shirts and leggings and roll pairs of socks into a ball. She wasn't great at it but she wasn't terrible either. And she seemed so proud after she finished folding each item.
Someone had commented that it was important not to fix the work your kids did because you don't want them to get discouraged. I fought every fiber of my being to refold, and put the clothes in the drawers exactly how Mazzy had done it. Even though it took longer and the task wasn't done exactly as I would like, cleaning ended up being a fun activity for Mazzy and me to do together. Who knew?
When we finished, Mazzy ran up to Mike and bragged about how she had helped me fold the clothes and do the dishes.
MAZZY: I'm going to do the dishes all day!!!!
MIKE: All day? Do you mean every day?
MAZZY: I'm going to do the dishes all day every day!!!!
Works for me. Next week, I might have Mazzy tackle the bathroom.
Thank you to Method for inspiring me to ask Mazzy to "clean happy". I'm not sure I would have done it otherwise. And thanks for creating products that are easy, safe and fun for kids to use, like the power foam dish soap in a spray bottle, laundry detergent in a one-handed pump, and refill bags with a handle and an easy-pour spout.
Their products tackle grease and grime just as well (and sometimes better than) conventional cleaners, even though Method's products are all non-toxic and made without dirty ingredients like parabens, phthalates and animal by-products.
The fun colors don't hurt either.
This post was sponsored by Method but all the thoughts and opinions are my own.