To ease the transition into preschool this year, all the parents were asked to stay in class for an hour of the first day. I watched Mazzy sit quietly during storytime, lose her mind (in a good way) over art supplies and start the three-year-old version of small talk with her new friends. "I like pink. Do you like pink?" "No!!!!! That's MY crayon!!!!" You know, that sort of thing.
BUT. The thing that totally blew me away was something that happened after snack time.
When each kid was done with their snack, they were instructed to take their plates and cups over to the kitchen area, spill out the rest of their drink in the sink and then load their dishes in the dishwasher.
Not only that. Mazzy seemed GENUINELY EXCITED to do it. As if loading a dishwasher was an exclusive grown-up affair to which she'd always dreamed of receiving an invite.
You are cordially invited to clear your own plates and put them in the dishwasher! Look forward to seeing you there!
I'm going to be honest. I kind of suck at getting my three-year-old to clean up after herself.
First of all, it didn't even occur to me that I could be assigning her household tasks. Secondly, I rarely even make her put away her toys because I'm so busy trying to get her to go to sleep before her "window" closes that it's just easier to put them away myself after she's already in bed.
Clearly, this is less than exceptional parenting.
After the class, I was determined to make Mazzy start doing her share around the house. I'd start small. With the dishwasher, since she had already learned to do it.
Then I realized I would have to unload the clean dishes so that Mazzy could load her dirty ones, but that was impossible because Harlow has recently learned how to climb up onto the open dishwasher drawer and identify the closest steak knife.
The next day, Mazzy was eating an apple squeezie on the couch. "I'm done!!!!!" she called, holding the empty package up high, without looking away from her iPad.
This is usually my cue to drop whatever I am doing, run to relieve my daughter of the trash currently cramping her style and hand deliver it to the garbage myself.
"Mazzy. You know where the garbage is. Throw it out."
That's when I decided to change my tactic.
"Hey, Mazzy. The garbage train is coming. Choo Chooooo!!!"
Mazzy looked over at me with a curious smile. She is obsessed with trains.
"Chugga chugga chugga chugga…" I repeated as I danced over to her doing a little train move with my arms. (Please don't picture it. This story is embarrssing enough.)
"What's the garbage train???" Mazzy was intrigued.
"The garbage train takes trash to the garbage. All aboard! Let's go!!!"
Mazzy stood up. Oh my god. This was working!!! Could it be this easy?!
"Can I go on your back?"
"Can I ride the garbage train on your back, Mom?"
"Just walk behind me. You can put your hands on my hips like a train."
"I want to ride the garbage train on your back, Mom!"
Crap. She was excited. I didn't want to blow it.
I let her climb onto my back and then we piggybacked over to the garbage to throw out the empty apple squeezie package together.
It did occur to me that instead of carrying a 0.2oz empty squeezie over to the garbage myself in five seconds, I had now carried 33lbs (plus 0.2oz) after a ten minute song and dance.
Not exactly efficient clean-up.
But it did make me realize that making cleaning fun could be very effective. I did some searching online to see if I could find any other ideas. I found six…
1. Tape a square on the floor and make a game out of sweeping all the crumbs inside it.
2. Pretend the carpet is an ocean and all the toys will drown if your child doesn't save them first.
3. Make matching socks a game of "Go Fish". (This sounds like it might take five years but as long as everyone is having fun…)
4. Tell the story of "The Toy Fairy", who visits every night and assumes the toys left out on the floor were meant for her.
5. Leave a prize hidden in the mess as a reward for helping clean.
Well, if you are going to hand over a cleaning product to your three-year-old, she will probably be more excited by fun spritzers and pumps than a box of powdered dishwashing detergent. Plus, you probably don't want your kids around anything you'd be afraid of them ingesting.
Which brings me to Method and their "clean happy" initiative.
All of Method's products are designed by moms and dads to be easy 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.
The fun colors don't hurt either.
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.
They are giving away a year's supply of cleaning products on the Method facebook page this month.
Over the next week, I am going to be experimenting with getting Mazzy to "clean happy" around the house, by trying some of the strategies/games/products listed above.
Then I'll report back on what worked and what didn't.
If you have any ideas that you use to make cleaning fun for your kids, please tell me in the comment section below. Maybe I'll test some of yours as well!
PS: Do you think I could get my husband to believe in the Clothes Fairy? She's been eyeing the growing pile of gym clothes next to Mike's side of the bed.
This post was sponsored by Method but I've been working with them for two years and truly adore their products and the company. How could you not love a company that would make the video below?
Fun fact: All the people in the ad, with the exception of the guy with the guitar, are Method employees and their kids. I'm pretty sure the guy dancing with the dark hair at :12 is one of the two founders.