Cleaning Up Games – How to Help Motivate Your Kids to Clean



Almost every parent will understand what it is like to find messes all over the house from their kids.  They play one thing and move onto the next before putting the last away, or they leave messes behind when its time to go or eat.  Today I will be discussing some cleaning up games that you can use to help motivate your kids.

Clean Up Time Mess
Time to clean up!

How to get motivated to clean house?

The first step in this whole process is finding the right motivations and what works for both you and your kids.  There will be some trial and error here, but by working through this with your kids you will find a positive way to resolve the issue.

One of the things that motivates me the most to keep my area clean as well as making sure the kids are too, is knowing how it effects my wife.  I know that if she comes home to a mess, that we are going to have to deal with a grumpy mommy and none of us want that.  I do share that with the kids as well, to make sure they know that when mom comes home to a clean house we have more time to do things together as a family then.

Another tool I help to use motivate is having a reward for completing chores.  This can be many things such as a snack, money, or time to do something together.  I will often use all three of these to help motivate the kids, depending on the task and timeframe we are working in.

Clean Up Games Kids Will Play

Wooden Clock
How fast can you clean up?

The easiest game to play and one that seems to work very well for the younger kids is the race against the clock.  When our kids complain about cleaning up, one of the first things we do is tell them that I will time them and ask them to beat the clock.  Now you have to be careful as this can lead to “sloppy” cleaning, so when they come back the first time we always ask them to double check their work.

When it comes to chores that are done on a more regular basis, instead of racing the clock, now you can focus on your best time.  So for example if it takes 10 minutes to do the dishes, can you get them done properly in 8?  This is a great time to work with your kids to teach them how to do chores properly & efficiently.

Then there is a “scavenger hunt” twist.  This is where I will take some money, such as quarters, and stash them about the mess.  Now, I don’t tell them how much has been hidden as the purpose of the game is to clean and not just do what you need to do to find the money.  If you have multiple kids cleaning the same area, put enough out so that the end amount can be evenly split regardless of who actually found it.  Lastly, you don’t have to use money, you can substitute whatever you feel works best for you kids.

Clean Up Song Kids Like

Music can really help your kids during clean up time.  There are songs specifically about cleaning up and just having music on during clean up time can help.  My family has always used the Barney clean up song as that was the popular one for our now oldest child.  However, just about every show designed for kids these days has a clean up song.  I have included a playlist here from YouTube for your convenience.


Wrap Up

In the end, do your best to be consistent with your kids and do your best to make clean up fun.  Whether you challenge them with time or use some sort of rewards, just be creative and your kids just might surprise you!

Please share any ways that you use to help motivate your kids in the comments below.  Also, if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will answer them for you.

James W D

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26 Replies to “Cleaning Up Games – How to Help Motivate Your Kids to Clean”

  1. This article is great. Brings back a lot of childhood memories! My mom used to hide candy in the messes and I would have to clean up to find the candy! Thanks for the info!

  2. Great ideas here James! I have a problem with getting my 7-year-old son to clean up his room. He’ll eventually do it, but with a lot of grumbling and complaining! I’m going to give that a try, hiding some quarters in his room next time.

    I’m sure that will probably be a great motivator since he enjoys putting money in his piggy bank. Usually we’ll then let him pick out a toy that he’s been wanting once he has enough saved up.

    Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

    • Sherry, I am glad that I was able to provide an idea for you to use. I hope it works out well for you. Also, remember to keep things positive as people in general work better with a reward in front of them versus trying to get away from a punishment for failure.

  3. Hello James.. Thanks for the great clean up games ideas. I will definitely try some of them with my 4 years old daughter. I think she will love the clock game the best. Looking forward to read more creative ideas on your web site.

    • That’s great to hear Tanya! Let me know how it works or if you come up with anything else too! I hope I can provide lots of value for you and your family for years to come!

  4. Hah, I sure wish my parents did this when I was young. I wouldn’t end up being so disorganized. I suppose it’s never too late for an adult to play these clean up games 🙂

    • Yeah I hear yah. I was always threatened to get cleaned up which never did work very well. I have had to really work on changing my cleaning habits later in life and that is not as fun.

  5. Hi James,
    My sons are both grown & out the house now, like some of the other comments, I wish that I had a bit of your advice then. I love your ideas & it sounds as if you have a good understanding with your kids.

    Good luck,


  6. Now where was this website when I needed help teaching the kids to clean up? It would have made everything so much easier! You can only say, “You kids are driving me crazy. Put that lego down and go pick up your toys!” so many times…

    I’m printing this one out and keeping it on hand for when my nephews and niece come to visit…

  7. Money, the great motivator in cleaning up. Why couldn’t my parents have done that? 🙂 Great ideas James. My friend used to do the same things to motivate his kids before mommy came home and when it didn’t work he didn’t have to hear it because when she comes home, he goes out to do his music gigs. So the kids have to face mommy’s wrath by themselves. Needless to say the kids are much neater now.

  8. Wow..another great post!, this information is very precious as teaching kids via games is the best way by which they will actually learn and continue to follow it..Teaching them cleaning the mess is actually a part of discipline which will make them more responsible and a better person ahead…thank you so much James…

    • Thanks Hari, I have learned in life that it is better to motivate in positive fashions as the results at the time are so much better as well as the long term effects. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Great info here James! We have usually tried negative motivation methods, such as punishments.. no games unless they clean up, or no snacks, ect. Might be a positive change to offer them a fun reward (which I have offered fun activity rewards but only on occasion). I am sure that is more motivating then threatening them to take things away… Nice article! Thank you 🙂

    • Josh, I have worked in a sales environment most of my life. One thing that I have learned is that the sales reps worked better when there was a reward involved versus threat of punishment. Same goes for everyone for that matter. We all are looking for more positive paths to walk in life and attracted to it. Also, be proactive and set good examples and expectations.

    • Josh, I got to thinking a little bit more about your comment and I just wanted to say thank you for your comment as it really helped me open my eyes to that truth. I had never made that connection from what I had learned in my sales career to regular life, but the more I thought about it the more I realized what we had stumbled upon. So thanks again, as this one comment has made all this effort I have put into this site worth so much more now.

      • That is a wonderful comparison. I am glad that I could help you find that correlation between your sales experiences and parenting methods 🙂 One thing that makes a lot of sense in that is that we are all people, even as children, and we all respond to certain types of behavior, instruction or leadership in very similar ways. Thank you for pointing this out to me as well! I look forward to reading more of your ideas and posts!
        Take care,

    • The first time I told the kids that I hid quarters in their room and they could find them by cleaning up was great. They were so excited and off they went. Funny part was they actually found an extra $0.25 each laying around.

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