Spring cleaning time has arrived!

We’ve had our last snow day, (hopefully), and even though the inside of my home looks like it was hit by more of a tornado than a blizzard I am ready to kick spring into high-gear and clean!

This winter I read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Art of Tidying Up, and was immediately inspired to take all the books off my shelf, fold all my clothes differently and hold my objects in hand in order to determine if they “sparked joy”.  While I did this for a while, I was unfortunately, unable to see this process all the way through to completion.   No doubt, before Nathaniel gets to college it will be done.

That said, spring cleaning will happen.  It is an inevitability living in a New York apartment where there is no room for clutter.  This year I’m looking forward to involving Nathaniel, primarily to share with him how important he is as a member of our home and community.

To that end, I’ve made a Spring Cleaning Game Plan.  It involves two great dramatic imagination games, mindful giving and good old fashioned chores!

Make Spring Cleaning Funny

Wouldn’t it be great if spring cleaning could be how Astrid Lindgren imagined it in Pippi Longstocking.  In that book, our impish heroine straps brushes to her feet and skates all over her house in soapy water with her friends.  It’s called “Scrubbing Day” and it’s every kids’ fantasy of cleanup – or at least it was mine!

Scrubbing day is a holiday and the game we play

Is as wild as it can get

Scrubbing day is my favorite day, ’cause on scrubbing day

We make everything get wet  

– From The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

While I may not be doing spring cleaning it the Pippi way, I do like to take a page from her book and turn cleaning up into a game.

Play the Sneaky Tag Cleanup Game

I developed this game in my classes with Child’s Play NY.  We use this technique to clean up crafts, props, and snacks, but actually we play it as a game in and of itself.  My experience as a mom has led me to realize it is equally great as a game you can play around the house to get things done.  As a matter of fact, it is the best way to kick-off spring cleaning!

Get into characters:

KIDS: Spirited, wily, do-gooders who love to clean up/restore-order/right a wrong.
YOU: A grumpy, evil curmudgeon who is desperately sleepy doesn’t see well and loves a mess

Find the Drama

  • Kids try to get objects cleaned up
  • You are snoozing but then…
  • You wake up and notice something awry! (things are missing/cleaner)
  • Kids have to freeze.
  • Play around with not noticing the kids in their frozen state, or thinking that they are new statues in your garden/trees in your woods.


Set the Mood

  • Use music – like soundtracks or orchestrations.
  • Tell a great story beforehand.  Use Story Clap or read a fairy tale where wily characters get the upper-hand. Tom Thumb, Jack and the Beanstalk and Anansi are the trickster characters who are favorites in my house.
  • Be a character – but not too scary.  I like to make my bad-guy persona someone who is not too clever and a little slower paced to let the kids feel empowered even through the also may feel scared (depending on their age).  Working through their fear and strengthening their courage when faced with a scary character is actually a great bonus to this game.


Clean Up Quickly

Don’t belabor the process. Sometimes you just have to focus on getting the job done.
When you play The Super Speed Clean Up game, kids are motivated, through play, to get their toys or mess put away.  Although it is a game, it is completely purposeful.  Here’s how to play:

  • Wind up your child
  • Wind up yourself
  • Enjoy the super-speed clean-up
  • Play with slowing down
  • Recharge with another wind-up, a hug or bite of fruit (for example)
  • Continue cleaning until mess is gone!


There is a joyful energy that goes hand-in-hand with this game.  Even though the mess might be enormous, kids love the playful premis when tackling it.  Kids assume a character or a cleaning up machine, and with this role comes liberation and empowerment.  Furthermore, they love the “breaking down” process where the gears slow and they need to be wound up again.  Customize the with the way you re-charge:  Is it a hug?  A wind-up? A fruit snack?
Learn more about how to play Super Speed Clean-up here

Jumpstart Chores

If you’ve been reluctant or unclear about how to start delegating chores in your house, use spring cleaning as the kickstart you need.

“Even if our child’s sweat equity is not needed to ensure the smooth running of our home, they must contribute know how to contribute, and feel the rewards of contributing in order to have the right approach to hard work when they head out into the workplace and become citizens of the community.”

– Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Over-parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

Here are some examples of chores for our youngest kids (not including pet or yard related chores – add ‘em if you’ve got ‘em).
Until you feel like your child can do these on their own, these chores should all be done with adult supervision.

Age 2-3

  • Help make bed
  • Put away groceries (especially pantry items)
  • Empty dishwasher (tupperware, kid crockery/silverware)
  • Sort socks
  • Put placemats out
  • Light dusting
  • Scrape personal plate and bring to the sink
  • Put dirty clothes in hamper
  • Water plants

Age 4-5

  • (previous chores)
  • Clean windows/mirrors
  • Help food preparation
  • Hang towels
  • Plump pillows
  • Load Dishwasher (tupperware, kid crockery/silverware)
  • Dry pots/pans
  • Set/Clear Table
  • Fold towels and dishcloths

Ages 6-7

  • (previous chores)
  • Make Bed
  • Prepare parts of lunch
  • Use small hand-vacuum on furniture and their own room
  • Load and empty washer/dryer for personal clothes
  • Empty indoor trash bins
  • Take out recycling


Spring Clean with Mindfulness

  • As you prepare piles to give away, talk about the younger kids in your life (siblings, cousins, family friends) who you will hand things off too.  Have your child mindfully separate the clothing/toys into piles for the people depending on their ages and interests.
  • Donate to a shelter.  For my New York based readers, I love Little Essentials
  • Have your child write a note to the people who will get their things.  “I wore these snow pants last year and they kept me warm and dry on snow days!  I hope you love them too!”  While this seems like a simple exercise, it strengthens your child’s gratitude muscles enormously.  By doing this, whether they write words or draw a picture, it will make them appreciate what they had and feel great about passing it on.
  • Extend your spring cleaning out into the street and make it a point to pick up trash on your block or in your neighborhood.  You can even make a day of it and use one of those fun trash grabber things!

Maybe next spring I’ll be able to do the KonMarie method correctly!  Until then, I’ll be enjoying the simple pleasures of clean-up games with Nathaniel.  Maybe if we clean up well enough, spring will really come!

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