Great Ideas for Getting Your Kids to Work

It’s time once again for Heather from Family Volley to share with us some Parenting Tips as part of her “Parenting Tips Series with Heather Johnson” here on The Idea Room.  I for one, really enjoy all her great tips and advice on things that most of us as parents struggle with.  Here’s Heather in her own words…



Happy Thursday, it’s Heather from Family Volley. Before I share a few great tips to get your kids more excited about work, I wanted to thank you for all the support last week. Your comments were much needed oxygen. It is comforting to know that there are so many of us fighting the same fight, and that we can get through it. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

Hard to believe an hour earlier this room was spotless.

Is work a scary word at your house? Does it immediately elicit moans and groans from your children? It doesn’t have to. Here are three quick tips for getting your kids to work, with a good attitude. The last one is our family favorite.

1.  Listen First–Is there complaining when you mention it is time to clean up? Children don’t always feel like they are heard. SO, listen to them for one minute. What do I mean? Give your children one minute to complain. Let them whine and complain as much as they want for those 60 seconds. Once the 60 seconds are up, it’s time to get to work.

2. Use Labels —Do you ever hear your kids say, "I don’t know where that goesssssss?" Kids are very visual. Take pictures of the toys that go in each bucket or space. Post the pictures on the front of the storage spaces so it makes it really easy for your kids to SEE where things go. You don’t have to take pictures of every toy, just a few of the toys that can represent. You can also include the name of the object for older kids who can read. If your child likes to draw, have them draw pictures of their toys.

3. MAGIC ITEM! My FAVORITE!–when it is time to clean up, I pick a MAGIC/SECRET ITEM in whatever space we are cleaning. Our kids RACE to find and put away the MAGIC ITEM. Whoever finds and puts the MAGIC ITEM away, gets to choose what’s for snack or dinner, or which park we will visit. If it is Monday, the one who finds and puts away the MAGIC ITEM gets to choose what dessert to have for FHE. I always make sure that what they get to choose benefits and affects all the kids. They love this game. It is like a scavenger hunt. I have fun picking new MAGIC ITEMS every time we clean. If the room really needs attention, like our playroom, then I will pick a few MAGIC ITEMS. Sometimes I announce the MAGIC ITEM right when it is put away. Other times I wait until everything is put away and then announce with a grand "ta-da."

p.s. We can’t expect our kids to work at the same speed as we do. The best way to get your kids to work and clean is to slow down and work and clean with them. 

 p.p.s. And remember…if we groan about work, so will our children. We have to have a good attitude about the work to be done.

Want more suggestions for getting your kids to work?
If you give it a try, let me know how it goes?
Have a question, or just want to say hello?


  1. says

    “MAGIC ITEM” – Genius!!

    I am going to try that one this afternoon. Let you know if it works for me.

    • says

      Erica, your girls will love it. Promise. We have three girls, two are old enough to clean up and it is their favorite. Takes all the yuck out of the work. Let me know how things go.

  2. Stacie says

    Great ideas! Love the magic item. Have you got some ideas for helping teenagers to work? Desperately need help in that area! :)

  3. Shala says

    I just keep our toy situation super simple. My youngest is too little to really pick up so I always tell my oldest if they get the little stuff for bins, I’ll help put away big stuff. My big thing is we pick up every night so we can play a game. It’s a huge motivator!

    • says

      Shala, what great ideas. Working with our children is one of the best ways to not only get them to work, but teach them to work. Love it. Talking care of things every night makes the mornings much better. :)

  4. Tricia says

    I’ve used the “magic item” game to get kids to clean up when I substitute teach! It works FANTASTICALLY!

  5. Liz says

    Wow how did you know this is exactly what I needed to hear today. Just yeterday I cried for an hour over the fact that I couldn’t get me girls to clean up the 10 items on the bedroom floor (it had been about 3 hours of trying). I like the idea of letting them get their complaints out, I know sometimes just being able to let mine out helps me feel better and go on with life. And the magic item… BRILLANT! Thatnks for giving me a new found energy with this struggle.

    • says

      Liz, I can relate to the crying over cleaning. It seems so simple. Just pick up and then they are done. Too bad they don’t see it that way. It can become really frustrating. Our oldest daughter, who is almost 7 really needs the complain time. If I let her talk, things are much better. And the Magic Item, it takes the sting out of most work. It keeps me sane. Hope it does the same for you.

  6. Fiona says

    I have just become a new mum, i cant wait to try these things when she is a bit older thanks for this great advice.

  7. Suzanne says

    Last time we had a clean up session after a toy explosion I had to take Tylenol. It was such a headache. I love the idea of listening for a finite time and then motivating positively. I always appreciate those kinds of tips.

  8. Laurie says

    With my son when cleaning his room. I found play the color game. I pick a color of a toy and puts away all the toys that color has worked wonders for keeping his room cleaned. We also play a game with the timer I set the timer for 5 minutes and races to clean room to see how much he can get done in that 5 minutes. Before I started do this 3 games it was almost impossible to get him to clean his room with out a fight.

  9. Maggie Hansen says

    I’ve been trying to find something to help get my little ones cleaning. I haven’t ever seen them move like they did for the magic item! Great idea, I love it!!!

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