August 2, 2011

Cleaning up the Zoo (a.k.a. our house)

I've been wanting to implement a cleaning system with our kids for a while now but just haven't been able to get it done. With the new school year starting soon, I thought this would be a perfect time to help the kids get into a cleaning routine.

When reading a blog post on Chocolate on my Cranium, I saw that she assigns zones for her children to clean each day.  I liked that idea, but wanted to think of some way to make it sound a bit fun to the kids.  Ya know, 'cause I like to complicate things.  I decided since our house often seems like a zoo anyway, we'd just go with that theme.

I made a map of the downstairs of our house and labeled the rooms as areas of the zoo.

I made little square animal pictures to represent each person in the family.  The kids enjoyed picking out what zoo animal they wanted to be.  We decided daddy should be the lion, because he's the king of the jungle, Maren wanted to be a dolphin, Joshua is a monkey, Christopher is a tiger (I told him he should be my snuggle puppy, but he wouldn't have it), and Nathan is a kangaroo.  He's in a jumping phase right now.  I'm a chicken, or mother hen, because, well, we needed to have a chicken, right?

I made a weekly assignments chart where we put each person's picture so they know what area to clean that week, and a chart with written explanations of what needs to be done in each room to be considered "clean".

Now it gets a little tricky to explain, especially for me because I'm not always good at making sense.    I wanted to encourage our kids to do all the cleaning in their area by themselves in a set amount of time, so I invented different levels of cleaning achievement. I made a chart, and after the time is up, the zoo inspector comes around to check.  Their animal picture gets put on the level they are at currently. The chart is as follows:

zoo animal: does no work
assistant groundskeeper: does less than half of the work
groundskeeper: does most of the work - gets paid 10 cents
zookeeper: does all of the work - gets paid 50 cents
animal trainer: does their work and helps others - 25 cents for each additional area

the kids were all zoo animals until the first zoo inspection
My 6 year old said right away "I want to be a zoo animal" to which I responded "Well, the zoo animals don't get to watch tv, play wii or computer, read books at bedtime, and they have to take a nap during the day and go to bed early.  They also have to wear diapers in the house." (okay, I wouldn't really enforce the last one, but it made him stop and think.)  Finding out that the zookeeper is a paid position also helped him change his mind.  Nathan, of course, will probably be stuck as a zoo animal for a long time.

I know different people have different feelings about paying their kids to help with house work.  I would like my kids to have some money that they earn and are responsible for, to help them learn to work and save, and so I wanted to give them money for a job well done.  Jason thinks room and board should be enough, but I persuaded him.  Maybe 50 cents a day is too much, and if it is, we'll cut it back.  I kind of doubt any of them will make it to zookeeper status within the first month.  They tend to glance over things and not be thorough. I'm hoping the money will help motivate them to be more careful.

I'll be the zoo inspector for now, but I think in the future I'll let them take turns going around and inspecting everyone's work to help them be more aware of what is out of place.  Maybe I'll get a fun hat or zookeeper's vest to help them play the part.

The kids were really excited when I introduced the idea, and insisted I make a map for the upstairs as well, and they wanted to name their rooms.  Maren lives in "book bay" and Joshua and Christopher live in "genius jungle".  Joshua said "Get it Christopher?  'Cuz we're geniuses!"  Sure buddy.  Who was gluing stickers onto the paper earlier?  Awww, cute kids.  Nathan lives in "kangaroo cave", because Maren says his room is small.

We'll try to do our jobs before dinnertime, or after dinner if we have too many afternoon activities. It will probably vary day by day, but hopefully this will help keep the house cleaner, help my kids learn how to work better, and be a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down.  I'll let you know how it goes.

(for more ideas to help make cleaning fun, see this post and this post)

linked to: raising olives


  1. WOWOWOW! I love this. This is brilliant. I'm not very good at making work fun. I just make them do it. This is brilliant! I am going to have to steal some of this.

  2. This is such a neat way to make chores fun for the kids. I love the zoo idea! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great idea, Erin. You should see my jungle right now. I could use some grandkids to clean it up!

  4. Thanks for posting this! What a great idea- please keep us posted if it works out well.

  5. I love your idea! And I love your humor as well! Thank you for sharing. I think I'll be coming up with something similar for my crazy house-full!

  6. Amazing! I think I might need to make this chart for me. I hate cleaning. You are such an amazing mom!

  7. This is TOO Cute! I love how everyone is an animal, and you named each zone... I am such a sucker for themes! i am going to show this off tomorrow! I am also your newest follower!


  8. Cute idea. My sister in law does zones as well. Maybe it is time for us to change things up.


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