Grandma’s Six Tips on Getting Grandchildren to Clean Up

Clean upTeaching Clean up is a responsibility of parents.  One of the joys of grand parenting is that we do not have the responsibility to teach grandchildren anything, although we always seem to—with fun attached.

There are no rules at this Grandma’s house, except those related to safety.  This Grandma never says no.  If a grandchild needs discipline, this Grandma just says “freeze, I have to get a parent.”  Amazingly, the grandchild freezes, and the parent can be the bad guy.  So, with this premise, here are this Grandma’s six tips on getting grandchildren to clean up.

 DO IT FOR THE GRANDCHILD.  Usually, the drama happens when grandma is visiting and the family is late getting ready and the child has forgotten something upstairs or has not yet cleaned up whatever it is that was supposed to be cleaned up.  Just as the parent of the grandchild begins to raise his or her voice, I say, “I’ll do it.”  This is a win-win-win.  The grandchild invariably gives you the biggest smile that says I love you so much.  The parent of the grandchild gives you a glance and sigh that says thank you–I am so harried and late.  And, this Grandma, who typically gains a pound or two at the grandchildren’s home eating their snacks and leftovers, gets exercise.  Remember, going up and down stairs and cleaning is exercise!

 BREAK INTO SONG.  Like Pavlov’s dog, when young grandchildren hear you singing “clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody does their share,” the song they learn in preschool, and you begin cleaning up, they join in. This works until about age seven, when you hear that this is a baby song.  That’s when grandma gets silly and says “I am a baby,” and gets on all fours and picks items up with her teeth.  After many giggles, usually the

grandchild invariably joins in and cleans up, singing along, of course.

MAKE IT A GAME.  Play ‘Simon Says’ for cleanup.  See who can do it the fastest, the slowest, hopping in one foot, backwards, dancing.  You get the idea.  Have the grandchild close his or her eyes and make an item disappear (back where it belongs) and have the grandchild guess which item is missing. Take turns. Give prizes–see below.  Remember, parents have lives to live and things to do and want the grandchildren to clean up as fast as they can.  Spending time with grandchildren is the joy of this Grandma’s life.  So what if it takes longer to clean up.  Clean up is the game we are playing.

DO IT WITH THE GRANDCHILD.  Say to the grandchild in front of the parents, let’s clean up together.  Then, out of the sight of the parents, do one of the other choices.

 ASK THE GRANDCHILD TO HELP YOU CLEAN UP.  Anytime you ask grandchildren for help, the grandchildren usually come to your aid.  If that is not forthcoming, then play with them.  Start cleaning up.  Pick up a toy and act as if something light is very heavy, and you cannot lift it without their help.  Act as if something is slippery, and it keeps falling out of your hands.  You get the idea.  Laugh together and think of ways it is could be “difficult” to clean up the items at hand.   Have slapstick (we of long years have many slapstick comedians we remember) silly fun.

 BRIBE THE GRANDCHILD.  Whisper in the grandchild’s ear that if they listen to their parent and clean up without their parent having to ask again, you will give them candy (your signature candy).  If they have recently received candy, this will not work, so have a backup bribe, like chewing gum (sugarless Pur—see post: “Encouraging Grandchildren’s Bad Habits”) or something else they want, like to watch a movie past bedtime (grandma wins with extra cuddling time!).  Or something they don’t want.  For example, this Grandma has a horrible voice so I threaten to sing aloud all day if they do not help me.  That works too.

Cleanup at this Grandma’s house follows the same non-rules.  What this grandma has learned is any clean-up involving water and soap and playing in the sink is not cleanup to a grandchild.  They love to stand on a stool at the sink and clean pots and pans you have used cooking or baking together for HOURS if you would let them. Just make sure you have taken your collection of old towels and covered a large area of the kitchen first so grandma’s cleanup after grandchildren is a breeze.

Even cleanup is fun when you are a grandparent and with your grandchildren.






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