Clean Up Check Marks

Get Kids Motivated to Pick UpQuartet magnetic monthly dry erase board calendar from Office Depot surrounded by dry erase markers

  • What: Getting kids to clean up
  • When: Two years and up
  • Why: No one likes living in a pig sty
  • Where: Your home

I spent at least a few extra years (yes, years) picking up after my kids out of habit, as well as a desire to enjoy the clear pathways among rooms during their school day. We never have time in the mornings to clean up, but somehow have plenty of time to make a big mess. Instead of cleaning up multiple times a day so they could make the mess all over again in less than five minutes, we instituted a nightly clean up time after dinner.

That worked great for a period of time, but I spent most of it (after I finished “my” clean up jobs in the kitchen) hounding them to clean instead of play. Then we set a ten minute timer. That worked for a few months, too. But still the kids resisted.

Dry erase magnetic monthly calendar board on wood paneled wall

I hung our board at kid height so they can record their own efforts.

Finally I decided to switch to a merit-based system. Instead of punishing them for not cleaning up, every time they clean up, they earn a check mark. Privileges such as stay up nights, family movie nights, and family game nights, require two check marks to participate. Since these events occur throughout the week, each kid needs to earn six check marks over the course of a week to participate in all three special activities.

I reset the check mark system each week, but you could do it at whatever rate works for you. Maybe a full month of check marks gets an extra reward (family ice cream night, a selection from the special box, or even a monetary motivation if that works for your kids). Whatever you decide, we are all much happier with the check mark system. My kids especially love putting their earned marks on the whiteboard calendar I bought especially for this purpose. I got colorful markers that use magnets to stick to the board, and because we have three kids, each kid writes their mark using their first initial. At a glance, I can tell how many check marks they’ve earned, or missed, over the course of a week.

Close up of dry erase calendar board and marker with dates numbers entered in boxes

We renumber our calendar at the beginning of every month.

We still hit some snags, mostly when we neglect to record their efforts in the evening. But overall, this system of visual reminders works far better than me constantly reminding them to pick up their toys.

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