Bubble play motivates kids to clean up

From Jane:

Okay, maybe this is just barely a hack, but I have a 2.5 yo and a 4 yo, and getting them to pick up their toys is always a struggle. However, I have discovered a good way to get them to help — they really love playing with bubbles (i.e. I or they blow basic soap bubbles and they dance and catch them), so the new rule is, to play bubbles, they have to pick up all their toys and books off the floor of the room we will be playing in — so they don’t trip and get hurt (which they are old enough to understand). And parents pick up all the parent stuff that ends up on the floor. (oops) Cheerful cleanup with built-in reward!

The bubbles are great, but in my opinion, the hack here is the mindset change required to think this up. The focus is taken off the mundane, chore-like, "fun’s over" job of cleanup, and instead placed on the much more attractive "let’s play bubbles."

One may argue that kids need to simply learn to obey their parents, and "wrapping" a necessary chore inside a game obscures that. But I find that at such a young age, those lessons are lost on all but a very few kids with unusually compliant temperaments. With my family at least, these sorts of lessons are better learned through experience ("Hm. It’s more fun to play when the space is cleaned up.") than lecturing.

‘Toy library’ promotes cleanup AND creativity
Play BAM! to get the kids to clean up quick (and have fun doing it)


  1. says

    We do something similar — although not exactly on purpose. My son loves to play with his duplo lego train set, but in order to set it up everything else has to be tidied up first! Certainly comes in handy :)

  2. Paul says

    The rule we try to establish is you have to clean up one thing before you move onto another. We have mixed results, but mostly because the parents sometimes don’t follow the rule either which sets a bad example!

  3. says

    I tend to disagree that kids need to “simply learn to obey their parents.” As a kid I remember that expectation of me to “simply obey” felt like the most arbitrary and frustrating thing in the /world/. Why? Because I, as a kid, couldn’t do a single thing about it.

    Yes, kids should learn to do what their parents say, but I think that at every point possible they should also be taught /why/ they are being asked to “simply obey”. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. Of course, it doesn’t mean you airy-fairy explain to them why you want them to do something and magically expect them to totally understand and work with you as a team. But at least when you’re telling them to do something, they know you have a good reason and aren’t just being authoritarian about it. And actually, later on, when you do tell them to do something and you don’t have a chance to tell them why you want them to do it, they will actually give you a chance and trust you that you have a good reason.

    I have always thought that chores weren’t something to make kids do just so they did the chores and the job got done, but rather to give them a chance to contribute back to the family and earn privileges to do things or money to buy things.

    So in this case, they’re earning some bubble time. They’ll know they earned it and now they’ll know a specific thing they /they themselves/ can do to earn that bubble time. It gives them just that little bit more power and responsibility over when bubble time happens. That’s pretty cool! :)

    (Wow, didn’t mean for that to sound like some long rant. Just wanted to share. I /love/ this site, by the way.) :)

  4. Annette says

    That is a great perspective, Dylan. Even young children appreciate things more when they have earned them.