8 November 2009

The House Game (now with downloads)

I share quite a few ideas here on my blog, but I hardly ever post a follow-up and you probably assume my ideas always work out.

They don't.

Remember Daniel's bunk bed shelf? He didn't like it. He said he felt like it was going to fall on him and then when he tried to push it further along the rail it broke. I never fixed it (what's the point if he doesn't like it?) So that idea was a bust.

And then remember the summer holiday schedule clock? Well, the battery in the clock died right after I made the little icons and I never got around to replacing it. Well, I asked Grant to replace it because he has an elaborate system of batteries that are charged, batteries that are waiting to be charged and batteries that are supposed-to-be-charged-but-act-like-they-are-flat. I can never find a working battery so that's why I never bothered to do it myself. Grant never got around to it so we never actually used the clock!

But The House Game ... The House Game actually works!! I know, I was shocked too.

Especially since it involves making my children work.

Ah, work ... it's a whole other post I've been meaning to do (along with answering your organising questions, which I haven't forgotten about.) Work isn't just something that is necessary, it is something that is so important for our self-esteem, minds and bodies. But like I said, that's another post. My point is, I wanted to get my kids working around the house more, and this is what I came up with.

Okay, well, not at first - to start with, it was just a numbered list scribbled on a piece of paper. It still worked.

On the list (or printed, cut out and stuck onto this patterned paper in a frame) are 12 numbers.

Next to (or below) each number is a room or chore. They go like this:

1 - Hall
2 - Studio
3 - Lounge
4 - Kitchen
5 - Landing
6 - Bathroom
7 - Daniel & Noah's bedroom
8 - Mommy & Daddy's bedroom
9 - Laundry
10 - Throw again
11 - Parent's choice
12 - Vacuum

The boys each take turns to throw the dice. If they throw, for example, a 3 and a 5 then that adds up to 8 and we run upstairs and do Mommy & Daddy's bedroom. (To start with, they throw with one dice until the hall gets done.)

My goal is to keep them moving. As I make the bed in my bedroom I visually scan the room and give them jobs to do (replace shoes in the wardrobe, bring me pillows off the floor, open the curtains, etc) until the room is done.

As I unload the dishwasher in the kitchen they are clearing the table and wiping it, putting away snacks, straightening the chairs.

As I fold the blankets in the lounge they are putting the remote controls where they belong, straightening the cushions on the couch, picking up toys.

When we are busy downstairs we have a plastic tub into which we throw all toys and things that belong upstairs, and then when we are done we take the tub up and put the things away.

When we do laundry it means that I am folding clean laundry and sending them off to put things away, or they fill a plastic tub with dirty laundry and take it to the cellar and put a load on to wash (Daniel can do this by himself, Noah helps him).

We are working together.

They enjoy it because it's fair (we are all working together, nobody is slacking off) and because it's not overwhelming (one room, one mini task in that room at a time) and they don't have to think, just do the little tasks I give them. They don't have time to stop and think, get bored or protest.

When I decide that we will play The House Game it is non-negotiable - but I usually let them know what will happen when we are finished (they can have a treat, we can go out, they can do a craft, etc).

It's amazing how quickly the house gets picked up and how good the boys feel about themselves afterwards!

I've only played this game with them with tidying, not so much cleaning (dusting, polishing, wiping, except in the kitchen), but that will follow.

So I just wanted to share this little game that works for us! I'm excited to try the framed version - I plan to use a dry-wipe marker to cross off each room as we do them.

If you try The House Game with your family please let me know how it goes!

[UPDATE] Due to popular demand, here are the downloadable files. If you want yours to look like mine, print it twice - once on patterned paper and once on white paper. Cut out the house from the white paper and stick it over the house on the coloured paper, so the word "house" shows up in white. Do the same for the blocks. Then write in your room options.

Or just print it on white if you aren't bothered about the pattern, then write in your room options.

There are tick marks to show you where to trim when cutting it out. The finished size is 6x8 inches and will fit into a standard 6x8 inch frame. Use a dry-erase marker to cross off the rooms on the glass front of the frame as you clean them.

Once you have written in every room you might be left with some blocks to fill. Options for these are:
  • throw the dice again
  • do sit-ups for push-ups for 1 minute
  • person throwing the dice's choice
  • Mom / Dad's choice
  • laundry
  • hugs and kisses all round!
Click here to download the 8.5x11 inch version with 9 BLOCKS

Click here to download the 8.5x11 inch version with 12 BLOCKS

Click here to download the A4 version with 9 BLOCKS

Click here to download the A4 version with 12 BLOCKS

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  1. Such a great idea for kids and families, thanks for posting!

  2. Jen, that's another GREAT idea! (and there have been LOTS you've posted! :) ) Will have to give this one a go-we're definitely hitting the boredom aspect of tidying and this one looks fun! (My kids like what they call "baby steps" so it's not overwhelming and this is perfect!) Thanks! PS -good to also know about what didn't work. :)

  3. Jen, I LOVE your blog! You are so talented. I had a chance to quickly browse through your picture series(I'm definitely coming back for more) and found it very inspiring! And this house game would be something I will have to try. How often do you play - daily? Weekly?

    Oh and Daniel is so handsome! His new glasses are very cool!

  4. I love this idea! Simple, not much to it and it's not a structured thing. Just go to the room and see what needs to be done and do it. Fabulous!

  5. This is a fantastic idea! I love it!

  6. it's so simple, yet so awesome. Of course, yours looks pretty.

  7. My little girl is only 18 months old, so unfortunately she's not contributing to tidying at all (other than occasionally helping clean up toys), but I'll definitely be keeping this in mind as time goes forward. Seems like a really great plan!

  8. Sounds like a great idea! I love the way you used your scrapbooking stuff to turn it into a cool looking game!

  9. I saw this on Pinterest and I must say... You. Are. A. Genius!

    I'm going to give this a try with my kids!

    Thanks for sharing! =)

  10. Hey Jen!!!
    Just had to say, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and THANK YOU!!
    I LOVE this idea. I found you on Pinterest...so glad I did!
    Our family has been working with a chore chart that was inspired by your wonderful idea. Thanks again for sharing!

    Jennie {Cinnaberry Suite}


  11. What a great idea!!! I can't wait to make this for my family. Thanks for sharing

  12. Just tried this out this morning with my 3 oldest kiddos (ages 6, 4, and 3). It worked splendidly, even for our my chronic non-helper 6 year old. Genius!

  13. I found this on Pinterest, and tried it tonight. It was a total hit with my 5-year-old. He called a bunch of family members after to brag about how fun his mom is (really, that's a compliment to YOU) and even said, "This is WAY more fun than when you just tell us to clean the house!" :)
    Thanks for the brilliant spin on picking up!

    1. That is so great, glad it is working out for you!

  14. Do you have a printable version of this? Would love to try it out!

    1. I don't but I would be happy to make one - check back on my blog in the next few weeks (I would promise sooner but we have guests right now).

  15. Hi Jen,
    Just found this on pinterest and am hoping it will help me engage my 10-year old son into house cleaning with me. He is very reluctant and recalcitrant. I always hope that by making things into a game I can get him engaged in the process. I'll let you know if it works. In the meantime, I could not open your downloads. (12 step 8.5 x 11) what program opens this?
    Tried Microsoft publisher, notepad, paint, photo viewer and nothing worked. Suggestions?
    Thanks for this potential life saver!!!

    1. I feel ya! Boys seem to be genetically opposed to cleaning.
      The download is a PDF file, try Adobe reader to view it, or pop me an email and I'll send you a jpeg if that's easier for you. My email address is in the contact tab above.

  16. I love it! ... but who cleans the hall ;) no one will ever roll just a 1 - just teasing. I really really do love this!

  17. ugh - never mind - i just saw the note about the hall. thats what i get for not reading :) :) haha

  18. Thanks Jen! Sharing this with my daughter. It will be a few years till she is ready to use it but it will be a good resource for her little family. My kids would have responded well to this especially the fairness issue, they did always seem to grumble about that but of course couldn't grasp the concept that their parents always did the huge bulk of household chores.

    1. I hope it's helpful to your daughter :)


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