Throughout the UK, parents are hearing the music that signals the approach of the most famous great white shark of all time. They’re not, however, being stalked by the monster from Jaws, but by something potentially worse: the summer holidays!

Constant mess

Having children around is like trying to juggle ice cream – entertaining for some but inevitably messy. With your darlings underfoot, the method of coping with the permanent status of ‘playroom’ that is bestowed on the house becomes contentious. Should you ignore the mess and tidy up once they’re in bed, before collapsing from exhaustion? Should you nag them constantly to put one thing away before they take out another, only to be told they’ve invented ‘Twister-Monopoly’? Or is there an alternative?

Make a game of cleaning

Children need some encouragement because they don’t love cleaning as much as we do (ahem!) and nothing encourages a child more than a challenge that leads to a treat!

  • Role play: Pretend you’re all somebody else – pirates taking the treasure (the mess) to store in your ship (wherever it belongs); servants clearing the great hall and chambers in the castle, ready for a great feast.
  • Time challenges: Try to clear all the dolls away during one child’s favourite song, all the cars away during another; turn on the egg-timer and try to clear the floor before time runs out, the table before it runs out again, etc.
  • Lucky dip: Write tasks on paper, fold them and put them in a jar. They could include ‘Put away all red things while quacking like a duck’, ‘Pick up all the LEGO with one hand’ or ‘Collect all the toys beginning with A,B,C …’.

The main thing is to include an incentive, such as “I’ll let you watch children’s TV without tutting at how much better it was in my day if this is clear by noon.”

As long as they make a regular effort, the task should remain doable and you’ll have a tidier house and children with good habits.