Friday, May 27, 2011

Make a Board Game and Clean This Mess!

My kids figured out long, long ago that there are approximately ten thousand and five better things to do than clean. Which means when it's cleaning time, I get nothing but resistance. Parents out there - unless your kids are on the OCD side of cleaning, I'm sure you're in the same boat - especially if you are a creative-type with little creative-types running around your ankles.

When it comes to my kiddos' creativity and the materials it takes to create, I don't limit - they've always had free reign of the art supplies. They love it and make the most amazing things - bird beak masks, wings, paper dolls, doll houses, they write and illustrate books, snip paper like it's going outta style... and they make the BIGGEST MESSES. Bigger than mine! When it's time to clean up, I get so much resistance that simple pick-up-your-stuff requests turn into fights with time outs and me putting them on art probation. I hate that.

And then there's the whole clean-your-room business. Oh man.

Well, something needed to change, so, inspired by the book Time Management For the Creative Person, by Lee Silber, who gives ideas for turning boring to-do lists into more creative ways of accomplishing the necessary items in life, I got the idea to make a board game for the girls - heck, the whole family - and now we have CLEAN THIS MESS.

A mess-cleaning board game that is colorful like Candy Land and a silly-fun way to get things done. With a winner's circle - definitely a goal my kids want to reach - and fast!


Materials -

  • Sturdy cardboard about the size of a Candy Land board (shape doesn't matter!)
  • Colored card stock for squares and game piece backings
  • Double stick tape
  • Clear contact paper
  • Optional magazine cut-outs
I figured that for my kiddos (ages 4 and 6), 12 tasks were about the limit they could take in one clean session, so I have 12 squares on my board. Because of my board size, I made my squares 1.5 inches then arranged them in a wiggly shaped path to the winners circle. Around the path, I taped the magazine cut outs.

When all items were loosely taped down, I covered the board, front and back, with clear contact paper.


  • Snap a couple full body digital photos.
  • Print them out (ours are 4-5 inches)
  • Cut them out
  • Tape them to colored card stock
  • Cover them in clear contact paper - front and back
  • Cut them out again, this time with a base for the feet

Cut thin strips of card stock like so:

Give them two little snips - then connect the slits so that you have a little hoop stand.

Make two snips in the base of the person game piece and stick it on the stand. Admire your merry band of cleaning warriors.

(I was being fierce - dust bunnies, BEWARE!)


I made a stack of cards that can be reused. When we played, it was a Clean Your Room game, so my cards had tasks like:
  • Pick up all blue toys and put them in the toy box
  • Put all My Little Ponies on the shelf
  • Gather all dirty clothes and put in laundry room
  • Throw away ten pieces of garbage
Mixed with funny cards:
  • Dance while cleaning for one whole song
  • Clean for two minutes while holding a book on your head
  • Pick up ten pink things and put them away while hopping on one foot
Mixed with non-cleaning cards (everyone needs a break!):
  • Make up and sing a silly song
  • Recite the Preamble to the Constitution
  • Spin around in a circle while counting to 20
  • Brush your teeth
Definitely write cards to suit your needs - you will need enough cards for each person to have a card for each space on the board.

When making the cards, fill them with the necessary items on your to-do list, only make them even shorter tasks than you'd ordinarily give your kids. You can do this by having them do tasks by color or limit the number of items they'll pick up per card. I had three garbage picking up cards - one for throwing away 10 items, one for throwing away 6 items while wearing a princess dress backwards, one for throwing away 8 items while singing the alphabet. MAKE IT EASY AND FUN and most of all, NOT OVERWHELMING. Give them the ability to move their game pieces quickly from one square to the next in order to keep the interest level up!

ADAPT THE GAME TO SUIT OLDER KIDS by giving them cards that allow them to steal the space of other players, or force them to lose a turn by taking a break while the other people work. Build on my game idea to suit your own needs!


My kids played yesterday and Gracie's insanely messy room was cleaned up in an organized manner in only 15 minutes.

YOU GUYS! It usually takes about two hours - kicking and screaming included - to accomplish the same amount of cleaning.

I am a happy mama once again.

If you want to make CLEAN THIS MESS, too, and have questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Have a great weekend, folks!



Unknown said...


Alyssa S. said...

You are just all about the fun aren't you? You were right, this is totally rad! Only you could think of a way to do whine free cleaning. I still love your playing pieces. I want a set of Hopkins for my game :)

SewSweetStitches said...

This is the cutest idea ever! My daughter would flip for this. Right now we're using a sticker chart. Each day of the week has a column with a separate square for pickup toys/books/shoes/make bed, etc. She seems to get really overwhelmed if we don't break it down like that. Then she gets a sticker for each box, and a completed week gets a prize! I don't like bribing my kid for something I think she should already be doing, but, whatever gets it done at this point!
I'll definitely be making one of your games, thanks for the awesome idea!

Meeling said...

What a fab idea!!!
I might have to improvise on this and figure out a way to use it in the preschool...sometimes the "clean up" song isn't much of a motivator for some.

Unknown said...

Meeling - when I worked in childcare, I used to play Freeze-Dance clean up. I know preschoolers are kind of young, but the 3-4 year olds can usually handle picking up while the music is playing and freezing when it's not.

You can also make cards without a game and call out silly cleaning tasks or color-themed or item-specific tasks while the kids clean together. :)

Alyssa - Haha! We're a pretty funky bunch. (much like Marky Mark's)

Tina Laurel Lee said...

This could change everything...

GoofingOff said...

Fun idea! Hope it works. Keep us posted. lol

Jandals said...

What a brilliant idea! It's like one-upping Mary Poppins!

Kearsie said...


Alessandra @ Tribal Times said...

So fun and to the point!!

Kristine Asselin said...

Seriously, you are the cutest thing ever. :)

Anonymous said...

you are seriously cute Marisa! I just love your creative ways! ♥

Anonymous said...

wow, ditto what Kristine said! jinx!

see! :)

Lulu Grey said...

Totally, totally love this idea!

Leah said...

gonna have to bookmark this for when my kids are old enough to get board games...Andrew is almost there...

Kim said...

This is awesome :)

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