Two months ago, had you been in my home at bedtime, you would have seen me glance around at a home littered with toys and sundry objects, sigh, and retreat to my bed to hide from the commotion of the day. Then in the morning, you would have seen me get up to be greeted by that eternal mess, and sigh in frustration as I went to make breakfast. Can anyone identify with this picture?
Then one evening I had a flash of brilliance. At least for me, it was brilliance. Sometimes it takes me awhile to figure things out.
As soon as the kids finished their dinners, I turned on the computer (which is equipped with some awesome AudioEngine speakers, courtesy of my husband) and loaded up some groovy music.
Within seconds, I heard little feet pattering across the kitchen linoleum and onto the living room “dance floor.” We were having a dance party!
But this wasn’t just any dance party—it was a cleanup dance party. The kids and I bounded around the room, busting dance moves while tossing Legos into boxes and plastic food into the kitchen center. In less than an hour, every toy and article of clothing was in its place, the kids had expended their energy, and I’d even broken a sweat. The more we cleared the toys off the floor, the more free space we had for dancing—a natural reward of our efforts.
As soon as the last song ended, we shuffled into the bathroom to begin the bedtime steps. This effectively prevented anyone from delving into the newly-shelved toys. My now-tired kids willingly complied with the bedtime routine and went happily to bed.
I was astounded with the success of the night. It was so different from the usual protests at the end of playtime, the always-cluttered house, and the bedtime balking.
I knew this routine had to stay, and it is now a nightly event.
I’d be lying if I said it always went as smoothly as that first night. I’m afraid cleaning up is no longer the novelty that it was and I often resort to persuasive tactics (bribery, anyone?). BUT the kids always look forward to dancing together, and this simple “Dance and Clean Up Party” has accomplished some significant things in our home:
- It offers the kids a consistent routine from the time they finish dinner until they go to sleep.
- It gets the last wiggles out so the children fall asleep more easily and protest bedtime less.
- I get a little physical activity even on days I don’t manage to work out or be outdoors.
- It teaches my kids to help clean up after themselves, even if their contribution is small compared to mine (and the music fun time with the kids motivates me to clean, something I’m not likely to do once they’re in bed).
- I go to bed with the peace of mind that comes from having a (somewhat, at least) orderly home, and wake up to a fresh start instead of the remains of yesterday’s escapades.
- I am challenged to find new music for the kids and myself to listen to and dance to each day, which is important to me.
What routines have made a big difference in your family? I feel like I miss a lot of things that other people seem to figure out more easily when it comes to parenting, so I’d love to hear your ideas.
If you need some ideas for good music to dance and listen to with your kids (or by yourself), stay tuned, because on Fridays I’ll be sharing our favorite music picks of the week from our cleanup dances!