Make Chores into Games

“I’m always the last one picked.”

“Why do I always have to keep score?”

“Only ten guys get to play.  I’m never good enough.”

Games are for winners and losers, right?  Not really.  Games are for the enjoyment of all, not the privileged.  Games are to invite healthy playfulness of the human spirit.  Somewhere along the line (starting with cave men?) Games became associated with “the joy of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Thank goodness I was introduced to  “New Games” by Dale Le Fevre

One of my first endeavors in adapting what I had learned from Dale was to use the construct of New Games to provide fun while doing chores.  I was working in a dormitory full of adolescent girls.  They were responsible for keeping the whole dormitory clean, as well as helping with kitchen duties.  As it was a 24/7 place, the girls not only did chores every day, but also on weekends.

When it was time for our dormitory girls to serve in the kitchen, they had the equivalent of serving and cleaning up for a haying crew, or large hotel workshop luncheon.  Three meals a day.  Seven days a week.  It was truly work.  Now, take that adolescent girl and tell her that she not only has to wash dinner dishes on Friday eve, but she also has to get up and help clean four large bathrooms on Saturday morning.  You generally can expect a very unhappy and petulant teenager.

Then we started New Games.  I was pleased that almost all the staff were pleased to want to find a way to incorporate work with fun.  (Work did not have to be viewed as punishment or a drudgery of life.)  Staff was encouraged to find ways to have fun while attending to the chore that needed to be done.  Soon we had girls keeping meticulous records on how fast they could mop floors, how many letter “p’s” were attached to their specific chore, how fast they could complete a task by doing everything backwards.  Etc., etc, etc.

Girls began to expect that whatever we did, would be a “Game.”  One of the Girls favorite games was used almost on a daily basis.  The Game that choose up sides or determined who would participate in what group.  Here’s the way it was played:

Adult in charge asks a question, such as, “Who has ever ridden on an elephant?”  “What states surround Vermont?”  “How many nickles does it take to make $3.00?”  “Who has on purple and pink underwear?” “Who invented the car?”  “Who is Louisa May Alcott?”  “Whose middle name starts with a ‘Y’?”

It was amazing to watch the enthusiasm of the girls.  They never tired of this Game, although at times I struggled to come up with rapid fire questions.  You would think that perhaps someone would have been less than truthful about the color of underwear or other such “non-disclosed” information, but we did not find that to be true.  We allowed the “honor system” to rise up in the actual participation of the Game.  I honestly think that sometimes the girls preferred the Game of be chosen to the actual event that occurred later.

Our dormitory became one of less conflict and increased cooperation.  Less petulance and more “together” spirited.  All it took was a little thing called a “Game” without winners or losers to change the whole attitude of the girls. (We even danced in the kitchen at times, but don’t tell anyone.)

Unfortunately my own children were grown before I happened into New Games.  Oh how I wish I would have had the opportunity to make more of our household chores into Games, rather than the Saturday “have-to’s.”

Chores do not have to be a power struggle between parent and child.  Chores can be an opportunity to laugh, sing, get silly, and find pleasure in beating your old time.

If you haven’t tried playing a Game with chores–try it.  Let me how this works for you.

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