How to Create and Use Room Cleaning Checklists

Managing Chores with Room Cleaning Checklists

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s I learned early that the phrase “You know what I mean” could no longer be a part of my vocabulary. Children on the Autism spectrum often DON’T know what you mean when you ask them to do something. You have to be specific.  For example if I want my son to help clean, he is far more successful if he has room cleaning checklists to follow.

However, making specific requests isn’t useful for just special needs children. You will hear me say over and over in my blog that the tips that I give for working with special needs children also work wonderfully with neuro-typical children. They work for teenagers who have many other things on their minds as well as preschoolers who are just learning your expectations. I use the same system for all of my children and the results have been wonderful.  Room cleaning checklists are a wonderful way to manage the expectations of your household when it comes to chores and cleaning.  In this article I will teach you how to create and use your own cleaning checklists.

In this article I am going to do 2 things.

First, I will show you one of the room cleaning checklists that we use in our house. We keep all of our checklists in our Household Expectations binder. Then I am going to walk you through the process of creating your own checklists for each chore.

Note: The Household Expectations binder is the cornerstone of my Mombuck system. This is a book that I can hand off to another adult that provides everything that they would need to know to run my household. As a single parent I believe having a Household Expectations binder is a crucial safety precaution. Over the next couple of months I will be adding many more articles and resources to teach you how you can use the Household Expectaions binder and the mombuck system to create a smoothly running house. Be sure to Subscribe to my email list so that you won’t miss a single one.

 

My Living Room Example

The living room is the main activity hub of our house. Because of this it is also the first room to get completely out of control. This is the Checklist that I have created for our living room.

Living room cleaning checklists

 

A few things to notice about this checklist:

  1. If you’re familiar with my family you may notice that Joshua and Daniel do not have a “put things in their room” step. This is because only clothes go in their room. All toys belonging to them goes in the playroom.
  2. Yes, we do have an unreasonable amount of books. What can I say – Reading=Life. This is why good organization is key.
  3. This is very specific to my house and the rooms in it. In the next section I will walk you through creating a checklist for your space. However, if you sign up for our mailing list you will receive a free .pdf of some generic room cleaning checklists that I created for you.
  4. Why yes, there are a lot of steps. You want to be as precise as possible on your checklist.

 

room cleaning checklists

How to Create your Own Room Cleaning Checklist

Step 1 – Define your Space

If you live in a home with an open or semi-open floor plan then the first important step is to define exactly where the boundaries are for your room. Trust me when I say that if you don’t define your boundaries from the outset you will end up with entire areas of space that exist only in the cosmos and not a part of any room. Those spaces seldom get cleaned.

 

Step 2 – Decide which tasks only need done occasionally

 

There are some tasks that just don’t need done every day or every other day. These are the tasks that would be assigned weekly, biweekly or whenever your “big clean” time is for that room. It is easiest to separate out those tasks first. Those go in the Clean Room section. Each room will have a Pick Up Room section and a Clean Room section. (Actually there are a couple of rooms that have instead clean and deep clean sections.)

 

Step 3 – Visualize your room at its messiest

 

Think about your room at its very worst. What is in it? In my living room I thought about the entry tile where everything that is brought in from the car gets dumped. I thought about the tabletops where people set their dirty dishes and all of the Stuff that gets brought from other rooms to use or play with that gets abandoned in the living room. My vision included discarded clothes and games on the floor and a treasure trove of change and crayons in the couch. I saw dvds and video games littering the TV. stand and the area around it. There was mail everywhere. All of these items merged into a single picture of a living room nightmare.

 

Step 4 – Step through your vision slowly and note what category each mess belongs in and what should be done with it.

 

This is the key step to this process. I’ve learned that if care isn’t taken on this step I end up with piles of mess just shifted around instead of actually cleaned. The easiest way to accomplish this step is to categorize your mess. When writing your cleaning checklists start with the specific items like putting up the dog food (which always seems to migrate into my living room). This way when you get to the more general cleanup like clearing off the floor most of the overwhelming mess has been dealt with already.

 

Organizing your room cleaning checklists in this manner serves two purposes.

 

First, it allows your child to have early wins. He can look at the first item and mentally know it won’t take that long. It is easier to pick up the dirty clothes, which are probably on the floor, than it is to pick up everything off of the floor. Then when he gets down to picking up the floor there really isn’t that much left to do so that task now seems easier.

Second, if your child is anything like mine, he can’t always get through the entire list in one shot. What I normally do is give him a time period in which to complete the list. For example he may have 30 minutes in which to pick up the living room. If he only does the first 8 or 9 things that is still a significant improvement to the room. The beauty of this checklist, though, is that he can go and take a short break and know exactly where to pick back up. He understands that I will use the exact same list when I check his work at the end and he will only be rewarded for the items actually fully completed.

 

Conclusion

Having a smoothly running home is all about managing your expectations and the expectations of your family. It takes continual communication and effort for everyone to understand what each person needs from another. Each member has to learn what is expected from him or her as a part of the family unit. We cannot assume that someone else will understand it just because we do.

This is where the Household Expectations Binder comes in. The Expectations binder is not unlike Sheldon Cooper’s Roommate agreement (if your are a Big Bang Theory fan). The binder mitigates conflicts by managing the expectations of the family unit. The binder also provides a manual for the smooth operation of your home. This is something that you can take with you in an emergency and also give to a babysitter if you are away for an extended time.

Room cleaning checklists are just one small part of the larger system. Over the coming weeks I will be walking you through the steps to create the several parts of your own household expectations binder. Make sure to subscribe so that you will receive each and every post. Just for signing up you will receive a cover to start your own binder as well as room cleaning checklists for the 4 most common areas of a home: the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom.

Check out this book: Hey God… The Donkey Tells His Side of the Story [Books for Easter]

The donkey tells his side

If you are looking for a fun and different take on the Easter story, then you will love this one.

The Donkey Tells His Side of the Story: Hey God, I’m Sorry to Be Stubborn, But I Just Don’t Like Anyone Riding on My Back!  This has to be one of our all time favorite Easter books.

This book answers the question “How do you find a donkey that no one has ridden?”  Well, that must be one stubborn donkey.  He is about to change his ways however.

I hope you enjoy this book – Hey God… the Donkey tells his side of the story.  If you have any fun and interesting books you’d like me to check out, post a comment below.

 

Some Days It’s All About the Easter Egg Around Here

If you go to my YouTube channel and check out my trailer you will notice a very prominent member of our family.

No, not the roommate.

I’m talking about the egg.

Daniel, my 4 year old, has an egg obsession. Long ago he decided that plastic eggs were not just for Easter, but were acceptable for Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day and Tuesday. He loves to find them; he loves to hide them. He loves to sort them. Daniel adores… adores… nesting them. When he gets free video time, he enjoys watching videos of other people opening eggs. When he is good at the store he begs for a prize egg. In fact I think Daniel lives just about everything there is to love about eggs.

 

What’s so bad about an egg?

 

I must admit we do nothing to discourage my youngest son’s egg obsession. I believe Santa may even have gotten in on the egg-encouragement and filled his stocking full of eggs last year. Yet, sometimes I wonder, is it going too far? Am I creating a losing battle for myself against the almighty egg?

 

Once upon a time – there was a Lego

joshua lego

Joshua, my older son, once loved Lego Mega-Bloks. Happily I envisioned all of the wonderful teaching moments that could arise from the land of the Lego. Blissfully I funded my Joshua’s preschool, then elementary school, and now middle school love affair with all things Lego. What was my trophy in the Lego mother-of-the-year contest? A landmine of Lego pieces, a tower of Lego bins and containers and a sad, dejected pocketbook. You see, what once was a cute adoration has become a full-fledged obsession. (Did I mention that LEGOLAND was on out Big Road Trip Adventure this year?)

 

Before the Lego – there was the recorder

 

Just in case the argument could be made that obsession is a male trait. I once gave my precious baby daughter a recorder. You know, those little plastic deals that you can buy for a buck at the Dollar Tree? 15 years later and I have now invested in a violin, a clarinet, bass clarinet rentals, two trombones multiple pianos and keyboards, and thousands of dollars worth of instrumental and vocal music experiences.

samantha band

My little girl with the recorder – now wants to be a music teacher.

My adorable eldest son with this mega blocs set – now dreams of being an architect.

 

But Easter Eggs… really?

So now I have a child who can’t get enough of the Easter Egg.  Wasn’t there a movie about this once? (FYI – there was. Its called Hop). For the last two years my precious darling baby boy has been overcome with the love of all things Easter. His doting mother, of course, has imagined up all sorts of learning games involving said eggs. Even now I am researching nesting dolls and looking up ways to expand upon his love of the egg. (If you have any ideas, please comment them below.) Am I encouraging an unhealthy attraction? Or am I nurturing what may one day turn from an obsession to a vocation?

 

What about your children? How long do the Easter eggs last once the hunt is over and the bunny has hopped away?

Why and How to Use Social Stories

I am creating a very detailed agenda of the Big Road Trip Adventure. Nearly every day at some point the kids and I discuss where we will be going and what we will do there. The trip isn’t until mid-June, so why are we obsessing over it now? I actually have a dual-purpose for this. One, three-week long trips take a huge amount of coordination. However, the second and perhaps more important reason for all of the trip coverage is that I am crafting our social stories to prepare the kids for something quite different from what they are used to. I’m here to tell you that social stories make all the difference in cutting down on behavior issues. This is true for my special needs pre-teen as well as my neuro-typical teenager and preschooler.

An Example of a Social Story at work

ride at the carnival social storiesA few weeks ago the carnival came to town. The boys had been anxiously waiting this moment. Every time we passed the lot where the carnival is held for the entire last year they have asked where it was and when it would be coming back. Thus when the first signs appeared announcing its return, the excitement in our house was nearly overwhelming. As soon as we determined to go, I began this dialogue with them.

When we get to the fair there will be many people and many things to do. There will be lots of lights and lots of sounds. I know that I am going to want to ride everything at once because it will be very exciting. We are taking turns choosing a ride or activity starting with the youngest to the oldest. It may be difficult to decide what to do next and that is okay. I can think about my choices while I am waiting for my turn to choose. When I decide what I want to do I will tell mom and when my turn comes around everyone will go together. This makes everyone happy. If at any point it begins to get too much for me I will tell mom and she will go with me and sit down until I feel better.

By the time we got to the carnival they were so indoctrinated to what was going to happen that we had very little problems. This is the use and the beauty of social stories.

What are Social Stories?

Social stories are narratives that describe a social situation. This could be anything from going to the store, how to clean your room, how to know if someone is upset or how to know when it is okay to hold someone’s hand. Social stories provide rules or guidelines for how to handle a given situation.

Carol Gray first coined the term Social Story in the early 90s. In fact, the What is a Social Story article on her website still gives one of the best overviews of social stories that I’ve found.

In the beginning many of our social stories were pictorial. Joshua has Delayed Auditory Processing and as a small child it was difficult for him to hear a story and connect it to anything without a visual cue. Thus I made a lot of picture books to illustrate ideas. In fact if you are looking for story templates they have some great ones on the Autism Speaks website.

My other children don’t have as much issues with that and Joshua has improved to the point where most of our stories are now simply told (and retold) verbally or through song. We also still create simple written stories (and some pictures for my pre-reader) for our household expectations binder.

Who are social stories meant for?

If you were to Google social stories you would find it most often connected with specific special needs. Autism. Asperger’s. ADHD.  It is through my son Joshua’s special needs that I first became aware of the use of social stories. However, I have them to be invaluable for all of my children. I think that social stories should not just be a special needs learning resource, but a childhood learning resource.  In fact, I believe this point is so important it bears repeating.

Social stories help all of my children learn about the world around them. It helps them manage my expectations and the expectations of those around them. It also helps them prepare for whatever we may have going on in our busy lives.

  • The use of social stories helps my teenage daughter, Samantha, combat stage fright when she has to sign or sing in front of a crowd. I am using them to help prepare her for the transition to her senior year and then college.
  • I use social stories to help Joshua understand how to know what people may be feeling when he doesn’t understand body language. They also help him calm down and consider his options before things get out of control.
  • The use of social stories has helped little Daniel understand how our homeschool flows and what I mean when I say to pick up his toys. We also use them to teach how to behave in the grocery store or in the car.
  • I am using social stories to ensure that we have a fun and enjoyable Big Road Trip Adventure.

 

How to make a social story for your child

 

Initial Considerations

  • What is the situation you are preparing for? This could range anywhere from preparing for an upcoming event (like in my example story), learning rules and expectations, to understanding the reactions and points of view of other people.
  • What is the context around the situation. Make sure that you understand well enough to be able to describe it completely. Especially when working with ASD kids you have to be on the look out for loopholes or other flaws in your logic.

 

social storiesTypes of Sentences

A social story is comprised a combination of several specific sentence types. Most social stories contain at least four basic types: Descriptive, perspective, directive and affirmative. However they can also contain cooperative sentences and control sentences.

Descriptive

Descriptive sentences provide information about what is going on in the situation.

When we get to the fair there will be many people and many things to do. There will be lots of lights and lots of sounds.

We are taking turns choosing a ride or activity starting with the youngest to the oldest.

Perspective

Perspective sentences provide information about the child’s or other people’s perspective (depending on the type of story)

I know that I am going to want to ride everything at once because it will be very exciting.

It may be difficult to decide what to do next and that is okay.

Directive

Directive sentences tell your child what to do to have a positive outcome in the situation.

I can think about my choices while I am waiting for my turn to choose. When I decide what I want to do I will tell mom and when my turn comes around everyone will go together.

Affirmative

Affirmative sentences reinforce the notion that the outcome of the direction is a good one.

This makes everyone happy.

Cooperative

Cooperative sentences tell your child what you or someone else in the situation will do to support them.

If at any point it begins to get too much for me I will tell mom and she will go with me and sit down until I feel better.

Control

There were no control sentences in the above story, however a control sentence is used to help the child recall the story later. The control sentence that ended up being used in conjunction with this story was “When I decide what I want to ride, I should tell mom.”

 

Tips for creating your social story

  • Make sure you don’t overload your story with directive sentences. Ideally you should only have 1 directive or control sentence for every 2-5 sentences of the other types.
  • Stick to one situation per story. You’re not writing a social novel. If you include too many different events in your story it will be more difficult for your child to discern which situation the direction applies to.
  • Keep the tone positive. It is better to tell the child what to do to be successful rather than what not to do to keep from failing. This plays a lot into self-esteem as well as behavior successes.
  • Make sure to test out your social story on your child. It is always easier to adapt the story so that your child understands it than to try to force your child into an understanding they may not have.

Final thoughts

Social stories don’t have to be complicated.  In fact, complexity goes against everything a social story is meant to do.  Social stories exist to simplify life so that our children can understand it easier.  All children, regardless of whether they have special needs or not, can benefit from a simpler life.  You know, you probably already use some forms of social stories with your kids now.  And with just a little bit of thought and practice, I bet you can use them even better.  So comment below and let me know – how do (or how can) you use social stories with your children?

Voices of special needs blog hopWelcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!


Focus on Learning: The Kindness Challenge

The Kindness Challenge

For the last nearly 40 days my entire family has been involved in a Lenten challenge.

The goal – to learn to be kinder to each other and to those around us.  When was the last time that you thought about how to be intentionally kind to people.

We weren’t talking about grand gestures of compassion and generosity.  This wasn’t a challenge about global change.  This was kindness on a micro scale.  We were concerned with the every day things.  We wanted to do small acts of kindness to those around us, and see if we could finish this season of intentional living just a little bit kinder and a little bit better.

This video highlights the results of the Kindness Challenge.  We hope you enjoy.

As always, if you enjoyed this post don’t forget to subscribe so that you can see all of the reviews, book readings, and other videos I have coming up.

Check out this Book: Creepy Carrots [Books for Kids]

creepy carrots

I love books that have a twist.

Creepy Carrots! has an ending so surprising that you will want to read it again just to make sure you read it right the first time.  It looks at the rabbit-carrot relationship from a whole new angle.  Creep Carrots is one of our favorite books of the Easter season.

Are there really Creepy Carrots following Jasper Rabbit?
I hope you enjoy this book – Creepy Carrots.  If you have any fun and interesting books you’d like me to check out, post a comment below.

 

 

Great Books for Everyone this Easter [Easter Roundup]

We love the Easter season!

 

easter treeIt is our third favorite holiday after Christmas and Halloween.  We celebrate everything we can during the Easter season.  This year we even added a Lenten Kindness Challenge to our observances.  We also happen to be a family who loves reading.  Therefore it seems natural to me to offer up this season a list of our favorite books for everyone to read this Easter.  This list includes not just book for the little ones like Daniel, but also the older children and a couple of titles for us parents.  I hope you enjoy.

*Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links

 

Great books to read this Easter

the first easter book

Books for the little ones

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds

This hilarious book offers a different take on the carrot/bunny battle. Are there really creepy carrots following Jasper Rabbit? Keep your eye out for a Check out this Book post featuring this book.

 

Its not Easy Being a Bunny by Marilyn Sadler

Considering how we feel about Dr. Seuss, of course we had to feature this book as one of our favorites.  I mean,m who hasn’t wanted to be something or someone other than who they were at some point.  But PJ Funnybunny finds out (like we all do) that he was exactly where he belongs all along.

 

The Bernstein Bears and the Easter Story

Another of our favorite series of all times.  The Bernstein Bears books teach so many valuable lessons in such fun ways.  They actually have several easter books, but we enjoy this one (although we got our copy second hand and didn’t get any stickers.)

 

Happy Clubhouse Easter

Its Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  In our household no other reason is needed.

 

The Very First Easter by Paul Maier

This is probably one of the best biblical accounts of the Easter story for small children.  The narrative and the artwork is so moving and beautiful.

 

God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Bergren

There is actually a series of these God Gave Us books and each one is just as cute as the rest.  In God Gave Us Easter a little polar bear cub asks her papa about this day. We love how simply he explains the message.

Hey God…. The Donkey Tells His Side of the Story

This book is so funny.  The transformation of one stubborn donkey into an obedient beast of burden is quirky and fun from cover to cover.  Keep an eye out for a check out this book feature of this one.

The Legend of the Sand Dollar by Chris Aeur

This is such an interesting story.  The story of Jesus is explained through the examination of a sand dollar.  The designs on the shell and the holes and everything about a sand dollar holds a meaning rooted in the story of Christ.  There are actually a couple of different illustrations for this book, so don’t be fooled if your copy looks different from this one.

 

easter brick bible

For older kids

Easter Jokes for Kids

They’re jokes.  Its an entire book of terrible Easter Jokes.  Joshua. Loves. This. Book.

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core

Do your kids like the Rise of the Guardians movie?  Did you know there is a book series about the guardians?  Not only that, but its a pretty good series too.  this book about the Easter bunny and his warrior eggs just tickles me to no end.

At Jerusalem’s Gate: Poems of Easter

We read a lot of poetry in my house.  I try to read at least one or more poems every night at bedtime.  It becomes more difficult, though, to find poems that the older kids might enjoy as well.  However everyone liked these poems of Easter.

HOP The Chapter Book

Yet another book based on a movie.  What can I say, if it gets my older son reading I will invest in every movie book on the planet.

 

The Brick Bible

If Joshua has one love, its a Lego.  When I homeschooled him a few years ago we didn’t have a unit study that didn’t involve legos at some point.  They are probably one of the best learning resources I’ve ever found.  So to answer the question, how do I convince my non-reader to read the bible?  That one’s easy.  What I love the best about the Lego Bible is that the scenes are mostly reproducible with Legos we happen to have.

Easter Facts for Fun

Its like a quiz show, only its a book.  It seems to me that at least my older kids revel in being founts of obsure facts and information.  I am tormented by chants of “Did you know?”  This book is put together like a question and answer quiz show which plays right to their interests.

For Mom (or Dad)

The Women of Easter by Liz Curtis Higgs

If you enjoyed Bad Girls of the Bible, then you will love this book.  Higgs explores the Easter story through the loving eyes of the women who knew Jesus best.  This book was so enlightening and filled with scriptural meaning.

 

Easter from the Back Side by J. Ellsworth Kalas

This is a book you will have to read more than once.  Kalas explores the Easter story through the lens of other messages and stories in the Bible.  It was a bit complex at first, but I found it transformational once I figured it out.

For Fun

 

easter last supper legoThese aren’t books to read so perhaps don’t belong on this list.  However no Easter in my house is complete without some coloring pages, a spin through the resurrection eggs and, of course, a Lego build.  The Last supper set below isn’t actually from Lego, so perhaps may not cater to the true Lego idealists.  But we loved this set nonetheless.  We got ours from Mardels and it has been worth every penny.



  
  


Focus on Learning: Socialization and the Homeschooled Child

What is socialization?

A strict definition could be the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable.  One of the most controversial topics surrounding homeschools and homeschooling is this concept of socialization.  If children don’t go to traditional school with a bunch of children like them, how will they become socialized?

I want to share some of my thoughts on one of the most common questions that I get asked when people find out that I homeschool.  What about socialization?  I discuss some of the many ways in which my preschooler gets socialization in the following video.  I am not worried in the least about the amount of social interaction he gets, despite being homeschooled.

Check out this Book: Henry’s Life as a Tulip Bulb

Are You a Disgruntled Tulip Bulb?

I am forever on the lookout for great and unusual books to share with you.  This week is no different.  You will love Henry’s Life As A Tulip Bulb or Developing an Attitude of Gratitude.

Henry is a disgruntled little tulip bulb that learns a great lesson.  Just the fact that I wrote the words disgruntled tulip bulb makes this book a winner.  However, you not only get a good story and wonderful art, but a great message in trust and gratitude as well.

I hope you enjoy this book – Henry’s Life as a Tulip Bulb.

If you have any fun and interesting books you’d like me to check out, post a comment below.  If you’d like to make sure that you never miss a single book – please subscribe.