Five months ago now, I posted a picture on Instagram of our first official basic kids chore chart that I crudely made by hand, laminated, and stuck on the fridge with a magnet. One of my main goals for homeschooling for preschool this year was establishing good chore and habits in my children along with life skills. And this simple, basic chore chart was the culmination of that effort, as we had already taught them how to help and do these things, but now they would be rewarded periodically for doing chores.
I have been amazed at how much this very simple chore chart for our kids has helped us as a family. Our home life is more unified, our children more willing to help, and we’ve had many awesome experiences and adventures because of it.
How Our Basic Kids Chore Chart Works
The kids chore chart is simple. Each child (including my two year old) has six different chore categories they can get an X for doing or helping do. They are laundry, dishes, trash, picking up, getting ready for bed in 10 minutes, and doing extras like leaving after a fun outing without throwing a fit or being extra good at the grocery store.
The chores are not set up as a daily task, or as needing to be completed before, say, watching a movie or something. But, we often tell them that they can’t until they do this or that. We also still have them help out do extra cleaning, like helping us clean the bathroom, wipe down handrails and walls, and so on. They also now help sweep and mop too (with mopping being the more desired chore, in part because they love our spray mop).
They simply get Xs only for the categories on the chart. Either we will mark for them, or they will do it themselves.
To Get X’s
To get an X for the laundry, they need to help fold and sort the clean, dry laundry. They get one X for that. They can get another X for laundry if they hang up and put away their own laundry.
To get an X for dishes, they have to put away a lot of the clean dishes from the dishwasher. My 2 year old likes to help do this job, and can get an X for his small contributions. They can also get an X for helping me load the dishwasher completely (but they hate helping me load it because it’s “gross”) or by doing dishes in the sink (which is pretty rare, but they enjoy).
To get an X for picking up, they have to complete the assigned area we asked them to clean up and actually be actively picking up and putting away items, not letting their sister do most of their work, or waiting until mom comes and cleans up the majority of it. They can also get an X in the picking up category for doing things like wiping off the table and chairs.
To get an X for trash, they have to help take out the recycleable items outside. This one is pretty easy, and our two year old loves helping with this one.
To get an X for getting ready for bed in 10 minutes, they need to, well, get ready for bed in just ten minutes. We do indeed set a timer and ask our girls (the 2yo is too young to get ready by himself) to go potty, brush their teeth, and put on their pajamas before the timer goes off. It is totally doable, but sending the girls upstairs can often lead to distraction, playtime, and lots of putting around. This one worked great in the beginning but has been less awesome at being accomplished in a timely manner. Still, the only way to get an X in this column is for doing it in ten minutes.
Kids Chore Chart Reward Incentives
Once our children get 10 x’s (okay, we don’t really keep track for our 2 year old), we treat them to a reward of some kind.
One of my biggest hold ups in implementing a chore chart in our home has always been this idea of rewards. Why should I reward my child for doing what they should be doing anyway? I believe that children should be responsible members of our family, and that means helping to take care of our home. So, why reward them for helping, when I expect, and need, them to help?
So, we decided we wouldn’t pay our children for their chores (they have no real need for money as 4/5 year olds anyway and we don’t have a lot of extra money to give out either). We also didn’t want to just buy them a little toy every time either.
We decided that instead we would reward them with experiences. And these experiences have changed every single time.
Here are some of the things we have done in the name of “rewards”:
- Bought them a toy from the Dollar Spot at Target
- Went to the zoo in Austin (with a Groupon)
- Played a video game together as a family
- Went camping
- Went to the park (their favorite ones, as well as new ones)
- Went to a Bounce House
- Went to the Movie theater as a mommy/daughter date (to watch the new Cinderella)
- Did the local Glass Bottomed Boat Tour (with a Groupon)
- Went for Pancakes at IHOP (on Free Pancakes Day)
- Let the girls go to classes and campus for the day with their dad
- Bought them new chalk and bubbles
- Went to two different Children’s Museums
- Attended local events (Sights and Sounds and an Easter Egg Hunt)
Most of these rewards are just fun things we want to do anyway, or already had on the calendar. We simply space them out a bit based somewhat on when our daughters will have ten x marks each (they can accumulate more than 10 at a time, too).
Really, anytime we are going to do something new, we try to base it on when they will hit those 10 x’s. And most of them are involve fun, family times. As we switch it up each time, and don’t always tell them ahead of time what the next reward will be (because we don’t always know!), they are open to the new adventures, and look forward to their rewards for their hard work.
Sometimes we ask them what they would like their next reward to be, and often they are pretty simple (like taking a trip to the park or playing a video game). They have asked us to go bowling for the next reward.
Rewards are usually earned every week or two (or at least that’s when we finally get around to fulfilling a reward). Sometimes we go several weeks before erasing all the X’s and starting again. And sometimes we’ll leave the X’s they earned above the ten, other times we don’t.
The only downside of this, is that often once one or both of our daughters hit ten X’s, they are a little less motivated to keep doing their chores.
The Benefits of a Basic Kids Chore Chart
Since implementing the chore chart, it is amazing the difference in attitude and willingness that has come across our daughters, especially our daughter Alison. She has on multiple occasions been found doing chores of her own will. She loves marking off those X’s and takes great pride in it. It’s a fantastic motivator for her! She regularly counts up those X’s, gets excited when she nears the end mark, and looks forward to her rewards.
I often hear how chore charts fail for many families after a few weeks, but ours hasn’t, as we’ve been doing this now for about five months. I think the main difference between our system and many other chore charts I’ve seen is that there aren’t daily requirements. While certainly our children do need to get ready for bed every night, and have other daily things they need to do (get dressed, make their bed, remove their plates from the table, etc), the rewards we feel are for things that are a little more work and generally take more time (like putting away their laundry).
Without using daily checks, it is easy to be a little more relaxed with our system, and less drill-master-like. This is good because our kids then have a choice. They can help do these chores and get an X, or refuse, and not get an X. Sometimes I think the competition between my twins helps a little in this department though, as well as the future fun reward.
Overall though, our children seem more willing to do their part around the house. They are excited about doing them because they’ll get an X, but also because they know that it is so nice to have a clean home (even if they are responsible for 85% of the mess). They know that they have expectations, and that they need to help our family.
Often all it takes, especially for Alison, for our kids to get motivated to help and clean and work is for us to turn on some music! Even if that music comes from our electronic keyboard and plays the same obnoxiously annoying beat/song over and over again, Alison works like a person on a mission if there is music.
My other daughter Lisa is usually good about helping, but not always as motivated. But, she knows she must. And generally has a fairly good attitude about it.
And my son, well, he’s learning little by little how to do more of the chores too, and is usually good for an effort.
But, the greatest blessing of a chore chart in our home has been the great family activities. While of course we would still have done many (if not all) of these rewards anyway, it makes it fun to think about new places to check out, new activities to try, and more family bonding time. It makes my husband and I more accountable for investing in our family time and one-on-one time.
And that is why I believe a chore chart has vastly improved our home.
You can download a printable version of our chore chart by sign up below or clicking HERE.
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Do you have a chore chart you use in your home? How does yours work, and does it actually work?