Post by contributor Molly Madonna
If you’re anything like me, you’ve noticed that the older the kids get, the faster the house gets messy and cluttered, too. There are more people, contributing more stuff and a host of different habits in the same amount of space.
Unless you want to dedicate all of your time and energy to picking up every single room, every single day, there’s got to be a better way to stay on top of daily life at home.
For a while, I think I assumed that because my kids are little, I would have to do almost all of the heavy lifting where chores are concerned.
While this may be true when our babies are babies, by the time they’re three and four years old, they really can start to grasp helping around the house. The chores don’t have to be big things at first, but I think starting somewhere is important.
If young children know that they are expected to contribute to the family, as part of the family, then they are most likely to form desirable traits and habits from early on.
Doing everything for our kids doesn’t serve them well, and often, I find that mine are excited to contribute in some way when it’s encouraged. Even our two year old loves getting out her toy vacuum when I set out to vacuum the house—she comes right along with me and acts as proud as ever that she can help.
Getting creative with chores and tasks when kids are little means we’re planting seeds for a life time of future helpers around the house.
Currently, our kiddos are two and four. They are both highly motivated by the idea of rewards, so that helps make this process easier for us. When they are able to see their own progress (with stickers on a chart, pom pons in a jar, etc.), they grow even more encouraged to participate.
We have tried a handful of different chore/reward charts to motivate our kids through simple daily tasks. We haven’t always needed these, but after a season of battling wills at morning, noon and nighttime, we decided to go back to the drawing board and reward good behavior in simple ways.
Because kiddos are such visual learners, and seeing progress feels important, we’ve opted for magnetic chore charts in each of the kids’ rooms. In our case, the items under consideration for earning stars/magnets throughout the day currently include:
-being kind to our siblings
-brushing teeth 2xs/day
-picking up toys
-getting ready for bed without fussing
-listening well to mommy and daddy
-setting the table
-filling the dog’s water bowl when needed
-taking a bath or shower
-a handful of others that we swap out depending on where each of the kids is currently struggling/succeeding
The Perfect Chart
In my quest for the perfect rewards/chore chart, I wandered over to Pinterest to hopefully make the choice clear and simple. (Ha!)
I’m sure you’ve dabbled on Pinterest, and if you have, you know that sussing out the exact perfect chore chart might prove both daunting and time consuming. There are so many options!
Browsing through chart after chart, I started to feel like I needed chart of my own just to check off all of the boxes my kids’ chore charts should contain.
While I want to help my family lead an organized and orderly life, I just can’t spend hours searching for the perfect charts to put our chores in order. I needed something simple and easy to use, and something that a preschooler could look at and understand. There are some great ideas out there, and I pinned a handful that I thought offered variety and options for both now and a little further down the road. You can check out my simplified Pinterest Chore Chart Favorites here if you’re curious.
Some of the pins at the above link include a list of age appropriate chores for reference, as well as a mommy chore chart to help me organize my own to-dos at the same time as we’re working on the kiddos’.
If you’d like to make a chart and personalize it for your child, the pinned options above are just for you.
There are printables as well as crafty options that would be fun to do alone or with smaller hands to help. You can certainly add your own touches to make the process ideal for your family. If you have one or two children, some of the bigger chart options might be just right. For a larger family, charts that incorporate everyone on one board—or ones that offer options for color-coding chores, will serve you well.
If you’re looking for a physical chart to purchase for younger children, here are a few of my favorites:
My First Daily Magnetic Calendar
Horizon Group Chore Chart and Chore Record Kit
Dry Erase Toddler Bedtime Routine Chart
Simplifying is the name of the game
Ultimately, I veered away from DIY chore charts this time around, feeling time-crunched and realizing that I was putting off the task again and again, while the kids were waiting for (and really needing) charts of their own to create some focus and motivation each day.
I settled on two magnetic charts that I found in the One Spot at Target (for $3 each, no less). They seemed simple and were a good alternative to creating a chart myself as I’ve done in the past. The magnets on each chart are stars (like the Horizon Group Chore Chart above), and the kids each get to place a magnet on the board for every successfully executed task throughout the day.
I like that there’s space for dry erase fill-in-the-blanks to personalize each chart. They also came with hangers, so we’ve just hung them on each of the kids’ closet doors to keep it simple.
At the end of each week, the kiddos get a reward if each has earned a target number of stars on their respective boards. This way, there’s room for a few mistakes or misses, but there’s also a high level of motivation not to miss out on stars throughout the week.
My husband and I decide on the rewards for now, and they’re often books or small toys. The rest of the time, we plan a family outing to somewhere fun: the nature reserve and trails, frozen yogurt, a drive out to the beach. We do our best to make these events stand out as special treats, and we always make it a priority to be together as a whole family to celebrate the rewards that each child has earned.
While sorting out chore charts has honestly felt a bit like a chore in and of itself, I’m amazed at the ownership the kiddos have started taking as they get excited about earning stars and rewards for building good habits.
My hope is that we won’t always require charts, but that as we build these habits into their lives at a young age, good practices will become second nature over time.
Perhaps you have older children at home and you’ve discovered great ways to incentivize their regular contributions to household responsibilities. I’ve considered allowance for the future, but we’ve not explored that avenue yet with little ones in the house.
No matter how you go about it, it always feels good to help motivate those you love toward positive behaviors and healthy habits for lifetime of capable, responsible living!
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