If you’re a mom then you know the struggle of getting kids to DO THINGS. Anything.
Put shoes on. Eat. Do homework. Go to the bathroom. Wash your hands. Pick up after yourself. Go to sleep.
You don’t want to sound like a nag or a drill sergeant. But you want them to get things done. And you want your kids to learn responsibility and caring for themselves and contributing to the family. WHAT A BALANCE, RIGHT? We all want so much good things for our kids, and sometimes, actually oftentimes, that’s a really challenging tug of war.
One thing I learned when I was getting my Masters in Elementary Ed was that all. kids. crave. routines. Even the most attention challenged and actually it’s ESPECIALLY those children who crave knowing what is expected of them, what they can expect other to do, and what they can expect in their day. They need security, and this is actually where our chore boards come in.
From when my stepdaughter Maddix was in preschool (about 10 years ago) I started making her chore and routine charts. I found that when left to her own devices she would just kind of float around, forget things, not really do much and be happy just kind of BEING. You may say “well how would you know that in a preschooler” but you can just see as a parent that their temperament like that starts young. Plus, she split time between homes so she already had the challenging of having to know two homes’ routines and lifestyle, so I wanted to make it easier on her to know OK here’s what you need in the mornings, afternoons, and at bedtime and what you are expected to do. For the sake of both us and for her, and eliminating any gray area of responsibility and routines.
I also made them instead of buying them because I just couldn’t find boards or anything pre-made that fit the tasks and responsibilities in our home; there was always something missing or something there that we didn’t need. So, having been somewhat crafty and handy with basic word processing, I started to make boards and charts with her through the years. Sometimes they were just paper, some years they were very Pinterestly stick-in-a-jar types of thing. But the important part was that I sat down and REALLY THOUGHT AND ANALYZED a system that would work for her and us best for her age and school year.
Since then we’ve had two kids, and same kind of thinking process of individual needs, ideas, and system followed.
Reese didn’t need as much in her preschool years to guide and explain to her what she needed to get done in the mornings, after school, and night. I’m sure in comparison to Maddix this has to do with the fact that she only has one home and set of expectations and she also has a different temperament; she is not a daydreamer and likes to get things done so she can move on. She has a little bit more of an awareness of what’s going on around her. That being said, she would rather play than do homework, and this year as she entered a new school with more homework I knew we needed to have a system for her to stay on top of it. She also has dance and gymnastics after school and I wanted her to know what days she had those practices. So this year we implemented this.
Paige, well, she’s almost 3 but not quite there yet in any of the above. She does have a solid bedtime routine but still needs a lot of guidance. More on what she does and her chore chart later but in a nutshell, I just want her now to be a part of the ROUTINE OF routines and seeing it modeled by her older sisters.
There are a few things I contemplate when creating chore systems – and these are things you can consider if you’re coming up with a system of your own :
- Chores vs . Responsibilities. I think some items like picking up after yourself and taking care of things around the home are “chores” and things like brush teeth and do homework are “responsibilities” I personally like calling them all responsibilities – here’s what you need to do in order to successfully move throughout your day and be a good citizen of our family. However, kids just respond better to the word CHORE, at least in our case, and know what that entails – “these are the things I need to get done.” So, we call them chore boards. But they could totally be responsibility boards, depending on what you’re putting on them and what you prefer to call them.
- Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation. Ideally, you want intrinsic motivation to be the main motivator for anything that you do. This means feeling such as a sense of pride, responsibility, happiness in a job well done, feeling of emotional reward, contributing to the family. However, we’re talking about kids and at this maturity level, they do well with extrinsic motivation. I mean, when you think about it don’t we all? We work so that we get paid money, for example.
- Type of reward. So this can be allowance, a reward such as a toy or special event, or a privilege like extra TV time or staying up a little later one night. This, I believe, is where you need to take a look at each of your kids and their personality and what you feel comfortable as parents. Maddix is NOT motivated by money, BUT last year she wanted to go on a school trip and this year she wants a laptop and SIM card for her iPhone – so that’s what she’s getting in exchange for completing her chores and responsibilities and the dollar amount she earns go towards that. Whereas Reese is our little entrepreneur and is always looking for ways to make a buck lol. So she get an allowance and it pumps her up. You can also choose to not have ANY rewards. If you are that parent, you have my complete admiration! 😉
- Frequency of reward. Are you going to give rewards daily? Weekly? Bi-Weekly? This all depends on the age of your kids, because the younger they are the less they are able to tie in action for reward in the long term; short term gains and rewards work well for their motivation whereas older kids might feel cool having a bi-weekly paycheck, like a grownup.
- Display and location. I find that the location of the boards are just as important as the boards themselves. You want them to be in the easiest place to access for the kids, in the middle of where most of the action happens. For us, that’s in the kitchen and breakfast nook area so this plain wall served as the perfect backdrop.
- Material and tracking system. A weekly printout checklist. A dry-erase board. A sticker chart. A magnet board. A sticks system. I’ve used them all, and they’ve all had their own benefits. And as the kids grow and all the things above change for them, so do the appropriate system. This year, Maddix came up with having magnet boards (she had printed checklists on a clipboard last year) and so any opportunity I have to get them invested in a system by having a hand in creating it, I’m all for it. A magnet was something all our kids could use (and was safe for Paige now that she was older.)
I’m really happy about this year’s system. And I wanted to give it a bit of time before I blogged about it and posted it because I wanted to test it, as anything I do, before I shared on it.
OK so let’s get into HOW I MADE THE BOARDS!
B O A R D
Let me preface that you don’t have to make your own like I did. But here’s how I did it, just because once I get set on a look I’m determined to make it work! But I linked some pre-made magnetic boards here too!
If the boards were going to be on a prominent wall, I wanted them to coordinate with our interior style. I had some extra of the gold frames I used in our dining room below and held them up to this wall one day and was like THIS IS IT! I’m going to use these same gold frames. But…how?
I searched and searched for a magnetic surface the size of the frames (Lowes, Home Depot, Target, Office Depot) and realized this was just taking too long. Then I got an idea : make the FRAME ITSELF MAGNETIC with magnetic paint.
So I painted the glass of the frame with three coats of magnetic paint. It was pretty easy; make sure you stir it really well, use a small roller brush, and protect the surface below. It’s a black paint and I liked the black look for contrast, but you could also go over it with any color of paint to coordinate with your decor.
GUESS WHAT, THOUGH.
After I made this, I found that you can buy MAGNETIC SHEETS on Amazon. I mean, that would have been much easier, right? I could have adhered it to the glass or the board backing of the frame. Still, the size has to match up so depending on your frame a sheet may or may not work.
I then hand-wrote everything – the lines and the names – with permanent gold marker and white chalkboard marker. I first outlined everything with pencil, and realized afterwards that it doesn’t erase very well. You’ll see the marks below. This is an example of when you first do something and you’re making it up as you go, you just don’t know! I’ve never used magnetic paint before. It’s not perfect. But I’m OK with that. I’ll go back in with the paint again when I feel like it, but just haven’t made it a priority. So pencils lines remain!
ALSO : if you aren’t set in your heart on the frame, you can TOTALLY buy a pre-made magnetic chalkboard (this one comes in several frame types) and just make the lines and names on it yourself. You could even use letter stickers if you don’t trust your handwriting! And you can use a white magnetic dry erase board. There’s lots of creative ways to make this work. Again, I just had a certain look I was going for.
M A G N E T S
Next I needed the magnets for their morning and afternoon/evening chores.
I looked deep into Esty-world at pre-printed magnets but just couldn’t find ones I liked. Can you sense a theme here that I just can never find “the one” and that’s why I end up making things? I’m ALL about convenience of buying something that’s already done, but I also recognize the importance of some things being customized to YOU.
So here’s what I did :
- I bought 1″ round magnets at Target.
- Downloaded 1″ Avery round label templates
- I wrote down every chore and responsibility for each kid.
- Typed the above onto each circle with a text box. For Reese’s I included clipart I googled and screenshot because she is still learning to read; for Maddix, I just text. I knew she wouldn’t want pictures.
- Printed them onto regular paper and used a 1″ circular punch I had from making cupcake toppers a long time ago to cut each out. Perfect! (similar one linked here.)
- Used Modge Podge and a sponge brush to glue them onto each magnet. I was worried it wouldn’t stick or get too messy but it worked out SO well!
The pro of making them on your own? I can make new magnets anytime I need to. New afterschool activity? New magnet. Add another chore? New magnet. I would not have been able to do that had I bought a premade set.
H A N G I N G
I used the same method for hanging my gallery wall and they’re all still solidly hanging! Find that post here.
T H E C H O R E S
So every day, Reese and Maddix have morning and afternoon/evening chores to do. They include things like pack/empty backpack, brush teeth, take vitamins, homework, shower.
Then they have individualized chores and responsibilities, and these are custom to a) what they need help remembering to do and b) chores that they can handle.
Maddix always leaves the lights on in her room and bathroom, so “lights off” is one for the mornings. She also has to practice cello so that’s on there, and for reading she loves it so doesn’t need a reminder, so that is not on there but homework. She does the dishes at night, and also has to pick up after herself. TEENS.
Reese has “get dressed” and “eat breakfast” on hers because those are things I want her to keep practicing doing on her own. She also has “help cook” at nights because she has expressed an interest in cooking. It’s never anything complicated; just stir this or open this, that kind of thing. She also has reading and homework and cleaning the room.
Paige just has three cute little magnets : “brush teeth” for mornings, and “clean playroom” and “set table” at night. I wanted to to start REALLY small with her as she gets used to the idea of having responsibilities.
So really, I’m not overloading them with tons of chores. I want them to feel successful and practice routines so that they become habit.
R E W A R D S Y S T E M
For rewards, this is also where a little bit of customization comes in.
For Maddix, she puts a check for every time she completes a morning or evening section. When she accumulates 10 checks, she gets $10.
For Reese, she needs a little bit more of an instant gratification I think so she gets a quarter for every section completed to put into a piggy bank (which is on a counter to the right.)
Paige gets whatever coins I have and she puts it into Reese’s piggy bank because she LOVES Reese’s piggy bank we got her from Japan, it’s like a toy. So she ends up giving Reese more money (that’s why I only give her small change) and she gets what she wants which is to play with Reese’s piggybank. Sounds so weird, but it’s working for now!
It’s taken a bit of getting used to and remembering this system morning and night and also to make sure I had quarters and cash on hand! But I figured if I’m asking them to be responsible, I at least can also be responsible enough to check the boards and give her the quarter. So with practice it’s now becoming habit. It’s awesome!
Reese actually uses the board to plan her day, like she lines them up and says OK so today I have to do this….and Maddix doesn’t line them up at all. Just goes to show you the differences in kids, right?
I hope this has been helpful! I tried to include as much info as possible, but of course there’s always more to share. If you have any questions, comment on my Instagram pic of this chore chart and I’ll reply back to you on there!
S H O P T H E P O S T
S H O P T H E L O O K