Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Best Chore Chart Strategy Ever

I decided it was finally time to assign real chores to my kids. They've always known we expect them to help out around the house. They know their rooms have to be straightened before we have a movie night, they know they have to set the table and clear it, they know they have to unpack their backpacks after school and hang them with their coats. You know, usual stuff.

But there are so many other things around the house that I know they can do (my oldest two are four & six) and it would help me out IMMENSELY if they started to do them.

So I've instituted two things at once: The Chore Chart and the Energy Drain. And it has been so crazy-awesome that I just had to share it with other moms. Really. That awesome. I promise.

Our Chore Chart looks like this:
I made this mostly based on plans I found here. But mine is a magnetic white board instead of buying sheet metal. I thought it'd be easier. :)
It's hard to see, but I listed extra chores I want the kids to do - not the things I expect them to do as part of our family.

Here's our list:
Water Plants
Fold Washcloths/Hand Towels
Sort Socks
Dust/Wipe Down Surfaces
Clean Baseboards
Empty bathroom trash cans
Wipe down door handles/light switches
Unload silverware from dishwasher
Steam Mop
Wash windows
Make own lunch
Clean room (this is different from straighten your room... it means REALLY clean)
Make bed (up for debate - should this be something that's just expected?)
Clean up basement (again... REALLY clean; straightening it is expected)
Wipe down Fridge/Trash Can
Wipe down kitchen chairs
Feed the cat
Wipe kitchen cabinets

Each chore is a magnet. Every week the kids pick two things they want to do. I get to pick one. Once they've finished the chore, they get to move it from "to do" to "done." Riley loves this so much he stops mid-chore to move it to the line in between.

I also did a little bit of advanced prep work. I made some wet dust cloths ahead of time and keep them in a giant mason jar (dust-cloth recipe here). They smell fabulous and it's easy for me to hand the kids a prepared rag when they want to do a chore (the goal here is to keep this from being more work for me!). They are super easy to make and once we run out, I can VERY quickly make a mess of new ones.

And, since Riley is currently working to buy Skylanders Giants from me (I scored an amazing deal on Craigslist), the kids are earning money. I'd rather they earn extra Wii time, extra books read to them at night, extra play time outside, etc. So we'll probably re-visit that once he earns enough for Skylander. But it's become a team effort - Allyn decided she wanted to earn money too and gives him part of her allowance every week 'cause she says she wants to play Skylander too! Plus we've been talking with them about tithing so they've made their little tithes each week.

They get a dollar if they do all three chores. They can choose to do MORE for 25 cents per chore after that. (Mom fail confession: I got a little overexcited one day and might have suggested to my oldest that I'd give him a quarter if I overheard him saying sir/ma'am to a grown-up who wasn't me. oops. He hasn't brought it up, so I'm hoping he'll forget!)

And, OH MY STARS.... this is the best thing I've ever done!  My baseboards are clean, my house has stayed dusted, the plants aren't dying of thirst before I get to them! My fridge gets wiped regularly and the trash cans are emptied before they overflow (clearly I'm not a homemaking queen). Y'all, seriously, the last time I cleaned my baseboards was for our homestudy...I'll let you do the math.

The other thing I've started to do is the Energy Drain! This is a restorative discipline technique from Love & Logic. They have some great parenting strategies.  I hadn't been doing the Energy Drain because I hadn't taken the time to figure out easy chores the kids could do! But now I have a board full of them!

Here's how it works:
When my kids do ANYTHING that sucks the life out of me... you know, putting dirty clothes on the floor NEXT TO the hamper, bickering, putting clean clothes in the hamper instead of putting them away, not cleaning up the play-dough, you know the stuff.  When they do something like that, I come to them all tired. I explain to them what it was they did or failed to do but I do it as if I can't stay awake. Or I put my head down mid-way through as if I'm exhausted (this is really quite fun).  Then I say, _______ really sucked a lot of energy out of me. What do you think you need to do to put it back? Something that I'd need to exert energy to do later.  And, since they're now really familiar with all the chores, they usually suggest something off the chore list. If they can't come up with anything, I'll give them a suggestion.

Once it's done, I act all energized again, give them big hugs & kisses and exclaim over how much energy I have since they did that for me.

It works so well I almost hope they mess up.  Allyn put her dirty clothes next to her hamper today and I got all my chair rails dusted. Yippee!

Of course, energy drain chores don't count towards their regular chore list and they don't earn anything extra for them. So those are the best kind!

Anyway, we've been at this for three weeks now. I thought the novelty would wear off really quickly, and I know it may still, but so far it has been working wonders!

Want to make your own? Here's a jpg of all my chores with circles you can cut out. They are perfectly sized to be mod-podged onto wooden circles, like these I ordered from etsy.  Just be sure you print it out at 100% so the circles stay the right size!
Right click and select "save image as"
Have a Silhouette or Cricut? I can email you a version you can cut out with your machine!


  1. Great idea!!! Thanks for sharing. Do you have any other resources for restorative discipline?

    1. Hey Amy! I saw your other comment about this and meant to respond! I actually don't have specific resources about restorative discipline. But Love and Logic seems to be really in keeping with the idea. Those are the main parenting strategies I tend to use with my kids. I think the main idea is to right a wrong instead of being punished for it.

  2. This is soooo much more positive than the 'Dog House' we had on our fridge - that only focused on when we had done something bad. Of course, Rick was in it the most, but often he'd manage to take me in with him!!!!
    love to all.

  3. You get your kids to steam mop?! That is some pretty rad parenting!

    1. Ha! I'm telling you - this chore chart thing is magic! :)

  4. I love this idea!! What do you think are good chores for a 3 year old. Would love to hear your thoughts!!

    1. I should have prefaced my post with the fact that the kids certainly don't do as thorough of a job as I do, but even the little they can do is so helpful! Plus they're learning. But I think a three year-old can do a lot!
      My goal was to have things they can do with minimum input from me. If I have to stand there and help them do it, it sort of defeats the point. So I'd think for a three year old, all those things that can be wiped down (kitchen cabinet fronts, doorknobs, light switches, fridge, dishwasher) would be a good chores. Those lemon rags I posted a link to are really easy to make and are nontoxic so I don't mind my kids using them. And they're safe for hard surfaces and wood. Plus they're already moist so you don't have to squeeze water out of anything (I know from experience what kind of mess that can make!). Three year-olds could probably even do a decent job on baseboards and chair-rails with those.
      I taught Allyn how to fold napkins and dishtowels when she was three (I tried teaching Riley around the same age but he wasn't into it - maybe it's a girl thing?).
      Sorting socks is also great for the younger ones. I think there's some educational value to that, too! So far Amani's only chore is to sort the wipes we use for faces & hands from the scrubbing wipes I use for counters & the kitchen table (but he's 2).
      I think at three kids can put their own socks & underwear away, too. Amani does put his own socks in his drawer. Depending on how you have their clothes organized in their rooms there might be more they can put away. I give them piles of all the same stuff ("here are all your socks, then come back and now here are all your short-sleeved shirts for your drawer, then come back and here's all your underwear").

  5. I love this chart! How did you get the lettering on the board?

    1. Thanks so much! We love it too!
      I have a Silhouette Cameo so I cut the letters out of adhesive vinyl and used transfer tape to put them on the board.
      BUT you could easily buy alphabet stickers and stick them on yourself.
      Or use magnets. You could print your kids' names out all cute and buy that adhesive magnet strips from Michaels and use that to keep their names on the board too!

  6. This is a great idea. I have three of them and they do the basic and that's about it and I still have to get after them. It causes conflict every day and night. I need to try this and immediately. BTW, I found a link someone posted on Facebook.

    1. I'm glad you found it! It's funny, I posted this back in March but this post wound up on Pinterest and lately has gotten tons of hits!
      We've been using our chore chart for 6 months now and it's still working great! I hope you have the same success we did! :)

  7. Hi, I just finished making our chore chart using yours as a guide! Thank you so much, I love it! How did you get the different fonts and lettering for the circles? I printed yours and used many of them, but wanted to add some of our own.

    1. We still use ours all the time! I am a little bit of a "font collector" and I download free fonts a lot. Some of those fonts from my more chart are smiley monster, Oh {Photo} Shoot, Lavanderia, Curlz MT, and The Blue Cabin. I'm not 100% sure where I got them from but I often use! Have fun :)

  8. Hi! Can I have a copy I am able to use with my Silhoutte for the chore chart emailed? Thank you!

    1. I'd be glad to send you my silhouette file! Email me at yklj AT triad DOT rr DOT com and I'll email you back with the file attached! :)


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