Over the years I've used just about every method of tracking chores on the face of the planet. Charts, graphs, laminated flip cards, stickers, stamps, check marks... you name it, I've tried it. Some were a total disaster and I quickly ditched the method. Others worked well even if the child didn't always complete the chore. These were successful because the instructions were clear and easy for the child to know exactly what was required each day.
Today I won't be sharing about how to get your child to do a chore, nor the best way to approach these tasks. I'm saving that for another day. But for now, let me share with you some of the best tools that have worked for our family at various stages in our life.
• Picture Cards: Before my girls could read, we cut out pictures together from magazines that depicted a task they were to complete. This included things like a toothbrush (for brush your teeth), a kitty litter box from an advertisement (for scoop out the litter box), and a lovely place setting of dishes (for setting the table). Each picture went on a different index card. Then I drew a sunshine or a half moon in the corner of the card to indicate a morning chore or an evening chore. All the cards went into a box with a divider. Chores to be done went in front of the divider and once completed, the child moved them in back of the divider. If you have more than one child at this level, use different colored cards for each child. As you can see from the pictures below, we had a lot of fun with this!
• Laminated Picture / Phrase Cards: As the girls got older, I used a mac program called Pages and organized a sheet of photos with captions for different jobs that required multiple steps. For example: cleaning or keeping the closet and drawers neatly organized. For this card I had pictures like those of shoes nicely arranged (just like I wanted them in their closet), a picture of clothes hanging correctly, and a photo of a girl putting her clothes away in her drawer. Each picture had a phrase that told the child what to do such as "Put shoes in their place!". I also added a scripture from I Corinthians 14:40 "But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner" as a reminder that God is a god of order. This is part of His character and therefore we should strive to be orderly like Him. (I should mention that this wasn't a traditional chore chart, but a help for doing a chore.)
Although this method did not give me a check system, it worked well because they had a visual of what it actually should look like. When it was time to check it, I would take the card and say, "Do your shoes look like these?" if some are still on the floor. This is good training because they are learning to assess their own work!
• Flip Cards: For the older child (mid to upper elementary), flip cards work pretty good as long as they are characterized by getting it done. The disadvantage of this system is the lack of accountability. It is difficult for parents to check off completed jobs. However, this worked well for my oldest daughter who got it all done, but not in a timely manner. She had to wear a stop watch for a long time to stay on task because she was totally unaware of time and easily distracted! The boxed times were her start and finish time. Later she progressed to just the two times at the top and bottom without the timed increments in between.
• "I Did My Chores" Charts: A year ago I moved to I Did It Productions commercially produced chore charts by Deeanne Graham Gist. Although these are expensive at $19.99 for each child, they are sturdy and easy to use. The best feature is the box that allows the child to place completed cards to show the job is done while allowing the parent to quickly check which chores are completed. Each chart can be customized by writing in the child's name and selecting upgraded job stickers such as fairies, princesses, dragons, knights, and robots. The basic set includes a monkey. Deeanne includes a set of instructions for rewards along with some tokens or chips, however we did not opt to use these. If you would like more information from Deeanne on how to best implement chores, visit Chores Help Kids.
• Fill-In Check List: This summer I'm using a check list for the younger girls (you can view this under the tab at the top "free downloads" or click here). This is mainly because we have totally different jobs in the summer than in the school year. For example, pulling two or three buckets of weeds, watering plants or the garden, and sweeping porches; that kind of thing. This lets me assess what needs to be done each day and make a list for each child before they get up and I can adjust it daily. I usually include some fun things that are education as well. This keeps them fresh and in the learning groove even in the summer.
If you'd like to share your own system and include the link in the comments, I know other mom's would love to take a look! We gotta look out for each other and help where ever we can! Parenting is a big job!