Chores are a valuable way to teach kids responsibility and work ethic, important character traits they’ll need as they grow up. In fact, research shows that kids who do chores from an early age are more likely to become educated, successful adults. Chores are even a major predictor of healthy adult relationships.
Unfortunately, not many kids are eager to do their chores. Chores can become a constant source of conflict in a family, especially if they’re implemented in a haphazard way, or if parents aren’t consistent in their expectations.
A chore chart can be an invaluable tool to keep a household running smoothly. Clear expectations with predetermined rewards and/or consequences, posted where everyone can see them, leave little room for argument or debate.
So, how do you create a chore chart for kids?
Determine Your Chore Philosophy
Before you create your chore chart, it’s essential that you decide your family’s chore philosophy. This will determine what reward and punishments if any, your children receive for completing or failing to complete their chores.
Paying for chores: Some parents choose to attach a monetary value to chores and pay children for completing them. This system can be a good way to start teaching kids about money. If a child has a playdate or party that keeps them from doing their chores one day, they can pay a sibling or parent to do the chores on their behalf.
Rewards for chores: Incentives don’t have to be financial. Other rewards for completing a week’s worth of household chores might include extra screen time, a trip to a favorite park, or a special get-together with friends. For young children, simple dollar store prizes like coloring books or bouncy balls may be motivating.
No payment for chores: Many parents believe each member of the family should contribute without expecting payment—after all, moms and dads don’t get paid to do household tasks. It’s just part of life. This may be the safest way to begin: you can always start giving rewards for good work later. Starting out with rewards and then taking them away is certain to be an unpopular decision.
Consequences for failing to do chores: Clearly communicating what the consequences will be for failing to complete chores is key to a successful chore chart. Kids who figure out that nothing happens if they ‘forget’ to do their chores may soon decide that the rewards aren’t worth it, and happily ignore the chore chart. Some parents institute fines for failing to do chores. Others may add an additional chore the following day as a consequence. Missing out on dessert, screen time, or treats can be a strong deterrent.
For parents who prefer to avoid punishments, natural consequences can work beautifully while avoiding arguments. “Yes, Timmy, you are free to go outside and play as soon as your chores are finished,” puts the ball in Timmy’s court. If he avoids doing his chores until it’s too dark to play outside, he has no one to blame but himself. This approach can work with almost anything your child wants to do: watch TV, play video games, play with friends, etc.
Creating Your Chore Chart
Once you’ve solidified your chore philosophy and clearly communicated to your children about rewards and consequences, you’re ready for the fun part: creating your chore chart. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your chart:
Choose a format that works for you: Make sure each child’s name and chores will fit on your chart. You can create your own by hand, or choose from the many free chore chart templates available online. If you prefer not to print new charts each week, consider getting your chart laminated. If you want something even more permanent, a chore whiteboard and dry erase markers may be the best option.
Keep chores age-appropriate: Don’t expect your four-year-old to unload the whole dishwasher, or your six-year-old to mow the lawn. At the same time, don’t expect too little from your kids. Even three-year-olds can pick up toys, throw dirty clothes into hampers, and help set the table. You can gradually give greater responsibilities to older children because our goal as parents isn’t to raise great kids – it’s to raise great adults. Find ideas for age-appropriate chore lists here.
Get the kids involved: Children are almost certain to feel more invested in the whole idea of chores if they get to help make the chart. Let them write their name, decorate the edges, or even choose one or more of their own weekly chores.
Make checking off chores fun: Have colorful markers or pencils available for checking off chores as they’re completed. Even better, use shiny stars or other fun stickers, even magnets because some dry erase boards are also magnetic.
Checking off completed tasks can induce a micro hit of dopamine, a thrill they will carry with them into adulthood as well.
Make your chart visible: Be sure to hang the chart somewhere everyone—regardless of height—can easily see it. The fridge may be the best spot. After putting so much thought and effort into your family’s chore chart, don’t let it suffer from being “out of sight, out of mind.”
Make your chart understandable: For little ones who can’t read yet, provide simple pictures or drawings so they know what is required of them. Find printable chore charts with pictures for younger children here.
Show them how: Kids will not automatically know what you mean the first time you tell them to dust or mop. Patiently show them what you expect. It will take longer the first few times, but it will be worth it once they can do the job themselves.
Family chore motto: Consider coming up with a motto to post above your chore chart. It can become a familiar refrain in your household. Some examples:
“We are a team.”
“In this family, we all do our part.”
“We are all happy to help.”
Or you might prefer a Bible verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” – Colossians 3:23a
Be consistent: Nothing will sabotage your efforts to get your kids to do their chores faster than inconsistency. If you say they’ll receive a reward for completing their chores, make sure you give the reward promptly. If you tell them what the consequences will be for slacking off, you must follow through. Failure to follow through will show your kids that the chore chart is meaningless. But if you are consistent, they will learn that they are better off if they stick with the chore chart.
Chores are a necessary part of life, and they can also be a way for kids to build self-confidence and feel like important, contributing members of the family. Give your kids the gift of chores! Someday they will appreciate it.