How to Create a Chore Chart that Works

Create a chore chart to motivate your child to do chores.
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Similar to the way kids eat with their eyes first, they also respond better to visual cues when it comes to their chores. Give them a verbal list of tasks to accomplish, and they’ll likely do a half-hearted job or skip over a chore entirely. Create a colorful chart, however, complete with age-appropriate tasks and tempting rewards, and you’ll instantly increase the chances that chores get done on time.

Chore Chart Benefits

A lot of parents think, “My child is a part of this household. Therefore, he must contribute to the maintenance of the household through chores, without any extra incentive.” Although there’s truth in that, the sentiment’s root is based on adult logic, not childhood thinking.

Children want consistency in expectations. Much like a behavior chart, a chore chart allows that by spelling out their tasks each and every week. A chore chart also gives kids ownership over their responsibilities and allows them to track their progress. And, as for those rewards (whether it’s an allowance or special prize for a job well done), well—it’s always an incentive for a child.

Choosing the Chores

The first step in creating a chore chart is to select the tasks for each kid to accomplish and determine whether the chore chart will be a daily or weekly one. As you might expect, a 3-year-old shouldn’t be responsible for taking out the trash every week, while a 12-year-old can handle much more than putting away his toys at night.

However, for all ages, remember that assigning a new chore means a learning curve. Teach your child how to do the chore properly before you expect them to do it on their own each week.

Although this is just a guide (because kids mature and understand at different rates), some potential chores for your child may include:

  • Ages 2 to 3: Pick up toys and books; help make the bed; help feed the pets; dust with socks on their hands; take laundry to the laundry rooms.
  • Ages 4 to 5: Set the table (if not clumsy!); dust; put away groceries.
  • Ages 6 to 8: Take care of pets; take out trash; put away laundry; vacuum or mop the floors.
  • Ages 9 to 12: Help wash the car; clean the bathroom; rake the leaves; wash the dishes.
  • Ages 13 to 18: Prepare a meal; clean out refrigerator; do the laundry.

Don’t forget that as your child grows up, he also has school and extracurricular activity obligations, which are just as important to a healthy life balance as doing chores. If your child is prepping for tests or involved in time-consuming play rehearsals, temporarily take a chore or two off his chart. This teaches your child that everyone helps each other out every once in a while.

Creating the Visual Chore Chart

This is where you get to be creative. Do you want to create a colorful sticker chart with a chore for each day of the week, marked complete with a sticker?

Or, do you prefer a token economy system, where your child can earn tokens that can later be exchanged for privileges, such as TV time?

There are so many ways to create an effective chore chart. No matter which format you choose, the chart should be colorful, personalized and easy for your child to see. Place it in the kitchen or the hallway right outside your child’s bedroom so he can glance at it quickly.

Provide a Reward, If Desired

Although your child should be expected to chip in, you can attach incentives to chores to motivate him to complete the chore thoroughly or to do a little something extra. Instead of giving your child an allowance each week, attach a “fee” to each chore that correlates to its difficulty. For example, cleaning the litterbox might be worth $1 while cleaning out the fridge—a time-consuming process—might be worth $2.

You could also start a tradition that’s completed only when their chores are. For example, if your child has all his chores done by Saturday afternoon, then it’s time for pizza and family movie night! If he gets his weekend chores done by Sunday evening, he gets dessert in his lunchbox on Monday. Incentives and rewards don't have to cost any money.

Of course, don’t forget that you need to be an example if you expect your child to regularly complete chores. It’s not enough to assign tasks; your child needs to see that you’re an active participant in cleaning and maintaining the household as well. If you all complete your chores at the same time in an effort to get to some family fun playtime, it will be all the more motivating for everyone.

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