SCH: Chore Board

There are so many ways to do a chore board. A simple google search would come up with a variety of sheets for tracking chores for your children.

My parents noticed that there were four children and four main areas in the house (kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room). We rotated, having one of the rooms for a week before moving to the next. We had a list of daily responsibilities (such as the living room had take dirty dishes to kitchen), and weekly responsibilities which were to typically be done on Saturday (such as vacuum the living room). We were older-ish at the time and this worked for I think at least a year. Those chores were in addition to an assigned day(s) to wash dishes (by hand no dishwasher for us!) and take out trash or bring up trashcans, and bring out dirty clothes on laundry day.

The consequences for not doing the chores varied. The room rotations didn’t really have much of one, at least not that I remember. The dishes built up until you did them (so one day of dishes for a family of six occasionally became 2 or 3 days of dishes–only very occasionally as we hated doing dishes that our siblings would have washed). And if you didn’t bring out dirty clothes you didn’t have clean ones to wear. As you might imagine the systems that worked the longest were the dishes and laundry.

My mother-in-law pointed something out to me about children though. It’s not about finding a system that works. It’s about finding a system that works for right now. So who cares if your chore system only worked for a year or two. In some ways that’s fine. Your kids change, your schedule changes, your amount of caring changes, you get the idea–there is change. I suppose an ideal system is one that changes with the kids as they change. And maybe each of your kids need a different system.

When I came into my husband’s life our/his chore system started with simple verbal  “do this” or “do that.” On one hand, no problem, but I’m sure you can imagine how easily frustrated kids get of having to wait to find out what they were expected to do. Or on the other hand imagine how hard follow through and consequences are for us adults. We’ve always had electronic (tv, computer, xbox) time directly tied to chores. No electronic time until you’ve done your chores. Well, this meant that the kids come home and have to wait for dad to come home. Then dad gives a chore but finds something else later that needs done. What if the table now needs set but the kids are already watching tv? What’s to motivate them to drop what they’re doing for yet another chore?

Our next system was to fix some of those problems. We bought a dry erase board and wrote four chores for each child on the board. We tried to have this done in the morning so if they wanted to get started before school they could. We had a check box for the kids to mark when they were done.

Wow! Instant results. The kids came home, did what was expected and got their electronic time. Perfect! As adults we also benefited from seeing what we expected the kids to do and were sure not to overload them. Which meant that homework was often a chore.

After about 2 weeks we made a slight modification to this. We had a 2 square check box. One for the kids to check or initial and one for the adult who checked it to initial. The kids are great, however, we started to notice that they often needed someone to help keep them honest. After all “I did my homework!” is great until the teacher says that homework hasn’t been turned in for a week, or “I picked up the stuffed animals in my room!” and yet pink unicorn and white tiger, and rainbow bunny are still sunbathing in the middle of the floor. How consistently we checked varied. As the kids showed greater responsibility we occasionally trusted when they said they were done with a chore and when we noticed a little dishonesty creeping in we buckled down on checking the chores.

Now, one thing we added as well (though not consistently) was that if you didn’t do your chores one day that they would be waiting there for you the next day. In addition to four new chores. I’m sure you can imagine that this system was only mildly successful. After all, if 4 chores was just more than they could possibly do (in their opinion), 6 or 8 or 10 chores was absolutely impossible.

Two of the biggest chores during the school year were homework, and “10 minute review”. The 10 minute review was a way for K1 to practice her spelling words, for K2 to review her math facts, for C to review for a test and for parental units to check backpacks, know what was going on in the kids classes and for kids and parents alike talk about the day and what went on. Adding a 10 minute review (and tons of hard work on K1’s part!) brought a D in English up to an A the next quarter.

When C and K1 had to read daily for school we added that as a chore as well (afterall 30 minutes is a lot of time and should be accounted for!). So often, 3 of the 4 chores were school related. We don’t want to make it too difficult for the kids to kick back and watch a bit of tv to decompress.

Our current system came about this summer (so we haven’t tested it out with the school year). It sought to fix the following problems:

  • not knowing what chore to assign
  • areas of the house progressively getting dirty
  • not having clear expectations (when I say make bed it sometimes means something different than when C says make bed, or when hubby says make the bed)
  • the kids having chores that depended on their sibling doing something first OR having too many people needing the same supplies for their chores

I’ll be honest, I discussed possible ideas with my sister, brainstormed, threw out wishes (like not having to write the same chores again and again on our board), and mulled things over, but she was the main organizer at figuring out something and then executing it.

FIRST, we wrote a list of rooms/areas of the house we want the kids to be in charge of keeping clean. We decided that we are both too anal about how we want the kitchen that we’d rather clean it ourselves, and we also decided that the adults should keep the adult bathroom clean. After all the kids don’t use it so why should they clean it?

SECOND, we wrote a list of any chore we could think we would want done in that room. Including the rare and occasional “dusting.”

THIRD, we typed (read she) up a description of what is expected for each chore for each area, and what supplies to use. This we later printed out and have as a reference book for the kids (and adults). Each chore was numbered. Now, “Vacuum” may be chore number 1, but with it we sub wrote what is expected for specific areas. For example the vacuum entry reads [my comments are in red]:


Vacuum Floor/Rugs

• Everything needs to be picked up before vacuuming. Any piece of trash that is bigger than a quarter must be picked up because it is too large to be vacuumed. [yes, this needed to be specified with our kids] 

• Use vacuum hose and standing tool. Vacuum entire area thoroughly. Double check your area, especially around corners, edges, and by large furniture before going to an adult for inspection.

• All materials used to clean should be put back where you found it.

Entertainment Room: Space in front of couches to wall, beside couches to either wall, behind couches to wall, and behind opened doors.

Bedroom: Entire room floor from wall to wall, under big objects (i.e.: desk, bed), behind doors (if open), and inside closet (if any).

Rugs: Entire big rug and every small rug (4) on same floor as big rug.

The areas listed told where specifically we expected them to vacuum and any specific expectations for that area. We used to have arguments about whether a certain area was part of the “entertainment room” or not. Perhaps it was  little anal, but it’s been helpful having clear expectations.

We also had extra chores such as “Kitchen Helper” where the child checks with an adult of what to do in the kitchen. It may be help make a meal, set table, take out trash, etc; “Bring up dirty clothes” for laundry day; “Take out recycle/trash cans” for trash pickup; and “F.H.E. Planning Time”–we have a family night that we rotate assignments such as snack, lesson, activity, prayer. The kids get really into it, and F.H.E planning time lets them have the time for plan and make a snack, prepare for a lesson, choose a game or activity–you get the idea. With the shcool year I expect to add “Homework”, “10-minute Review”, and “Read for X minutes”.

FOURTH, we typed up a supply index. This lists the supplies and where they are located. No more “Where is the windex?” The kids can look it up and find it themselves. It also was useful for us, we organized where supplies were to make it easier for everyone to find and use them.

FIFTH, we printed the chore descriptions and supply list and put them in sheet protectors in a folder. 2013-07-11_13-36-50_52

SIXTH, we wrote down each of the chores on index cards like thus:


Vacuum Floor


We listed the chore number, the chore title, and the area (if applicable).

SEVENTH, we figure out how we wanted to display them. The are a ton of possibilities of how we could display/post the chores. We could laminate the index cards AND punch holes to hand on thumb tacks, put magnets on the back and post on the fridge or other magnetic board, use velcro, create a sheet protector to slip them into, etc.

We decided to take some of my recipe sheet protectors (they are divided into 2 sections), use a handy dandy x-acto  knife and tape to make 2 pockets into 4 and thumbtack it on our wall with construction paper behind it.


Okay, maybe not the nicest looking but there you have it. It works for us. Figure out what works for you and do it.

EIGHTH, figure out where you’re keeping the index cards. For us we had a cute little index card holder with sections!


Now as to actually assigning chores. We assigned each child with chores for only one room, and no one else had chores in that room. In the image above, C is in the entertainment room, K1 in her bedroom, and K2 in the guest bathroom. How we rotated and make sure that they all were in a different room and that it was a fair rotation was with a chart that only us adult had. You don’t need to make a chart. We only did because we had a lot of areas: Main floor, entertainment room/stairs, bedrooms, laundry room bathroom, guest bathroom, downstairs bathroom. My sister in her epicness also made a chart where we marked who did what chore where/when so that we could make sure we weren’t missing any areas. Once again probably more OCD than the average person needs or wants.

The cool effect of this system of chores was that the house was for the most part really clean. Cleaner than I thought possible. One day we realised that the house was clean and there weren’t really any chores to assign. Say what?! So we did a couple easy write in chores (the benefit of sheet protector is I can use a dry erase to write other things–I recommend having laminated blank index cards just for that purpose) and have a fun day with the kids.

Remeber how we had “accountability” where the kids had to sign off and an adult has to sign off. Now, the kids don’t sign off, but an adult can either: initial with a dry erase marker OR put away the index card to show that the chore has been completed and checked. No, the kids can’t put away the index card. Why? Because they don’t know where we keep them.

Now, a chore system in my opinion needs to do a few things:

  1. Get done the things that need done. This mean things around the house, school projects, etc. There is no reason, for example, that a parents should be the only one keeping the house clean when there are x many able-bodied children around.
  2. Instill a sense of work ethic and responsibility.
  3. Teach children. This may be teach how to keep a house clean–they gotta do it sometime, how to manage finances, or even plan and prepare a meal.
  4. Determine what is “enough.” It’s easy to go overboard and expect too much or want everyone to keep working until everything is perfect. But with work comes play or down time. When the kids have done their chores that’s enough for me.  I’m not going to expect them to do other things. I may ask, but there is no guilt trips or force to get them to do it. Many times though, the kids are willing to be helpful because I’m asking and not demanding.
  5. Demonstrate that our actions have effects or consequences.

Now as to the the last one, if  the kids choose to do their chores or choose not to do their chores there is a consequence or effect from that choice. Sometimes we like the effects and sometimes we don’t.

This generation, 3.0 chore system, involved a huge challenge for me: letting go. We decided that we are not going to harrass, force, coerce, or get emotionally involved in whether or not the kids do their chores. It’s too much work for us, and doesn’t breed positive feelings. Doing or not doing their chores is their choice. But whatever their choice they have to live with the effects.

Our effects or consequences are as follows:

  • If you choose to do your chores:
    • You get to have electronic time.
    • You get to participate in other fun activities we have planned.
    • You gain a sense of accomplishment and get positive feedback from us adults.
    • You have the chance of earning more  than 1 star on the star chart. (I’ll give more about this when I post about the star chart).
  • If you choose to NOT do your chores:
    • You do not earn electronic time.
    • You do not get to participate in other fun activities (though often things we do for “family time” they still participate in. But if we have a craft time or Game Jar time, or Castle Crashers Time etc, sorry they don’t participate)
    • You don’t get that sense that you have accomplished something  that is helping the household.
    • You can only earn 1 star on the star chart for that day. (Even if they did other things to earn more stars, they only get 1 star.)

We tried to have our consequences not be “punishments”.

You don’t have to do electronic time (even if you earn it), it’s not required to survive or get by. I’m not withholding some right or necessary thing for survival. Electronic time is a bonus thing, a privilege, not a right–you earn it by doing chores. In many ways, the same with those other “fun planned activities,” the kids don’t ever have to participate in them if they don’t want to. But, if you do your chores than you are available to.

As to the stars–I will saythis. One star is how you start your day. And you keep it by not making bad decisions (such as yelling, fighting, being destructive or hurtful). You earn more stars by going above and beyond and making very good decisions (such as helping others, noticing things that need done, or doing things to improve yourself).

So choosing to not do your chores isn’t a bad decision. It’s a decision. It’s only “bad” if you don’t like the consequences. Doing your chores is a good decision, but it is what we expect you to do. Doing them very well, without complaint, or quickly (by managing your time) is a very good decision and can earn you extra stars. Beyond that I’ll leave my star chart discussion for my star chart post.

A final note on chore systems. Don’t stress yourself out. If the system is creating more work, more stress and more hassle for you than the benefits (teaching your children and getting things done) it’s not worth it. I’ll repeat: IT’S NOT WORTH IT.

My system may totally be not worth it for you. And who knows, in 6 months it may be that for me. But for right now, it works for us. I know that right now our system involves a lot of “supervision” or adult checking. Hopefully someday I’ll have a system where my kids will know what they need to do (have set things that they know to do either everyday or on certain days) and do it. But not yet. And, that’s okay. Right now, the kids know what to do, know exactly what I’m expecting of them, and in the words of the scout “No more, no less.” I don’t require more, and I don’t accept less than what I’ve explicitly stated.

Here is the word document for my Chore Explanations. This way it gives you a baseline if you want to make your own chore list. Obviously things will need to be changed to suit your house.

Good luck!


One response to “SCH: Chore Board

  1. Pingback: A Summer Home Classroom | Mischief, Mishaps, and Misadventures·

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