Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chores for 3 and 4 Year Olds

 We've recently revamped the chores. My oldest, who is almost 5, was asking for a sticker chart for her chores, my almost 3 year old was starting to show signs of laziness and trying to get by on his sister doing all the work, and I was thinking that I really need to get them into a routine of things we do every day. Before this, chores looked like this:
Mama runs around house like chicken with it's head cut off and gives kids random errands, then gets frustrated having to stop and reteach them how to do errand x since it's been 3 weeks since the last time I gave them that particular job. Mama throws up hands and thinks to self, "Now if only I could remember to make them do errand x every day and had the time to reteach it often enough that they did it as a habit and needed less supervising and nagging!"

The Chart
After grabbing spare moments to fiddle around with making a chart, I came up with this one:
This one is my daughter's chart. We're a bit unloyal with the type of stickers, as you can see. Lol! We use whatever they feel like sticking on there for that particular chore. My drawings are not very spectacular but they serve the purpose of helping non-readers remember what needs doing. If they get less than 10 sad faces in a week, they get to pick an item from the dollar tree. As you can see, there are no sad faces this week so far!
They get an X through an item that Mama has excused them from doing on that day. Some rare days we might not have alot of dishes or laundry at the time of day when I can supervise their assistance with these things so I X-cuse (haha) them from that item that day and save it for the next day if it can wait that long or for after they go to bed if it can't. Sometimes I have a prenatal appointment in the afternoon, which kind of reshapes our entire day. We don't usually do school or much for chores on those days, so many items on the list get an X on those days. We don't do chore chores on Sundays for religious reasons, so everything gets an X but the hygene and caring for the stuff we own that could harm someone if left out. Aka toys all over the floor pose a hazard so if they get them out then they will clean them up before bed so Mama doesn't fall when I take the baby in to her crib in the dark after they've fallen asleep.
At the end of the day, if there was anything that they had opportunity and reminder to do and decided to goof off or refuse to do it or throw a distraction at me or a tantrum or any other reason why they COULD and SHOULD have done it and yet did not... then they get a sad face drawn on that square instead of a sticker. At the end of the week we count sad faces and if they got 9 or less sad faces then we get them each a treat that costs a dollar or less. Sometimes it's a sucker or a chocolate or a toy from Dollar Tree. Now, it might be good to note that a couple months ago when we started this new chart, they could get alot more sad faces. This is because they were not used to doing these things often enough to know how to do them all so I was spending hours a day following them around and teaching them these things, building the habits. I wasn't able to spend my entire day doing nothing but chore training and that would have been overwhelming for the kids as well, so there were alot more X's and alot more :('s on our charts back then. It was a process. I decide how many sad faces are acceptable based on my kids' abilities. When learning new chores there are bound to be more of them that the child will try and not be able to do yet and will be frustrated and have a meltdown instead of putting in the effort anyway. (They don't get a sad face if they put forth the effort until I help or excuse them, only if they quit trying and pitch a fit.) I didn't want to punish them for not being able to do something, but I felt it was important to demonstrate that having a meltdown in frustration was a "sad face." So I found a balance that worked for my family by allowing for enough sad faces each week that their overall goal by the end of the week was never unattainable due to frustration in learning new chores. As their abilities increase, their sad face limit decreases accordingly, so that they only wind up penalized at the end of the week (forfeiting their reward) for actual laziness or rebellion rather than childish frustration over inability to do a chore yet.

The Chores
Chicklet will be 5 years old next week, Bug turned 3 years old in August, and we've been working with these new charts since I think about mid-July. Here is a list of what they each are supposed to do for chores on a regular weekday. There are 13 rows on the one in the picture. I have scribbled in a 14th row at the bottom. I've edited my master copy on my computer but have not printed a new chart out since I made that change, so future charts will have 14 chores worth of rows.
-Breakfast [This means that if I've set out bowls of oats or cereal the night before, Chicklet pours the milk for her and Bug and gets them each a spoon. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I get it for them in the morning, like if breakfast will be leftover fruit, or eggs, or something else that won't sit out all night. I also don't allow her the option of handling the milk jug if it is more than 1/3 full because it's too heavy for a 4 year old to control. Regardless, both kids must scrape any soggy leftovers into the trash and put their bowl and utensil into the sink after they are done eating.]
-Brush teeth [I still have to help Bug with his, and I still check Chicklet's after she's done.]
-Brush hair [Chicklet has very long hair and I'm teaching her how to brush it herself. She doesn't have the hang of it yet. That's okay. She'll get it eventually. It's hard to brush long hair! The baby and Bug like to comb their own hair and both have short enough hair that it doesn't really need anything done with it so I praise them for the effort.]
-Make beds [Bug needs alot of help with his- I pretty much do it for him and then have him help me straighten the wrinkles out. Chicklet has no top sheet, just a comforter, so she can do it herself. When teaching her how, I verbally directed her to pull the comforter off the bed by grabbing one side/end of the blanket and then to walk backward onto the bed pulling the blanket back onto the bed from the opposite side/end it was drug off by. Her mattress is on the floor right now so there is no headboard or footboard to make things difficult, and she has very little if any trouble making her bed alone now. I can tell her to go do it now and then go check it after she's done.]
-Trash/Toilet Paper [Chicklet gets the 3 little bitty bedroom and office trashes and dumps the contents into one of the big trash cans in either the bathroom or kitchen. Bug opens the little TP cabinet that holds 5 rolls and fills it if it is needed. Sometimes he likes to stack the rolls and knock them over like block towers a few times before he puts them in there. ;) He's 3 and he doesn't horse around for too long and always gets them in there after he's done being silly so I humor him.]
-Dust [I give each kid a dry rag to wipe surfaces with. I'm not really concerned about dusting but I praise them like crazy and they think they are so helpful and it's so much fun to dust so that's why it's on here. At least this way my house kind of sort of gets dusted. If it were left up to me I'd dust once a year...]
-Laundry [Chicklet is learning how to fold socks. She can do washcloths and underwear and hand towels/dish towels also. She hangs up her play clothes and puts away her socks and undies. Bug is learning how to fold the washcloths. He's not as meticulous about it as his sister. ;) ]
-Lunch [Usually a PB&J so their job is to wipe up the crumbs afterward. Occasionally it's leftovers so then they scrape the bits into the trash afterward and put their bowl and utensil in the sink.]
-Special [This one is here in case they do something special that I need done that day so they can have a place to put a sticker for it. Sometimes I'll have Chicklet clean up the baby's toys or Bug washes the front door or a wall with a spray bottle of water and a rag. Sometimes something else. Usually with Chicklet it's something I need done that she can do unsupervised, and with Bug it's a project I think he will enjoy and feel helpful doing while I do schoolwork with big sis. We don't have a "special" chore every day or even most days, but it's there in case I need extra help or the kids need a project to get their attitudes back on track. They do not get a sad face for this one unless I give them a "special" chore that is not optional and they refuse or say they will and then don't do it (a lie). I've never had to give a sad face for a special chore not getting done, BTW. :) ]
-Schoolwork [Not really a chore but they like to get a sticker for it. Chicklet has just started My Father's World Kindergarten and we are simultaneously doing Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, which she's about 1/3 of the way through. Bug pesters me until I let him read a few letter sounds from the first 3 lessons in Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, so we call that his schoolwork. If he forgets to ask me to do it I just "X-cuse" him from it on the chart that day since he's 3 years old and not really "doing school" yet except when I'm humoring him. ;) ]
-Dishes [Chicklet is teaching Bug how to put away the flatware. I'm teaching her how to teach him with gentleness. ;) Both kids like to stack and hand me the similar cups and bowls to put in the upper cabinet. Chicklet can put away most of the lower-cabinet items herself and I'm teaching her how to load the dirty flatware without putting too many of the same item going the same direction in the same hole (which ends up making a dirt-sandwich and not getting clean between them) and where to place certain types of items in the dishwasher (such as plastic in the top rack, pots and pans and cookware in the bottom rack, bottle parts in the bottle part basket...). I work much faster than them at the dishwasher, obviously. So I just go at it as fast as I can while I set them to doing the flatware. If they finish before I'm done I have them stack cups or put away the bottom rack. At this point Bug loses interest and I thank him for his help and excuse him. Chicklet starts loading the flatware and I load the rest. They take turns getting to put in the soap and push the on button so if it's Bug's turn I call him back for that. It's their favorite part of course. Usually they are slow and barely wind up getting the flatware put away before I'm done unloading and reloading everything else but occasionally they're speedy and motivated and get to do alot more. I don't sweat it. I encourage them to pay attention if they get distracted but I don't really mind if they take the whole time to do the flatware at this point. Someday soon Bug will be capable of doing it all by himself and I'll have Chicklet unloading the lower-cabinet things while he does that. And then she'll be old enough to unload and reload most of it herself and I'll have Bug teaching Babykins the flatware and I'll teach him how to load the dirty flatware, and so on. In time.]
-Clean room [Every evening when my DH gets off work, he calls me and tells me he's on his way, so I know to make sure supper's in the works. When he calls I tell the kids that Daddy's on his way and while I work on supper, they clean their toys up. When they tell me they're done I go inspect at my first opportunity. As soon as possible so I don't forget!]
-Supper [If there's anything little kid friendly to do when they're done cleaning their toys up I allow them to help. I put the dishes on the table and Chicklet sets the plates or bowls out and Bug does the flatware. After supper they scrape their dishes and put them in the sink. Chicklet washes the table and Bug washes the chairs.]
-Brush teeth [At bedtime. Because if it's not on the chart, this is the getting ready for bed thing that always gets forgotten!]

So as you can see, most of it at this point is simple hygene and cleaning up after themselves. A few are actually real home chores like the laundry and dishes. Many are just on there because they are things that kids enjoy, like dusting, and kids love to feel helpful and be praised for being helpful. If they're feeling overwhelmed or we're caught up enjoying each other and everyone is being sweet and helpful on their own I make liberal with the X's so it's a light chore day. If they're having an ornery day I make sure they keep on track and do all their chores so they have less time to get into mischeif. Cranky kids are best kept really busy... ;)

I think I've explained it to death but when I'm pregnant my brain has holes like swiss cheese! So if there's anything else you want to know, feel free to ask and I will answer as soon as I can! :) Thanks for stopping by my little blog today!

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Chart, Mama! I have tried so many times to start one of these, and it never does work out. You've inspired me to try again (and spend less time on aesthetics and more on results). I applaud your follow-through. BTW - I bought a plastic quart milk jug for S. to pour from. I'll just keep filling it from the gallon, but that way it's never too heavy for him to lift.


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