Guest post: Chore charts

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Kristy’s last post for a little while (but not for good I hope) is about her favourite chore system. Here she is…

I am a huge fan of this particular chore chart. My son was good at doing chores, but I felt I was always having to remind him and check he had not lost focus on what he was doing. This chart stays in my kitchen and the photos are what he needs to achieve in a certain time-frame. Angela gave us the idea to use photos of their actual stuff as it’s great to show them the standard you would like a chore to be completed to.

He comes into the kitchen after each job has been completed and then checks what else needs to be done. He moves it over to the completed side when done. This saves me telling him anything. It also gives me an indication of progress; if he has not come and reported a job done after 5 minutes has passed it generally means he is off doing something else.

It has taken me a month to get this going properly. He now does it off his own back, I am free of constant reminding him to do things and I can now add more jobs into his day at another time. At Office works you can make a collage that splits a print into 9. Then I just laminated, cut out and used velcro dots.

For more information on age-appropriate chores for children and a number of different chore systems see this post.

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How do you store children’s jigsaw puzzles?

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The “after” photo. All those melancholy organisation junkies out there say aaahhhhh!

After unsuccessfully searching for a suitably priced storage solution for our woefully disorganised jigsaw puzzle cupboard, I decided to come up with my own system. I have been frustrated at constantly having puzzle pieces mixed up, missing and the whole lot in an untidy jumble and sorting the mess out had finally risen to the top of the project priority heap! After looking at several different options that were going to be way too expensive for us, (we own a LOT of puzzles) I settled on clear plastic containers from Kmart.

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The “before” photo. The really scary thing is that I had already taken out about 15 puzzles when I thought to take a photo of what we started with.

We had a marathon puzzle session where the children completed every puzzle we owned and I photographed the finished result. I threw out any that had been missing pieces for years and were unlikely to suddenly be found and those that were broken or very tattered. We gave several of the least loved away to friends and that still left a rather extensive collection, gathered from secondhand stores and markets over the years at a dollar or two each.

I taped the photo of the finished puzzle to the front of the boxes so the kids can see which puzzle is in the container and choose what they would like to do. I also photographed the base boards from puzzles that had a back and attached these photos to the lids of the boxes so they knew to look for the matching board when they took the pieces out. The boards are now standing at the end of the bottom shelf.

I separated the puzzles into three age or difficulty groups so that I can simply direct the twins for example to take any puzzle that has a white dot on the front. (Very frustrating for them to tip out and start a puzzle they have no hope of completing.) Finally, each box is numbered and every piece inside the box is numbered to match so that when a stray piece is found we can easily see which box it belongs in.

I cut the pictures off the boxes of the more difficult puzzles, folded them and stored them in the box too so that the children can use them as a guide if they need to. (The pictures on the front of the box do the job for the simple puzzles but are not large enough for the very complicated ones.)

The peg puzzles are stored in plastic bags that zip or press-stud together that I have kept from blankets, grobags and other gifts that come in suitable packaging. If they get accidentally tipped off the shelf, at least the pieces will stay in the correct bag.

It cost a total of $62 for the containers which was more than I had hoped but a lot less than some methods I came across. It also means that the children are now regularly choosing to sit down and do a puzzle which had not been happening at all in their jumbled state. Plus, every time I walk past I give a little sigh of satisfaction at that organised shelf! One more thing to cross off my list. Now for project 982….

Other posts you may find useful:

Overview of several chore systems; House tidy and spring clean continues

Chores and responsibility: Suggested chores for every age

Fussy eaters and 2 plate dinners

Making pack-away time fun

Junior spy!

We do have chore systems in place and regular daily responsibilities but some days the house just looks like a bomb has hit it and needs a concerted family effort to pick-up and tidy away; a “house sweep” as we like to call it. (A house sweep is also useful when visitors call unexpectedly to tell you that they are just around the corner and will be dropping over in a couple of minutes.)

A house sweep is when we all start at one end of the house and sweep through every room one at a time, picking up and putting away everything that is out of place. Little ones are sent off with simple objects to deliver, middlies are given a specific task in each room and adults and older children work on whatever else needs to be accomplished to get the room looking good. It is not deep cleaning or vacuuming/mopping type of stuff, just tidying, straightening and delivering until it looks good at a glance.

It is quick and easy and with everyone working together it is not too tedious or difficult to do. Some rousing music to sing along to while we work helps to make a positive atmosphere.

A while back though we tried a different variation on the house sweep which was lots of fun and we must do again sometime soon. After a spy birthday party was attended there was lots of talk about spy missions and spy-type activities, so I capitalised on this interest and held “the spy games.”

First mission: Collect ammunition for subsequent missions (aka pack up time.) I had the children wait around the corner while I hid their ammunition (Nerf bullets) all throughout the mess in the games room. The rules were that every item they touched while searching for bullets must be returned to its proper place regardless of whether ammunition was found or not. The spy with the most bullets when the room was tidy was promoted to head spy. The room was picked up in record time – amazing!

Second mission: Defuse the bombs. Moving on to the next mess; the toddler toys, which after mat time were spread half way around the kitchen and dining area and had not yet been cleaned up by said toddlers. (2 toddlers = 2 mats = 2 times the toys to clear up.) Although we usually require the twins to pack up their own mat toys, it can be a long process and as mat time comes just before dinner, we sometimes skip it in favour of everyone getting up to the table while dinner is still hot. The spy mission was to collect all the bombs (toys) in each spy’s designated area before they detonated and place them inside the super strong bomb proof boxes (The toy crates and/or shelves.) The egg timer came out (counting down to detonation) and the bombs were set. Again, clean in record time.

Third mission: Couriers. Spies are given top secret information disguised as ordinary household objects and must deliver it to contacts in a variety of locations before safely returning to the collection point. The contacts of course must remain anonymous so the top secret info has to be delivered to it’s usual place for collection at a later date.

Fourth mission: Bug sweep. You never know where enemy agents have left their listening devices. Areas must be meticulously clean in order to spot the tiny bugs left  for spying on the spies. Blue glass jewels hidden throughout the room provided the impetus for tidying up with the same rules as mission number 1 – if you touch it you must put it away regardless of whether there was a bug or not. The spy with the most jewel bugs is rewarded with a spy knighthood.

Fifth mission: Under attack. This one was just for fun but with a devious purpose. These rainy winter days and coughs and colds mean that no one is getting much outdoor time and excess energy always seems to show up just around bedtime. This one wears them out so we can get them into bed early to catch up on much needed rest. Out came the beanbag missiles (small, hand-held bean bags like you used to use at primary school.) Your mission; to make it from the lounge to the kitchen door in safety while Mum and Dad launch beanbags in all directions. We moved couches out from the walls to create some cover and had at it. The kids giggled uncontrollably the whole time and we had a ball bombing them with beanbags as they crawled, ran and weaved their way through the furniture to safety. We will definitely do this one again, it was a blast.

Routines with a newborn

We now have a lovely updated colour-coded routine on our whiteboard. Of course, the 8th person included in this routine is a baby that hasn’t actually been born yet so things may need some tweaking once the reality hits 🙂 It is however, a very useful exercise to look over my current routine and to plan ahead for the multiple breastfeeding sessions I will need to fit into my day and the interruptions that will invariably come with a newborn.

We will be (and have done with all our children) following a flexible  feed, wake, sleep cycle with our little one which allows me to make a rough plan of approximately where the daily feeds will fall. Of course, some days will not go as planned and we will often have to switch activities that are side by side around to fit a feed in earlier or later than planned. That is where the routine serves us and our family needs, rather than the other way around.

For anyone who is interested, I would be happy to email you a copy if you thought it would be of any help to you and your family. I have been trying to upload it here without success and am sick of fighting with the computer!

Other posts you may like:

The new year organisation and tidy-up continues…

Christmas has come and gone and left behind lots of new toys and belongings to store and old ones to be sorted out and passed on. The spring clean and cupboard empty continues throughout the house. (My husband thinks I’m nesting – I think I’m just getting the house under control again before school starts up and a new baby makes these projects all but impossible!)

The previous year’s projects, papers, drawings, paintings and crafts need to be sorted, chucked or saved. Some of the methods we use to keep precious projects under control are outlined below.

Desks/Ledges: Each child has a designated ledge, windowsill, shelf or desk for displaying models, junk modelling and any other bulky items they have built. When the area is full, they have to decide for themselves what comes down. No mean Mummy throwing out things they love, they make all the culling choices for themselves.

Digital photographs: To make the transition to the bin easier, we photograph the models with the digital camera and print them out to be added to their scrapbooking albums or personal homeschool diary writing books so they have a permanent record.

Pinboards: The children’s rooms have pinboards for displaying their artwork and other projects. When they are full and they want to add a new item something must go into the bin or move to their workboxes. A limit of one item per child is displayed on the fridge at any one time otherwise the forest of paperwork on there gets quickly out of control.

Workboxes: Each person in the family has an A3 box with lid that we long ago covered and decorated with coloured contact. Throughout the year, all paperwork that is not on display (other than homeschool work) is placed here if the children want to keep it. Even Mummy and Daddy have a workbox for all the pictures, paintings, crafts and cards given to us. We show they are valued by keeping them in our special place and try to remember to date them as they go in. As the children’s boxes get filled, they empty them out and only put the most precious items back in again, throwing out the rest. After some time has passed it is easier for them to be more objective about what is and isn’t precious. EVERYTHING is precious when they have just finished it!

House Tidy and Spring Clean Continues…

Sorting the cutlery is one of the first responsibilities we give to our children, usually just after the age of two.

As part of our spring clean week and before the new year really takes off we usually sit down and take a look at our responsibility (chore) system and evaluate how that is working for us. This year, with the twins not yet ready to take on any formal responsibilities, nothing will be changing and our job allocation will stay the same.

We have used several different chore systems over the years, all of which have worked well for a time. (See this post on chores and responsibilities for  more information on chores, which chores to give what ages and much more.) Here are a couple of chore system ideas:

Index cards: Digital photographs of the chore to be completed are stored in a flip box (photo storage container, lunchbox, Tupperware container or similar.) The child starts at the first card, completes the job and puts the card to the back of the stack. Occasionally a “reward” card will be randomly included and a small treat given.

Upside:

  • Photos give clear indication of what is expected.
  • Mum can see at a glance what they should be doing.
  • Easy to update with new chore cards.

Downside:

  • Children flip through entire box every time before starting to see if there is a treat card included and mope when there isn’t.

Scrub the toilet chore card.

Chore packs: photographs or descriptions of the chores are clipped to the child’s clothing (a lanyard could possibly be used) and the child carries this with them as they work, taking out the finished chore and putting it to the back of the pack until they are complete.

Upside:

  • Photos give clear indication of what is expected.
  • Child doesn’t have to come back to a central area to see what is next.
  • Easy to update with new chore cards.

Downside:

  • Mum can’t see what chore they are up to and if progress is being made.
  • Easy for cards to get tipped out or out of order.

Folding chore card.

Velcro chore picture cards and chart: The child moves the velcro backed picture cards from one side of the chart to the other as they are completed.

Upside:

  • Pictures give clear indication of what is expected.
  • Mum can see at a glance what they should be doing.
  • Motivating to the child as they can see their progress.
  • Easy to update with new chore cards.

Downside:

  • Older children can’t be bothered moving the cards after each chore is complete.
  • With larger numbers of children, these charts take up a bit of room on the fridge.
  • The velcro backed cards make a great sound when they are ripped off and are very attractive to toddlers who like to rip them on and off and lose them in the process!

    Doing the folding??? Jock and knicker hats are all the rage.

Laminated chore charts: These have spaces next to each chore for the child to cross off or tick that each job has been completed.

Upside:

  • Photos give clear indication of what is expected.
  • Mum can see at a glance what they should be doing.
  • Children enjoy seeing their progress.

Downside:

  • Not easily updated as chart must be re-made for chores to be changed.
  • Children soon loose interest in ticking them off although they can still follow the chart regardless.

Also "helping" with the folding. Singlet hats are the latest thing!

A simple picture and description list: This is what we are using at the moment. It is simply an A4 piece of paper divided into three columns (one per child) with labelled thumbnail sized pictures representing each chore. It is slid into a plastic sheet protector on the fridge.

Upside:

  • photos give clear indication of what is expected.
  • Mum can see at a glance what they should be doing.
  • It is small, covering 3 children’s chores on one A4 page.
  • Easy to update as it is stored on computer.

Downside:

  • Uses ink to reprint every time you need to update.
  • Not as interesting to use as some of the other systems.

    Dustbusting is another easy job for a toddler to do.

New Year House Tidy and Re-vamp: Kids Bedrooms

This week our whole house spring clean has begun as the new year approaches and bedrooms are the focus. With twins soon to go into big beds, we have had some major room overhauls and re-arrangements to our previous systems, but I thought I’d post how we previously managed room cleaning as it has worked well for us for many years.

Tidying their bedroom is one of our children’s morning responsibilities and must be completed along with a couple of other chores before they come to breakfast. (Nothing like food as a motivator!)

One of the best tools I have found for assisting children to tidy their rooms to the standard I am expecting is to photograph every single part of the room as you want it to look in it’s tidy state. Each child has a poster of these photographs in thumbnail size (plus labels for those who can read) pinned on their bedroom doors.

They simply start at the top of the list and work their way down, making each part of the room look exactly as the picture does. It gives those who struggle to know where to start a specific order and system which helps them not to be too overwhelmed and the older children simply use it as a check after they think they have finished to make sure they haven’t forgotten anything.

When you make your poster, break down the room into the smallest parts or jobs you can think of and photograph each one individually, it’s as simple as that. Our door posters end up with around 12 or 14 pictures which sounds a lot but really helps the little ones to break a large job into smaller parcels that they can easily tackle. The same system works well for any room in the house.

If children come out and report that they are done when they have not completed areas, all I have to say for example is “Does your desk look like it does in the picture?” The child is forced to admit that it does not, which eliminates whining and arguing. I couldn’t begin to count how many times before we started this system a child has come to me and said their room was done (and fully believed this to be the case) when I could immediately see a dozen things that still needed to be put away. Children just don’t see mess through the same eyes we do!!

A few of the photos we have used are included below to give you some idea of what you may choose to photograph in your own child’s room.

A picture of their fully made bed with teddies in place is included, along with a picture of dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and pyjamas under pillows.

Tidy desks and a picture of the inside of drawers too as certain children who shall remain nameless like to tidy their desks by simply sweeping everything into the nearest drawer!

Shelving and contents as they should look.

Yes, this is a picture of the carpet, or in this case a mat on the floor. How else do you show a tidy floor?

Empty bin. The children do not have to empty their waste paper baskets until they are full but before they are overflowing!