Kids & Chores


I received this email on Tuesday:

“A l-o-n-g time ago, you posted a story about the chore system you used for your kiddos (maybe 2007/8 ish). I didn’t have children at the time, but remember thinking it was a good system. Now I have a seven year old daughter and I’m looking to revamp our system. Do you remember what it was? If there is a way I could find it, it would be greatly appreciated.”
— Gina
This is an Amazon affiliate link. 

This is an Amazon affiliate link. 

The CRAZY thing is I still use the same system, so YES, I remember what it was, ha!

I use mini clipboards, like these. My boys are nearly grown, but Addie is the perfect age (still) for this self-directed approach to chores and other daily tasks. To create a sense of ownership from the get go, I let each child buy a can of spray paint and use it to personalize their clipboard. They can also use some of my pattern paper to cover the backside if they want. This might sound silly, but it's important!

In the beginning I just made up a list of morning tasks that I wanted/needed each child to do so they would be ready for school—which proved to be SUCH a time and energy saver, because as the mom you're not having to remember and remind, ie. "Did you brush your teeth?" "Do you have your backpack?" "Did you make your lunch?" etc, you simply need to say, "Got your clipboard? Let me know if you need help with anything!" It totally gives them accountability for getting themselves out the door. They are also required to mark each item off as they go, so that they know where they are in the preparation process. Once they were all off to school, I gathered up clipboards. When a clipboard has all of the tasks marked off, I removed that day's checklist and slipped a dollar bill under the clip. The clipboard then goes back in the bin on our kitchen counter, ready for the next day. If there are items not checked off, I leave the clipboard on the kitchen table, so that I could follow up after school—maybe they didn't have time to make their bed, or empty their laundry bin—totally ok! I don't always get through my list either, but there is no $1 reward for an incomplete clipboard. If tasks are left unchecked and I find out later that the task was in fact actually done, the kid still forfeits his reward. Checking off the list IS PART OF THE TASK. Trust me, kids learn this one quickly. 

After a mostly successful school year with much less stress in the mornings, I decided to try summer clipboards. This is when I learned a valuable lesson. Kids want to help design their task list. So now, whether its for school or summer, I have the child (mostly Addie at this point) come stand by my computer when we are updating her list. She tells me what she needs and wants to accomplish each morning/day and we put it on the list. There are (of course) things that as a member of our family a child needs to do—and we discuss those chores and tasks as well. I say often, "This is just one of those Team Julian things." which means we are a team and we all get to pitch in. Quite often I let them choose from a list of possible chores which really helps when it comes to compliance.

Below are several examples of actual clipboard task lists that I still have saved on my computer. You can see as you scroll through that they vary depending on the kid and the season. If there are blank tasks on a list that means we would update them everyday. Often during the summer, my older boys got a daily chore from Dad and Mom, and they could customize other required tasks and then just report what they did on their clipboard. You'll see what was probably the last clipboard I created with Trey (in 2015) when he was a sophomore, so this system can work really well for older kids, especially as you involve them in designing it their way! 

I created my lists in Microsoft Word, landscape orientation, and then after printing, cut them to 5" x8" which fits perfectly on the mini clipboards. How many checklists you print is totally up to you. Initially, you might want to print just enough for a week and then revisit the tasks and make adjustments. I usually print 15 copies, which is 30 checklists. You can also decide to list tasks in the order of importance and talk about that together as well. The more decision making power you give a child—especially as they grow, the better! Kids in the 8, 9, and 10 years LOVE to be given this kind of accountability. 

School Year Clipboards: Tasks on the school year clipboard need to be done in the morning before they go to school. I have created an after-school portion of the list from time to time, but we've never been very good at follow-up with these and the $1 daily allowance is only for morning tasks.

Summer Clipboards: Chores on the summer clipboard need to be completed before any type of screen time is allowed OR before any other plans are made. So, stuff like making their bed, picking up room, etc. But beyond that, summer tasks are definitely more fun-ish, like we might discuss summer goals and add exercise, reading, math worksheets, drawing, etc.. to the list. If you ask your child how they want to prepare for the next year in school, they will likely suggest things they want to be practicing. They may say something like, "I have to know ALL of my multiplication facts for 4th grade!" To which you can respond, "Do you want to add one sheet of math facts to your clipboard?" Again, when kids choose, kids do a much better job of follow-through. You can also build in limits and encouragement as well. You might list "Watch a movie" (which means just ONE per day) or "Do something creative" or "Play a board game" or "Look at scrapbooks" so that they are engaged in lots of different ways throughout the day. With summer clipboards, I gather them up after bed, so they have all day to finish the whole task list. 

Clipboard money is the only kind of allowance my kids get and they get to decide whether they earn $5 a week or not. I LOVE that. To keep them motivated it's a good idea to help them know when to spend their money. So, last night for example, Addie came to me and said, "Mom how am I supposed to paint a squishy when I'm all out of white paint?"
To which I replied, "I don't know Addie. It sounds like you need more paint? This is what your clipboard money is for! I can take you after school tomorrow and we can purchase more paint!" 
I generally provide items a kid needs for a new project or hobby, but then when they need to replenish those supplies, its up to them! I also have them pay for any treats or outings with friends. So if one of my kids said, "Mom, can Nick and I ride our bikes to McDonalds for a milkshake?" I would say, "Absolutely! Aren't you glad you've got clipboard money!" 

I think this is a pretty good overview, but I'll answer any questions you leave in the comments. Creating this system and perfecting it for my family has been one of the BEST things I've ever done as a parent. It puts your kid in the drivers seat for accomplishing required daily tasks. One day several years ago—and then for about a week—I noticed that Taft was adding, "Hugs & Kisses from Mom" to his clipboard. After that we made it a standard requirement, ha!