Monday, April 23, 2012

A Responsibility Chart for Toddlers/Preschoolers

So, we were struggling with out daughter's behavior as soon as she hit 4 years old.  My husband and I are both teachers, so you know she's not allowed to get away with ANYTHING!  We run a pretty tight ship around here.  In the mornings, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get out of the house on time without some sort of breakdown from my daughter.  There is nothing more nerve-wracking for me than the prospect of being late for work!

Here is where I would like to thank Caillou!  Caillou is a cartoon about a little 4-year-old boy.  We recently saw an episode where Caillou and his mommy make a responsibility chart and Caillou makes his own stickers to put on the chart.  I kind of took it to the next level!  LOL

With all the ideas running through my head to make the best responsibility chart EVERY, I went to the Hobby Lobby.  It's like Michael's or JoAnn Fabrics, but better!  I saw on Pinterest a responsibility chart that used a mirror with magnets so I knew I wanted to do something similar.  As I wandered around the store, I found this.....
a really cool pink and white damask metal hanging "board!"  From there, my idea "took off!"  I ended up buying a package of small round magnets and a bunch of puffy sparkly stickers....ones I knew Ella would LOVE!  

On our way home from daycare that day, I talked to Ella about the "project" we were going to be working on.  She was SO excited!  She couldn't wait to start making her very own magnets for her very own responsibility chart....JUST like Caillou!


After the magnets were done, and Ella was in bed, I got to working on Ella's actual chart.  I wanted it to be something that could be reusable.  Because she's only 4, I knew I needed to use more pictures than words.  I made template for the chart in excel and then waited for Ella to help finish it the next day.

I sat down with my daughter and asked her what things she thought she could do all by herself, without mommy and daddy helping.  Here is the list she came up with:

  • Get myself dressed
  • Go potty by myself
  • Put my dishes in the sink
  • Clean up my toys
  • Lay out my clothes
This was a great list!  I was really proud of her for coming up with these things!  I had her sit at the computer with me and pick out images to go with each of the things she wanted on her responsibility chart.  I wanted there to be a spot on the chart for "extra" things she did to help her dad and me. So, she picked out pictures of some butterfly "jewels" for that spot.  Here's how it turned out.
She picked out all the colors and pictures!

I laminated this chart and put it on her board, then hung it up in the kitchen.
I put all her pretty, colorful magnets around the outside of it.

Here's how it works....
Each day we encourage all the things on her chart by saying "Can you go do _____ for me, so you get to put a magnet on your chart today?"  She runs off to do it.
We're 9 days in now, and she does most of it without us even asking!  We still say encouraging things like, "Good job getting dressed by yourself, Ella!  That was really helpful to mommy and daddy!"  Positive encouragement is key here!

We changed a few things around the house in order to make this endeavor more successful.  The TV doesn't go on in  the morning until AFTER she gets dressed and goes potty.  (She used to watch about 20 mins of TV while I finished getting ready and THEN got dressed.)  She also likes to watch Caillou before bed, so the TV stays off until her clothes for the next day are laid out, her teeth are brushed, and she's gone potty.  This works PERFECTLY!!!!

At the end of the day, we stand at her chart talk about each of her responsibilities.  She gets to choose one of her fun magnets to put on her chart for each responsibility she has completed.

This week, she filled in all the spots on her chart and earned 6 "extra" magnets for doing extra things that helped her dad and I this past week.

Now, here's how it works.  If ALL the spots are filled in on her 5 responsibilities, she gets to put a handful of fruit loops into a jar.   This is a big deal in our house because we don't buy sugar cereal!  It's purely a colorful, cheap way to fill a jar! 

 This is the jar we are using....
This was the jar we used when potty training Ella. It was a cheap plastic jar from Walmart filled with super cheap "prizes" each time she went poo poo on the potty. It was decorated with pretty stickers.  It's been sitting around my house and I've finally found another use for it!!!  It is now her "Responsibility Chart Jar."
If there are empty spots on her chart, she can use the magnets from her "extras" spot to fill in the blanks.

This week, her chart was full, so she started with one handful of fruit loops in the jar.
That's a couple fruit loops you see in her mouth.  I made the mistake of telling her she got to eat the ones she dropped.  Oops!  LOL  She tends to "drop" a few now!

Here's where the really fun part comes in!
Because Ella had 6 "extra" spots filled in, she got 6 EXTRA handfuls of fruit loops in her jar!!!

Here she is after 7 handfuls of fruit loops in her jar!

When this jar is all full, Ella gets to go with me or her dad and pick out a $5 prize.  It's gonna be a while, but the prospect really excites her!

Now, it's your turn to get creative!!!!  You know your child best.  Pick responsibilities you know your child can be successful at.  Stick with a fair number of things that are doable.  You don't want your child to be discouraged from the get-go!  You don't have to give prizes if you don't want to.  The reward for filling up the jar could be special time with mommy and daddy.  Our prizes will change over time so that she doesn't get stuck on the prospect of just one thing.  We want to keep it "fresh!"  As Ella grows, her responsibilities will change.  We'll go back to the excel document and edit as we need.

I hope this inspires you to get your child on the "Responsibility" bandwagon!  Just today, Ella told me,  "No mommy, that's MY responsibility!"  I LOVE hearing those words!  She said it with such pride!  It warmed my heart!  I know we're doing right by her.  We're so proud of her!

If you have questions, or would like me to email you the excel document so you can use it with your child, please email me at

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  1. I love your chart and reward system, Hope! My son just turned 5 and I'd like to get him started with something very similar. I too have found that holding off on a cartoon until after he's dressed in the morning is KEY for him. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. This is great! I have two girls, ages 3 and 4.5, and it seemed like turning 4 brought out a defiant streak in the eldest. I just got a responsibility chart last week for each girl. but I'm still fiddling with it to find the best way to use it in our family. I like the ideas here that make it personalized, as well as the idea of putting items into a jar for rewards. We've just been counting check marks, but that's not nearly as exciting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I put together a "Chore Chart" for my 4 year old lastweek. We are using a Pocket chart on the left side is a pic of a Sun and underneath is a pic of Moon and stars- so he has "chores" morning and night. Morning ones are to go potty, brush teeth, get dressed, and then read at least 2 books- with us or alone. Not that he can read all that well- but to read the pics and then tell me the story! Night time "chores" are getting on pj's, brush teeth, and go potty. Each chore is on a 3"x6" card with a pic and the written word. Once he completes each activity HE gets to move the cards to the COMPLETED row. If he does all the AM chores then he gets a sticker to place on a graphed piece of paper, same goes for the PM chores. Once the sticker chart is filled he gets to do something "fun" like chuckie cheese or a hiking date with the family. It really is working well for us and he loves being able to move his own card!!! I think the key to getting kids to get excitited about this is have them involved. We also use a stop light like card in the pocket chart and a clothespin with his name to help him with behavior and making good choices through out the day- since I have him all day with LB thats 1.5 years old. And they tend to have moments of crazyiness between the 2 of them.
    Thank you Hope for posting and it's nice to know what you do with your children and get to know you a bit better other than through your crockpot recipes- which btw I LOVE them- I praise the stuffed meatloaf to everyone who will listen!!!
    Tamara- Ocala, FL

    1. I love your idea Tamara! This sounds like something a teacher would do! Are you a teacher?

      It's nice to get to know all of you as well! Thank you so much for the kind words! It's comments like these that "fuel" me and keep me going!

  4. I love this thank you so much. I am trying this ASAP!