Family Work: Chore Charts and Other Motivators

Let me help you catch up on your work. Past posts in the Family Work series:
Principles and Vision
If Mama Ain’t Happy
Are My Kids Allergic to Work?

Chore Charts

There is a schedule from morning until bedtime, so that they know what to expect — what their goals are, what they are aiming for, what they try to get done. But realistically, if everything happened on that schedule in one day, it’d be a miracle. ~Michelle Duggar, mother of 19

Chore charts only work if you do. ~Heidi, mother of 1

I am a list-writer. I need to see my tasks written out on paper in order to organize them on my mind. I get a great amount of satisfaction from crossing items off my list. In fact, I have been known to write in something I have already accomplished, just so I can cross it off. In the same way, chore charts and other chore tracking systems can be great. They serve a dual purpose of reminder and motivator.
One word of caution though: keep it simple.
I mean, who doesn’t like to earn points, stickers, cash and prizes? No one, that’s who.
But work can be rewarding in itself: a sense of accomplishment, pride and increased self-confidence for a job well-done. Be careful that the external rewards do not eclipse the internal ones.

Our Chore Tracking Systems
The chore box: index cards with a task written on the front and instructions on the back. We kept them filed in a decoupaged recipe box.
Chore box
We started using this system when Newt was about 7. Click through for more details. Original chore box post
(Note: In this post, Newt was referred to as Newt.)

Our chore box worked really well for a couple of years… and then it didn’t anymore.
Tip: If you find that your chart is not being used much anymore, it may be time for a change – a new system can be a great motivator too.
Keep these questions in mind when you buy or create your chore tracking system.

  • Is it easily modifiable for those times when things get stale?
  • If not, is it inexpensive and/or easy to make?
  • If not, can I resell it?

After some trial and error, I came up with a new system using clipboards. I thought about the things that needed to be done daily: (morning, afternoon and night) and weekly. I paid attention to the things I felt I was having to nag remind Newt about on a regular basis, such as “Did you make your bed this morning?
I used these things to make daily and weekly to-do lists.
newt's clipboard
To see a PDF of all of our (yup, I have one too) chores, click below.
mama’s clipboard
newt’s clipboard
I printed our lists on bright colored paper, slipped them into plastic page protectors, and clipped them to our clipboards. These hang on hooks in our school room.
Every morning, we each grab our clipboards and use them to do our daily chores. We use a dry erase marker to cross off completed items. When we are done, we trade clipboards and inspect each others’ work. (I discussed inspections last week.)
This system has been working well for us for quite awhile. Whenever chores need to be adapted, I open my clipboard word document, make the changes and print a new one. Easy-peasy.

Chore Charts on Social Media
I used the search function on Pinterest to find all kinds of chore chart ideas. See my Chore Chart pinboard to view them all .
pinterest chore charts

I also asked my facebook fans about what kinds of systems their families use for chores. I loved this comment by Alissa:

Best way my mom kept track was at the beginning of the school year we each got to write down several chores we wanted to be in charge of and why. We also wrote down what we thought the other siblings should have to do and why. Then Mom picked and those were our chores assigned for the rest of the year and following summer. Never rotated during the year. Helped mom keep track and be consistent. Our jobs also had a time frame. For example, setting the table had to be done by 5pm. Weekend cleaning had to be done by noon on Saturday or else no fun. Same with weekday chores and Friday chores. They all had to be done before fun happened.

You would certainly be an expert at your assigned chores by the end of the year. Seems like it would eliminate all of the “but it’s not my turn!” arguments.

Other Motivators

For younger children – make it fun.

  • Sing together or put on some fun music.
  • Use your imagination (see Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books for great ideas.)
  • Give important sounding names to jobs (i.e. sanitation engineer).
  • Give younger children their own tools. (Apron, feather duster, spray bottle and sponge, miniature gardening tools)
  • Think outside the box – put on a pair of dad’s old socks, dip them in warm soapy water and “ice-skate” to clean the floor.

For older and younger children – make it meaningful.

Chores must be real. That is a challenge in our modern times… Chores cannot be arbitrary or they simply pit parental will against youth will. If chores are necessary to the family’s well being, responsibilities that really matter, they build skills, character and leadership. If this means you need to make significant changes to your lifestyle, then do it. If the choice is between maintaining your lifestyle or raising leaders, make the right choice. ~ Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, Oliver and Rachel DeMille

Homework: Your turn ~ share your chore tracking system with us. Leave a comment or link-up to your blog post (old or new).
Remember: the last post in this series (September 5) is a “work-party”. I’ve lined up sponsors for some fun giveaways. If you link up to any post in this series, you will automatically be entered to win.

PS: Next week we’ll be talking (and linking up) about chores and allowance. I’d love if you shared your posts, new or old.

Amazon affiliate links are being used. If you purchase an item from Amazon from one of my links, I get a small commission.
I’m linking this post up with Works for Me Wednesday.


  1. I can post comments now!!!! It must have had something to do with our internet provider- we just switched.

    Anyway, I swear I am not writing these posts simply so I can be the first to link up to your carnival- but your posts have had family work on my mind the past few weeks and really made me look at how I have been running things in my home and what I need to improve. Some things I do really well, but there were a number of things I need to change, the my expectations for my children when it comes to work was one of them. I still don’t believe in “forcing” them to do chores… but that ends up being semantics, really. Even before I read your post, I spent a good portion of today revising our system (please see my linky above). It is uncanny, but I just made morning, noon, and night lists for us (one for me and one for the kids, since their chores are the same/similar) that are really similar to yours. I was channeling flylady at the time, though, since I hadn’t read your post yet.

    • Brandi, that’s awesome! You probably see some shades of flylady in my lists too. 🙂
      Thank you so much for commenting and linking up. I’m heading over to read your post right now.

  2. We don’t have a system. We need a system. DH doesn’t believe in systems. Can you sense the chaos yet?

    • Kelly – Oh dear. Have him read this post. Maybe something will resonate. 🙂

  3. I’ve tried many varied approaches. Changing the word “schedule” to “routine” and other things. He’s just not wired that way. It’s both endearing and enraging, lol.

  4. Thanks for inviting me to the linky party!! I’ll be back because I need some tips on allowances:) My 7 year old twins want to negotiate the $2 a week I offered them – LOL!!!

    • Melissa – I’m so glad you came! Your twins sound sharp. 🙂



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