Kids in the Kitchen: Tips for creating a motivational chore chart

There is much I have learned from my mother over the years, and this summer, I pulled yet another one of her super smart parenting tips out of my back pocket: the sibling chore chart.

If there’s one thing that has been a complete success this summer, it has to be my boy’s chore chart, which has simplified how the small jobs get done around the house and the homestead.

It’s nothing fancy, just some lines and scribbles on a paper that we made together on the first day of summer vacation. Yep, that’s right, we started the holidays with a firm reminder that they have to pull their own weight around the home.

Kids in the kitchen on

While it’s been great to have jobs completed relatively squabble-free, I’m most appreciative of the scheduled time in the kitchen we have had together thanks to the chore chart.

Each day, the boys have taken turns assisting with breakfast, lunch and dinner. And they’ve done so eagerly and without complaining. Well, most of the time – they are kids, after all!

All of our meals are more relaxed over the summer, so it has been an ideal time to continue their culinary education. Since we already know the benefits of letting (school-aged) kids loose in the kitchen, it’s only natural to want to keep on teaching them.

So we’ve grated zucchini for the best bread ever, made dozens of peanut butter banana sandwiches, and memorized a simple pasta recipe to make from scratch. Perhaps my proudest moment was when Noah ‘invented’ peach lemonade by juicing the fresh peaches and squeezing lemons by hand. He was so tickled pink with himself for creating the flavor, I didn’t have the heart to tell him it had been already been done.

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Kids in the Kitchen: Use a chore chart

I honestly didn’t expect our chore chart to last longer than that first week, during which they obediently performed their tasks, sweeptunder the table after dinner without being asked and filled the cats’ breakfast bowls before coming downstairs for the day, among other duties.

By the second week we were into a groove, each boy taking a turn helping me make dinner while the other played with Clara and kept her out of harm. I kept my comments to myself, but marveled at how I didn’t have to remind them to do jobs, they simply referred to the chart and went on their way. It was like they were under a spell.

After a month, you can believe I was patting myself on the back for coming up with such a good motivational tool that stuck.

chore chart-1

Tips for creating a motivational chore chart for easy household chores.

There are a few reasons why I think our simple chore chart worked:

Equal tasks. Right now the boys are (almost) 8 and 5 1/2. Everything is about ‘fairness’, so the chart has them alternate tasks each day. No one can say “I have to do this all the time” or “I did it last time”. On the flip side, they have equal opportunities for the ‘fun’ jobs, such as collecting eggs, and I don’t have to listen to “he aaaaaalways gets to collect the eggs”.

Simple jobs. None of the tasks on the chart are daunting, and most can be completed in under five minutes.

Assigned jobs when boredom hits. Only when the boys were skimming around the house, causing trouble, did I enforce ‘job time’ on them. I tried never to interrupt them when they were playing nicely. They learned to keep themselves busy, or I’d put them to work!

Complaining gets an extra job. Of course there were always moments in the beginning when one or the other dragged their feet at a task. If the grumbling got too loud, I’d simply assign one more job to the vocalizer, something off the chart, like empty the dishwasher. They learned that consequence quickly, and the rest of the summer went much better.

Include fun stuff too. Along with “Lunch Help” and “Compost” I also made space in the chart for play, which, although this is what they do the rest of the day, they loved having it assigned. I wrote both “Outdoor Play” and “Quiet Play” as I wanted to make time each day for fresh air and sunshine, as well as creative play with arts and crafts.

Rewards. Screen time in our home is not freely given. By zipping through their morning chores, the boys could earn 15 minutes of computer games, Wii, or Netflix.

After the success of the summer,  I’m ready to have the chart laminated and put to good use for the entire winter.

School begins next week and with five of us going different directions, we’re going to need a good solid routine where everyone pitches in. Okay, maybe I’ll let Clara off the hook.

This year.

Do you use a chore chart at home to share household duties?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. La Torontoise says

    Aimee, thank you very much for this idea. I have a little boy (age 8) and we were thinking of introducing the chart in the family with the start of the new school year.
    Thank you for the tips on what criteria work for choosing tasks. Your list is so easy to remember:-)

    All the best!

  2. These kinds of charts are so useful with kids. They call them visual schedules in the educational world. You can use them in your morning routine when school starts to make things flow easily. Just write down the things Noah or Matteo need to do and have them check it off as they go along. Something like brush teeth, put on school clothes, put lunch in school bag…give mom a hug.

  3. Chore charts work well for us too! My kids like to check things off! 🙂

  4. Ahhhh…. the chore chart. For me it was instituted in our Girl Scout trip over a weekend camping trip. The Girls were always willing to make their own chart (starting when they were 7 or 8 years old) for camping trips.
    The concept then became really fun in our family when the three generation, blended family started taking trips to the beach. The young and the oldest were paired to “set the table”, “prepare the meal” and “clean-up” after dinner each day. It was delightful to see the pairings create tablescapes from found objects, and create delicious meals. The real unexpected delight was the lesson learned when “clean up” pair found the kitchen already clean except for the pots and pans. Those tasks were also carried home for years, big boys (well over-6-feet- big) clearing the table and cleaning the kitchen helped by their dad. I am proud to say that all four of our blended family “kids” know their way around the kitchen.

  5. Kaitlin Jenkins says

    Go mamma go! I loved this post and will be keeping this as a reminder for when I have my own children.

    My mother did a form of this for me and my two siblings growing up. She would nearly always be gone to work in the summer before we woke, and would leave a note on the stovetop with our listed chores for the day. She always varied them and we never knew what was coming up on a given day- some days were much work, others much more play.

    We’re all adults now, but she still leaves us notes on the stove when we come home for things she needs help with. These days I’m always tasked to gardening- which I don’t mind at all 😉

  6. I took some time out this past week to sketch out a basic schedule and chore chart for our little family, including the girls in simple tasks around the house is so empowering for them. Right now, its helping with laundry, setting the table and being gentle to sister. 😉 I do like the idea of one child helping with meal prep, we did that growing up and I loved it.

    And that picture of your three is SO adorable. Love it.

  7. The chore chart will be coming to our home soon, very soon. 🙂

    • Chickadeeworkshop says

      Many years ago (30-ish?) I was a stay-at-home mom and summers with three kids ranging from early teens down to age 5 were tough for me. The easiest summer I had was the one where I used the chore chart. It eliminated a lot of squabbling, (most) complaining and even some boredom. Allowances were generous, but if you wanted more on some weeks, you could choose some of the optional “extra credit” items. There were daily chores and weekly ones. It was a fantastic summer. And then I went to work full-time and a whole new system came into play.

  8. One of the most important things we can do as parents for our children’s health long term is to get them involved in helping to prepare home made meals. That’s how I learned the value of making meals at home from my mother. Too many people today live on fast food and pre-made highly processed foods. Great post. Thanks.

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