When life gets busy, there are three things that keep me sane.  

1) Chore charts.  Everyone is helping, so I am not burdened by every little thing that needs to be done.  I STILL have to follow-through and make sure kids do their chores, but they get done. There are no privileges (TV, Computer, Trampoline, Friends, etc...) for those family members who don't complete chores by 2 O'clock.

2) Menu Plans.  I'm not married to them, but it sure is nice to have an idea of what I need to have in the fridge, and what to say to "What's for dinner, Mom?"

3) Daily Schedule.  Don't misunderstand. This one is a struggle for me, but when I keep a ledger of what everyone is doing with their time, I see WHERE it's being wasted, what needs are and are not being met and more importantly WHERE I CAN FIT THEM IN.

Here's our current meal plan:

Two Week Menu
Two Week Meal Plan. Click to see it full size.
_There are menu planning resources in my post, Menu Planning Made Easy.

For creating chore charts, check out my Chore Workshop Series.

Next: Planning Your Day
or The Schedule-Phobe's Guide to Organizing Your Day

Chore Workshop Series, Part 2
Implementing a Routine

My children start helping around the house at a young age. It isn't forced on them, they want to help. Preschool children do not see chores as drudgery, but as an opportunity to mimic mom, dad and older siblings. Some children will be able to perform "chores" as early as age 2. Some children will be reluctant to begin a chore routine, but in my previous post, "Kids and Chores: Mobilizing the Help-Force in Your Home" are helpful insights to get them (and you!) going. If you have not yet read Part 1 of this series,  I highly recommend you read it before beginning.

If you have never implemented a chore routine in your household, it might take a few tries to "tweak" your children's list of responsibilities. I have used chore charts for years, and ours are always changing, because of changes in our home (like a new pet...) or changes in the season. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few tries for you to get it right for your home.  Be on the look-out for neglected tasks.  These are perfect for chore lists. You know, those things that bring your blood to a boil instantly, because they happen all the time. Like those shoes that are always in the middle of the entry-way...

Involving your children in the process of creating chore lists may be helpful too.  My son hates dusting, but doesn't mind vacuuming; His older sister prefers dusting, so giving him the vacuuming job, and  delegating dusting to my older daughter is arrangement that is more agreeable to both.  Of course there are chores around the house that are dreaded by  by everyone, so we all take a turn doing them.

Files from my own chore system are found below.  I have included chore charts that have already been filled out, so you can see what my children do, in addition to some of my blank chore charts that you may customize to fit your own needs. You will find that the lists for my older children include daily "Zones," which are manageable areas of the house that we clean each day.  Cleaning "zones" was a request from my children, who preferred breaking up the work during the week, rather than spending many hours, cleaning the entire house in one day.

Also included is a picture chart for "pre-readers,"  complete with clip-art.  You can certainly make your own using Microsoft Word, as I did, or simply print out blank charts.  Little ones may enjoy customizing them with stickers or photos clipped from magazines.  I keep mine in page protectors on the refrigerator, and kids check off their jobs with dry-erase markers.  This may not be the best system for younger children, as the pens stain clothing.  With younger children, I prefer to use disposable charts with small stickers from the office supply store.

Additionally, I have included a printable "Tips for Success" sheet with helpful hints to help get the ball rolling. 

Finally, you will find links to very specific pages on sites that feature lists of chores by age. Of course, you can automatically assume that the tasks that are  appropriate for younger children will certainly be easily accomplished by older children.  Because of this, you may want to read through the lists that are for children younger than yours, just in case there is something on them that you want to use. Please leave me your comments, letting me know if this is helpful to you, or even your suggestions or helpful links to share.

Chore Charts: Filled Examples or Blank

Tips for Success
File Size: 12 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Example-2 Week Chore Chart
File Size: 23 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Pre-Reader Chore Chart-Girl
File Size: 687 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Pre-Reader Chore Chart-Boy
File Size: 712 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Blank Chore Chart - One Week
File Size: 7 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Blank Chore Chart - Two Weeks
File Size: 8 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

Free Resource Links

Age Appropriate Chores
Chores for children, listed by age from Homeschool-Your-Boys.com: Lists of chores for every age, from preschool to teens.  Perfect for boys or girls!

Detail Cleaning List for Zones
Chores by "zone" from FlyLady.net:FlyLady has divided the home up into five zones. Don't worry if you think you have more than that in your own home.

Trade Chores With Your Kids
And other creative tactics from Focus on the Family: In the series "Motivating Kids to do Chores" The author of this segment had an epiphany that changed the way she responded when her kids neglected their responsibilities.

How To Convince Kids to Use a Chore Chart 
Helpful motivation tips from the Housekeeping.About.com Series "10 Ways to Get Kids to Use a Chore Chart" Featuring sound strategies for motivating kids to help.

Preschool Planner Pages & Chore Chart
Printable preschool chore chart from ShepherdingtheLambs.Blogspot.com Simple PDF chart, perfect for little ones.

Free PDF Chore Charts
Free themed chore charts from ChoreCharts.com: Choose from daily, weekly or monthly printable chore charts, with themes and colorful graphics. Simply print and fill in.

DTLK's Custom Chore Chart
A totally customizable chore chart generator at DTLK-Cards.com: You can even choose cartoon characters or themes to personalize them further.

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Chore Workshop Series, Part 1
Mobilizing the Help-Force in Your Home

Let's face it: Unless you are superwoman, managing your household can be overwhelming. Perhaps you are one of those rare people who can run a business, keep an immaculate home, and coordinate your church's food bank.  Many of us - myself included - cannot.  The good news is: That's okay. It's even better than okay, it's great! Our humanity provides us with an opportunity to teach our children some very valuable skills.  Things like household maintenance, time management, and cooperation.  None of us lives in a vacuum, and learning to help around the house shows our children that as each of us contributes to the use of our home, each must help in it's upkeep as well.

Tips for Success

Make it a Team Effort
Work side by side with your children, especially at first. One mom I knew was frustrated, because no matter what she did, her daughter could not remember to put her clothes in the hamper. After asking some questions, I realized this was not a discipline issue, it was a a habit. I suggested she stay close by every time her daughter got dressed---at least for a week or two---and remind her daughter to put the clothes in the hamper before they went on the floor. It worked! Her daughter learned to form a new habit---placing items in the hamper.

Be Specific
To most kids the phrase, "clean your room" is very vague and overwhelming. “Pick up your Legos and put them back into the Lego box.” is better.

Be Obvious
Keep chore charts where you can see them every day so you will keep them current.  If they are in a drawer in your kitchen, nobody will remember to follow them.

Be Consistent
Make sure chore charts are marked every day, and that rewards and consequences are given in a timely manner.

No Fun ‘Till Work is Done!
Really. If your kids ask, “Can I watch my show?” or “Can I go outside?” or "Can I take a break and play on the computer?"  Get into the habit of asking them, “Have you finished your chores?”

A Place For Everything...
And everything in it’s place.
  For example: Shelves in closets, shoe boxes or plastic storage boxes. In short, make sure your child’s things can be put away.  For younger children, it is helpful to label shelves or boxes with pictures, so they can remember where things go.

Wiggle with Purpose
After doing a Math assignment, kids might benefit from a chance to wiggle (constructively) by feeding animals or taking out the trash.

Keep Chores "On File"
Instead of a chart or list, create a "card file" with all of the chores detailed on 3 X 5 cards. (Kept in a convenient place...) When your child completes a task, she can move that card from the "To Do" pocket/envelope/box into "Done."

Help Yourself
Lily Tomlin said, "Ever feel like your brain is made of Teflon, and nothing sticks?" Yes! I will make a plan to affect change in my household, and then, summarily forget. So, I have developed a habit of writing sticky notes to place on my mirror or set alarms on my cell phone---whatever keeps me on-track. Additionally, I write notes on my calendar to remember rewards and consequences given.

Be a Good Example
Whenever possible, put things away immediately, hang up your clothes and put your dishes in the dishwasher.

Teach Them to Plan Their Day
Some kids will quickly figure out that “Finishing my checklist means I can do what I want!” Others never do… sigh.

Keep a “Redemption box.”
After your kids have a chance to put their belongings away and they don't, put those items into a box. To be able to "redeem" those items in the box, you can have your kids do extra chores around the house.

Charge for “Maid Service”
A nickel, dime, or quarter charged for each item adds up quickly. (My kids do not have the option to pay or not to pay. Just like when your car is towed, you must pay to get your car from the impound lot---don't ask me how I know that, LOL!)

Strike One, Two, Three!
Thinking of a consequence for every little struggle gets tedious, try giving “strikes.” For example: “I asked you to do your chores once already and you didn’t, that’s strike one.” After three strikes they lose a privilege.

Warning Signs
If you are yelling or nagging, chances are you are not following through with consequences.

Look for Success
If your child does his chores without being asked, or is “caught being helpful” give bonus points toward a movie rental, a game played with mom or dad, or a special treat of some kind. We give plastic "tokens" that they save in a jar for new books, small toys that they have been wanting, or a "night off" from helping with dishes.

Be Ready
...For a challenging couple of weeks.
You won’t be very popular, but it really does get easier.

If at First You Don't Succeed...
Start again next week!

Helpful Resources

7002X: Choreganizers Choreganizers
Help kids of all ages develop good character and great habits! This organizing system comes with 48 colorful cards that depict household chores and a colorful laminated "Chore Store" note board that wipes clean. Each child has a chart (six are included) for their chores, and can earn Mom Money or Dad Dollars to spend on rewards.

867401: Clean N" Flip Zone Cleaning for Kids Clean N' Flip Zone Cleaning for Kids
This fun & unique system is designed to help children visually and systematically work through cleaning the three main rooms of a house independently, and with ease. Step-by-step illustrations make it easy -- non-readers can easily follow along and work independently! Full color flipchart is divided into Living Room/Entry, Bathroom and Kitchen Zones. Each Zone offers blank lines for daily jobs that Mom can customize to fit perfectly to your specific family needs. Includes everything, right down to the dry-erase marker!

6202433: Clean N" Flip Bedroom Cleaning for Kids Clean N' Flip Bedroom Cleaning for Kids
This sturdy, spiral bound, 8.5" X 5.5" flipchart walks children through the process of cleaning their room. It takes an overwhelming process and breaks it down into simple parts. Complete a step and flip the page. The fun, simple pictures make it easy for even pre-schoolers to use.

Helpful Links
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers  This post on Kris' blog shows her system for kids chores.

Why a Household Chore List Works.

Woman'sDay.com5 Ways to Get Your Kids Cleaning.

WiseMomSays.com: How Doing Chores Help in Child Development.

Go to Part 2 - Age Appropriate Chores

Comments? I would love to hear them!  (Click here)
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