Chore systems for kids who can’t yet read? Talk amongst yourselves.

Leanne of Momcast wonders:

My son is four and he's getting very helpful. I want to formalize some chores for him with a reward system to introduce concepts like family responsibility, work for remuneration, money and savings. But, he's pre-literate, so I can't write down a list of chores that he can consult. Do the smart parents at Parent Hacks have any suggestions and systems that worked for them?

We liked this Melissa and Doug magnetic "responsibility chart" — the pictures on the magnets did the trick till our son could read. Anyone else with ideas?


  1. Stu Mark says

    We did this for both our kids and it worked great. We used a white-board chart, with check-marks for each cool thing they did (brush teeth, throw clothes in hamper, flush the toilet after use, etc.)… The kids *loved* getting checkmarks, because once they earned a certain amount, they could redeem them for gifts. A win-win.

  2. Mark D says

    I really like the magnetic board idea. But that’s even a bit much for our 2.5 year old.

    Another thing is to simply make the chore part of the routine. For example, our son feeds the dogs every night at the same time. Again, the goal is for it to be part of the routine … well, and he loves doing it, so it’s not really a “chore.” :-)

    As a bonus, it’s free.

    Although, as he gets older, I’m lovin’ the Board O’ Chore idea. Very nice.

  3. Helen says

    I liked the ‘I Did My Chores’ set up, too. We started using it just after my daughter turned 4. The pictures are pretty easy to understand. For a reward chart I found clip art or photos of things to earn, and put them in groups of how many tokens they were worth, and she was able to figure it out. She needed help.

    We made savings envelopes for the big ones, and put an ‘x’ for each 10 tokens she needed to earn on the outside of the envelope. I printed fake money in 10’s, 20’s and so on. She really got into the counting and saving bit. Sometimes she was really enthusiastic and would do lots of things for tokens, other times, not.

    I also made cards for not watching TV for a day, playing outside for 30 minutes, ‘reading’ for 30 minutes, and so on. She earned even more tokens for some of these things than for chores – they take longer, for one, and they are behaviors I really want to encourage. She went 2.5 weeks happily NOT watching TV so she could earn enough tokens for something. If she played outside for an hour, she got double tokens (and I got a break!)

    Our hooks fell off and we need to glue them back on. We’re out of the habit of using it a bit, but she asked about it last week so looks like we’ll be on again.
    Totally recommend this.

  4. Judie says

    I have my children draw pictures in boxes that represent each chore. When my child sees the picture, he recognizes exactly what it means (even if I don’t) and will do it. They learn to draw and communicate and I save money by not buying magnets:)

  5. Charlotte says

    We took pictures with our camera of our 4 year old performing each chore and made our own chart with wallet sized photos. I think it helped because he could see himself doing each chore so he knew exactly what needed to be done.

  6. Jeff says

    This is great stuff! My girl just turned three and is now in a big kid bed. I need to start the in-room chores like making the bed, etc. and these are some great tools. Thanks!

  7. Gillian says

    We use the Eeboo Good Habits Chart and LOVE it. It has dials they turn and the chores/habits have replacement stickers so you can change the chores as needed. We have actually scanned ours so we can print them out when we need a new one.

  8. Jean says

    I had my daughter help me come up with the list of chores, so she had some ownership, and we did the chart together at the end of every day. With repetition, she memorized it.

    Now she does extra chores to earn money for her book orders at PreK.

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