How To Motivate Your Preschooler To Do Chores

By using stickers and a tiered prize system, you can help your preschooler become motivated to do their chores.

At the beginning of the year, I shared a preschooler chore chart I had made for my daughter.  It was a really simple system of moving a magnet with the chore on it from the ‘not done’ side to the ‘done’ side.  However, we started running into problems when my son hit a growth spurt and could reach the chore chart too.  He would run off with the magnets and it would be a couple days before we found them again, usually in the most unexpected places.  (Isn’t that always the case?)
This started to happen more frequently until one day we couldn’t find the magnets.  This was a couple of months ago and we have yet to find them.  You might wonder, Why don’t you just move the chore chart out of his reach? or Why don’t you just make more magnets?  The reason I decided against each of these options was because having the chore chart where my daughter could reach it meant that moving the magnets was something she could do and have some ownership of.  If I moved it out of reach of my son, she loses the ability to account for the chores done herself because she would have to have my help to reach the chart.

Now here we are in the middle of summer, where schedules are less rigid and kids are more carefree.  But as parents, I think we can all agree that summer doesn’t mean the kids shouldn’t have chores.  An idea came to me a little while ago to create a new system for my daughter that would hopefully increase her motivation to get the chores done.  Plus, it was something that I could keep out of reach of little brother.

My new system works like this:

Chores are still accounted for by using a sticker chart.  (Kids love sticker charts because it is a visible and tangible way for them to see what they’ve accomplished.)  However, unlike the previous chore chart, my daughter will get a sticker for each chore done rather than receiving only one sticker at the end of the day if all chores were done.  If she wants to do additional chores to get additional stickers, she will have to complete all her basic chores first.

She has six basic chores right now: make bed, brush teeth, pick up toys, pick up clothes, help with dishes and take out the trash.  Extra chores will include: vacuum, help with dinner and mom/dad’s choice.  I’ve made a visual chart for her to see what her chores are each day and used the same clip art I used in the previous chore chart.

By using stickers and a tiered prize system, you can help your preschooler become motivated to do their chores.

When she reaches a certain number of chores completed, she can choose a prize and cash in her stickers, or she can continue to accumulate stickers to get a better prize.  I’ve decided to divide the prizes into three categories: 50 stickers, 100 stickers and 150 stickers.  Here are some ideas of what will be included in each category:

  • 50 stickers–special character stickers, fun size candy bar
  • 100 stickers–temporary tattoo pack, puzzle
  • 150 stickers–new board game, accessories for existing toys (doll outfits, play kitchen food, etc)

Obviously, this is a flexible system and so you could change the values to fit your own child, have more categories or increase/decrease the number of chores per day.  You want to choose prizes that will motivate your kids, whether it be screen time, a new shirt, a toy, a favorite treat, etc.

By using stickers and a tiered prize system, you can help your preschooler become motivated to do their chores.

With the values I’ve assigned to each prize listed above and the number of chores she can do each day, she could get the 150 sticker prize in less than a month if she only did the basic six chores a day.

Now, if my daughter chooses a 50 sticker prize the first few times she has the opportunity to cash in, I’m not going to throw in the towel and declare myself a failure.  (And neither should you!)  But the key here is that over time, she will get tired of getting smaller prizes and she’s going to (hopefully!) decide for herself that working towards a better prize is what she wants to do.

I love the concept of working hard and then earning something.  I want to teach my children that they don’t get to have something simply because they want it.

In addition, by having different levels of prizes, it helps reinforce the idea of delayed gratification.  Delayed gratification is the ability to resist the temptation of an immediate reward and wait for a later, and generally more enduring reward.

To help her remember what she wants to work towards, each time she has the opportunity to cash in, I’ll bring out the prizes for all three categories and explain that she can either choose a prize from the lesser category or choose to save up for something that will require more stickers.

I mentioned that we’ll be using a sticker chart to keep track of her completed chores.  If you’re interested, you can find the chart HERE as a free printable.  It is very basic with a numbered grid but considering we’ll be throwing it away once it’s been used up, I wanted to make sure it was functional.

Do you have a chore system that works for your family?

How to Make a Chore Chart for Preschoolers

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I wanted to give my daughter some daily chores.  She’s turning 4 next week and it’s the beginning of a new year so it seemed like a great time to get a program going for her.

I started out by making a list of chores.  The easiest way to do this was to search for ‘age appropriate chores’ on Pinterest.  There are tons of charts that break it down by age that I found so it didn’t take long to make a list of my own.

Next I had to consider her development in terms of what she understands.  The best way for her to know what chores need to be done is by using a picture.  So I looked through my list of chores and thought of one picture that represented that chore (make your bed=bed, brush your teeth=toothbrush, etc).

The biggest challenge was deciding how to help her make sure she was getting her chores done each day.  In other words, what type of chore chart did I want to do?  What was going to make the most sense to a 4 year old?  I made a list of ideas and settled on something simple: a magnet board with accompanying sticker chart.

I researched a few options and the least expensive one I found was at Hobby Lobby for $8.99.  Throw a 40% off coupon on top of that and I only paid $5.39 for an 11×14 whiteboard/magnet board.  I already had magnets and clear glass accent gems (see picture in ‘how to make magnets’ section) on hand and knew I could find some simple clip art online for the chores.  I also decided to use stickers and vinyl to organize it into an easy-to-understand chart that I could always change up or take off completely if I decide to go in another direction later on.  Plus, using my trusty Silhouette would make the design a cinch!
I took my daughter with me to pick up the magnet board and let her choose some stickers for the days of the week.  My husband and I had told her a few days earlier that I was going to make her a chore chart so she was aware of what was coming.  Plus, I wanted her to be involved in the process as much as possible so it wasn’t just us saying, “here’s a chart that I made you with all the chores you have to get done every day”.  My daughter is one that likes to know what’s coming ahead of time so she can prepare herself.

Before we get any further, let me give you a list of supplies you’ll need to make your own chore chart:

  • Magnet board or whiteboard/magnet board, size of your choosing
  • Stickers for days of the week and child’s name
  • Magnets
  • Strong glue for gluing magnets to glass accent gems (I used Loctite GO2 Glue)
  • Inkssentials Glossy Accents clear adhesive (or similar)
  • Clear glass accent gems (I found mine at the dollar store)
  • Magnet paper (I used the Silhouette brand)
  • Vinyl
  • Cardstock
  • Printer 
  • Ruler

*Note: While I used my Silhouette for this project, it is not necessary to have one in order to make this chore chart.  I will make small notes in each step where you could tweak it if you don’t have a Silhouette machine.

Making the Chore Chart

When I got the magnet board home, I measured the magnet/whiteboard itself so that I could plug those numbers into my Silhouette design studio.  I found that while the entire board was 11×14, the usable part was only 9.5x 12.25.  Glad I measured!

I opened up my design software and inserted the dimensions of the board into the ‘design page settings’ so I could see the full size I was going to be working with.  Then I opened a new page and chose the ‘letter’ size.  I pulled the clip art I saved onto this page and sized it down to fit the approximate size of the clear glass accent gems (about 1.5″) and drew a circle around it.  (Without a Silhouette: Open a word program and pull clip art from online and size it to fit your accent gems.)

Then I made it into a print and cut file (check out this tutorial for more details) and sent it to my printer.  I loaded the paper into my Silhouette machine and changed the settings to cut out the circles around the images I just printed.  I pulled them off of the cutting board and set them aside.  (Without a Silhouette: Print images, trace a circle around them and cut out using scissors or circle punch.)

Next, I opened up the file with the dimensions of the magnet board to start laying it all out.  I decided to put the days of the week going down the left third of the board and two columns going down the remaining two-thirds for the done/not done chores.  In keeping with using images instead of words, I used an ‘X’ for the ‘not done’ column and a check mark for the ‘done’ column.  You can see my screen shot of the layout below.

Since I knew I was using stickers for the days of the week, I only needed to cut out the ‘X’ and the check mark.  I had recently used the Silhouette magnet sheets for a project and knew it would be perfect (check out this tutorial for more details).  I found an ‘X’ and check mark clip art online and moved the images onto my page and sized them according to my layout.  Then I moved them to a new page and cut them out using the same method as the tutorial I just referenced.  (Without a Silhouette: You can still use the magnet sheets, but you would need to cut the shapes out by hand.)

With all my cutting done, I grabbed the magnet board and my ruler to measure out a little more exactly where I wanted everything.  I used a dry erase marker to draw my lines out to my liking then I got the stickers for the days of the week and put them on the board. (Note: Make sure that you have enough letter stickers for the days of the week, otherwise you may end up having to go back to the store to buy more.)

I used my paper cutter to cut thin strips of vinyl to separate each section which made it look nice and clean.  Then I placed the ‘X’ and check mark at the top of each column.

Lastly, I used some other stickers I had on hand to put her name in the corner of the board.

Making the Magnets

To make the magnets, you will need:

  • Clear glass accent gems
  • Magnets
  • Chore images (printed and cut)
  • Strong glue (I used Loctite GO2 Glue)
  • Glossy Accents (or similar)

Lay out your chore images in front of you.  Look through the accent gems to find the ones that are mostly round and will cover the image.  I had to sort through a few to find the ones I liked.

Open the Glossy Accents and turn it upside down over a piece of scrap paper.  Do not shake it, as this will create bubbles.  Squeeze a little out to get the flow going and then squeeze a decent amount in the center of the paper.  Take your accent gem, flat side down, and place it over the top, pressing down slowly.  As you do this, the Glossy Accents will spread out underneath the accent gem.  If it oozes out the edges, just wipe it off and set it aside.

Repeat with the remaining gems.  Let dry 20-30 minutes.

When the Glossy Accents is dry, get your magnets and strong glue.  Place a small amount in the center of the magnet and then place it on the back of the gems/chore images.  Let dry overnight.

Sticker Chart/Reward System

The sticker chart is how we keep track of how many days she’s done all her chores each day.  If she gets everything done, she gets a sticker.  If not, no sticker for the day.  If there are chores that didn’t need to be done that day, they don’t count against her.  I made a simple chart in my Word program with rewards for every 10 stickers she gets.

10 stickers=treat or candy of her choice
20 stickers=toy from the dollar store
30 stickers=ice cream cone

For my daughter at age 4, these rewards are enough to motivate her, but you could easily change them to suit your own child’s interests.

How It’s Going So Far…

As I was putting my daughter’s chore chart together she kept asking me, “Is my chore chart ready?  Can I use it yet?”  I was happy to see her excitement as I made it for her and even more happy that she likes using it so far.  It’s only been 4 days but it’s encouraging nonetheless.  Each day she moves her ‘Today’ magnet to the current day (which also helps her learn the days of the week) and looks to see what chores she needs to do.  The fact that she knows exactly what’s expected of her and that she has control over moving the magnets to the ‘done’ column is something she really enjoys.  It’s a great visual for her.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and that your new chore chart works well for you!

What chore charts/systems have you liked using for your kids?