Let me just start by saying that I love cheap child labor – at least when the child is mine and the work is being done in our house! Our two big kids recently started offering to do chores and asking for allowances. It was time for us to have a good talk with them, Jacob (7) and Jordan (5), about their responsibilities at home.
They know that we all need to pitch in to help each other, especially because we are a big family – they get that part. The boys have also learned that if there is a special toy they really want and it is out of the gift-giving times of birthdays and Christmas they will have to pay for it themselves – or at least contribute some of their own money – they get this part too!
My husband and I agreed that instead of just handing the kids a dollar at the end of each week, we would rather incentivize them to do age-appropriate chores around the house.
I am still not 100% convinced that we are sending them the best message by “paying” for them to pitch in around the house. But the beauty of parenthood is that we have the right to change our minds at any given moment. For now, I will tell myself that we are attempting to teach them about fiscal responsibility and they need to earn their allowances.
Besides this project was a lot of fun to prepare for them – and it was inexpensive! This is the message we are sending them at the present time – if revisions are necessary, we will handle those as eloquently as we manage to navigate any curveball this fun game of parenting throws us.
Our System: Chore Sticks!
- Due to the kids being so young, we have chosen this system, which gives them control over how much they earn each week and which chores they do.
- We kept the chores simple, fun and age-appropriate. The object of the game is to show them that they earn more if they work harder, which is a great incentive if there is a particular item they are saving up for.
- The main jar contains all the “chore sticks” at the beginning of each week.
- Each day they will pick one or more chores to complete.
- Once they have done a chore the corresponding stick is moved to their respective jar.
- There are also “Bonus Star” sticks, which we, the parents, may put in their jar if we see they are doing something super special.
- Once their sticks have been earned they cannot be taken away from them, except for the “Bonus Star” – that stick may be removed if they misbehave.
- At the end of the week, their sticks are counted and they receive $0.25 cash per stick, and then all the sticks are returned to the main jar in preparation for a new week.
The verdict: The kids LOVE the new system. They are embracing the control they have over how much they earn in a week, and they make sure to complete one or two each day.
Jacob earned $2.50 last week and Jordan got $2.25, so they had really been busy. We have enjoyed the extra help at dinner time and their rooms have been very tidy all week.
Now to the fun part – Making the jars and sticks!
- Wash & dry the Mason jars. If you use pasta sauce jars soak them in soapy water for 30 minutes so you can easily remove the label. Make sure the inside of the jar is thoroughly clean, so the paint will adhere nicely.
- Pour paint INSIDE the jar, squirting it as far back into the jar as possible. Work over the kitchen sink, so you can let the excess paint drip out. Twirl and move the jar around until the entire inside is coated with paint.
- Place the painted jar upside down on top of several pieces of paper towels. Depending on how much excess paint there is, you will have to change the paper towels out every 10-15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t bleed through.
- Turned the jars right side up for SEVERAL days to ensure that they were completely dry.
- Finish the jars by wrapping ribbon around the top. Secure the ribbon with a dab of glue.
- Fill the jars halfway with sand so the chore sticks can stick up and be seen.
*** Edited in 2018! ***
We recently found Chore Sticks made by Creative QT and they are awesome! I have since gotten rid of my handmade chore sticks and instead, we are using the preprinted ones. The new Chore Sticks fit our needs perfectly and the package comes with a few blank ones for you to customize! Best of all, there are several FUN surprise chores for kids of all ages!
However, if you prefer to make your own, these are the instructions:
- Write chores on the popsicle sticks. Have fun with this step.
- Sit down with your kids and talk about which chores they would like to incorporate into this project.
- Kick your feet up as your kids clean your house, cook dinner and maybe even make their beds.
The next project is to add a jar for my husband’s “chores.” A jar full of “put dirty clothes in the hamper,” “lower the toilet seat,” “replace the toilet paper when you use the last square,” “put the milk back in the fridge” and “take your shoes off inside the house!”
Update: Two years later, I have now added a jar for Jansen (4) and we are still using our chore sticks weekly.