Learning

Benefits of using reward charts

Reward charts are a powerful tool to incentivise children to modify their behaviour.
(Not sure what is a reward chart? Head to this page for an introduction)

They are incredibly useful even in situations where children have been showing ADHD behaviour.

In terms of benefits, the list can be summarised as: fun, motivating, and fulfilling.

Why are reward charts fun?

There is a simple reason why reward charts are fun: they are visually appealing and draw the instinct of curiosity children naturally have.

By allowing children to put their own stickers to the charts, or maybe draw their marks, they will have fun mixing colours and faces to match certain patterns established in their minds.

They are also fun for children because they shift the focus from completing tasks and chores to accumulating markers and stickers, which leads us to the next point…

Why are reward charts motivating?

Motivation to complete reward charts comes simply from the sense of progress they provide at all times.

As a parent, make sure to put the chart easily visible in the kids bedroom or in the family living room so they will have a constant reminder of the two important elements on the chart: the reward and the progress.

If the appropriate balance between challenge and frequent progress updates, kids will eventually complete the chart and claim their reward, which leads us to the next point…

Why are reward charts fulfilling?

It is well known that adults benefit from small rewards when accomplishing personal goals in life.
So why would children be any different?

Completing a reward chart yields two important outcomes: the reward initially set (the obvious result) but also gives children a strong sense of accomplishment for their hard work.

This means that your job as a dedicated parent is to also provide motivation while the chart is being completed incrementally, not only when it is done. Remember that!

Summary

By internalising the three reasons above, you can provide your children with the appropriate motivation and will set yourself for success.

It can also be helpful to remember our collection of tips to use a reward chart successfully.

Chores by age: finding the right chores for your child to help at home

It is a fact: children that help with house chores develop a stronger sense of belonging and are more likely to become responsible teens and adults later on in life.

Which means it is equally important on this long journey to define age-appropriate chores your children can effectively do by themselves.

Pick something they are not prepared for and that will lead to frustration for both sides.
Pick the right tasks and they will feel engaged to complete them, feeling part of the family in all possible senses.

To help you finding the right chores for your children, here is a list of appropriate chores by age:
(click the respective link if you want to chores for a specific age, otherwise keep reading for all ideas)

Please note that from ages 2 all the way up to 11, kids can benefit from reward charts (what is a reward chart?) to track their progress and stimulate behavioural changes.

Ages 2 and 3

Ah, the toddler years, so much learning happening and so much potential ahead of them; what a great time to be a parent as well, right?

Here is a list of chores appropriate for children aged between 2 and 3 years:

  • Help making their own bed (you can start by asking them to make a smaller bed for a doll, for instance)
  • Pick up their toys (easier if you do it with them, not necessarily by collecting anything, but by counting the total together, doing by colour, etc…)
  • Put some of their dirty laundry into the dirty basket
  • Give water and food to pets (must be supervised at all times!)
  • Help parents with small clean ups, like after a spill
  • Dust some pieces of furniture in their own room or around the house

Ages 4 and 5

The pre-school years are precious! Kids at this stage are developing a natural sense of independency, so it is natural to come up with tasks that exercise this behaviour.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for children aged between 4 and 5 years:

  • Get dressed with minimal to none parental help (your back will certainly be happy)
  • Make their own bed pretty much by themselves (you might need to help every now and then)
  • Bring their things from the car back into the house
  • Pick up their toys (ensure they have a proper place to store their toys)
  • Wash hands after playing outside and before eating
  • Set the table before a meal (start easy with just the tablecloth, for instance)
  • Clear the table after a meal (should always be fully supervised)
  • Help with food preparation (of course, do not let them handle sharp things)
  • Help unload groceries after shopping (light items only)
  • Sort laundry by colour
  • Match socks so they can be hung together after washing
  • Answer the phone (when the number is known)
  • Hang up their towel in the bathroom
  • Clean floors with a dry mop
  • Clean and dust more items in their bedroom

Ages 6 and 7

Part of the elementary years and children should now feel empowered to complete more tasks on their own; they can also be stimulated to make small decisions as part of their household chores.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for children aged between 6 and 7 years:

  • Make their own bed every day
  • Brush teeth
  • Comb their hair
  • Get dressed by choosing the clothes they want to wear for the day (help them if you now the weather is going to change)
  • Write thank you notes for friends, teachers, or other relevant people they care (make sure to review the message before it is delivered)
  • Be primarily responsible for a pet: feed, water, exercise, etc… (keep an eye to make sure nothing is being forgotten however)
  • Vacuum individual rooms of the house (start with the ones with fewer pieces of furniture / fewer obstacles)
  • Dust individual rooms (avoid rooms with fragile items initially)
  • Organise their clothes back into their own drawers (help with some tips)
  • Help with food preparation
  • Clean their room when asked
  • Empty indoor/kitchen trash cans
  • Answer the phone (even for unknown callers, but must be supervised in this case)

Ages 8 to 11

The final age bracket in which reward charts are still effective, children at this stage are likely to be fully equipped to execute a variety of tasks around the house, increasing their repertoire of personal chores.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for children aged between 8 and 11 years:

  • Take full care of their personal hygiene
  • Maintain bedroom clean and organised
  • Be responsible for homework, including schedules and future events
  • Keep track of their belongings when going out with family
  • Set up an alarm clock and wake up at the right time
  • Do the dishes (it is wise to not let them deal with delicate or fragile items)
  • Help mom or dad wash the family car
  • Help preparing some easy meals (or they can also organise ingredients before cooking)
  • Turn on the washing machine or dishwasher
  • Put the rubbish outside, ready for collection
  • Help testing the smoke alarms (with close supervision)
  • Handle simple phone calls and/or give phone to the right person to answer

Ages 12 and 13

The beginning of the teenage years, this period is marked by an impressive progress in their awareness and abilities to accomplish tasks. With the appropriate stimuli children are expected to demonstrate values to be carried over for the rest of their lives.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for teenagers aged between 12 and 13 years:

  • Take full care of individual homework and personal hygiene
  • Set their alarm clock consistently
  • Maintain personal items functional at all times (for example, recharging the batteries of their phones before it runs flat in the middle of the day)
  • Change fitted sheets and other bed linen.
  • Help mom and dad with an occasional deep cleaning
  • Change light bulbs (make sure to help them reach the ceiling and always supervise the operation – otherwise start easier with a bedside lamp, for instance)
  • Empty the vacuum bag when it’s full
  • Operate a handheld or stick vacuum cleaner
  • Clean mirrors
  • Prepare more elaborate dishes (help them with the proportions if they are not following a recipe precisely)

Ages 14 and 15

They are halfway through their teenage years and you might think they have already learned everything they need for life? Truth is that most of the core values are yet to fully mature and they need your help to reinforce them.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for teenagers aged between 14 and 15 years:

  • Be able to execute all tasks for teenagers between 12 and 13 (above) autonomously
  • Be able to handle book loans and their returning to the library
  • Handle assigned homework without any prompt from parents (it is, however, always wise for parents to show interest in what children are learning at school)
  • Clean front and backyards
  • Babysit a younger brother or sister
  • Do groceries shopping (with a list of items prepared in advance)
  • Verify expiry dates of products in the pantry and organise them (put the ones close to the expiry date in front of the rest)
  • Wash windows with supervision

Ages 16 to 18

The teenage years are almost gone, which means adult life is about to start.
Are they going to start living by themselves any time soon or are they going to be make you company for some extra lovely years? Either way, it is time to solidify all the learning so far.

Here is a list of chores appropriate for teenagers aged between 16 and 17 years:

  • Be able to execute all tasks for teenagers between 14 and 15 (above) autonomously
  • Understand the value of money and be able to spend wisely (for a teenager, that is)
  • Manage a certain budget so they can buy their own clothes
  • When they start driving, be able to inspect the car for any important lights or alerts, general cleaning, fuel, basic maintenance, etc…
  • Be able to prepare family meals and serve them

And that completes our list of chores by age for children (and teenagers).
Do you have anything to add based on your experience? Feel free to leave a comment below!

How to use reward charts with children

Reward Chart example

Using reward charts wisely can provide the correct framework for kids to form long-lasting good habits.
(check this blog post in case you want to know what a reward chart is)

Through a very didactic way, young kids can start learning the importance of accomplishing basic tasks such as homework, cleaning up toys, brushing their teeth; all important steps for a good bedtime routine.

Providing positive reinforcement for tasks that kids usually have trouble with can definitely help with the desired behavioural change and at some point in time it will come naturally to them.

Here is how to keep your kids motivated and use a reward chart to get results:

Keep it simple

Don’t overwhelm yourself or your kids. Start simple with just one, or maybe two, behavioural tasks that you would like your kids to work on. If the chart is too long or complicated it will be harder for you and your children to stick to it.

Be clear and specific on the behaviour

Make clear what behaviour you are trying to achieve with your kid, for example, instead of “be polite with people”, you can try a simpler “say thank you more often”.

Be specific on the prize

The prize must be something that the kid gets excited about, also make sure to let them know how many stickers or positive marks on the chart they need to get to the prize, so the expectations are clear for everyone.

About the prize, be realistic and choose something they can earn after a week or so.

Frequent reinforcement is key!

As an added bonus you can try to offer healthy prize options such as more time at the park, riding a bicycle, playing with friends, or going to the beach.

Be consistent and keep it positive

Make sure to mark the chart or put a stick on it immediately after you kid showed the desired behaviour. In case you are out, bring the chart with you when possible.

Also, remember to keep it positive! You don’t want the experience to sound like a punishment to your child. It’s also best to set up the chart in a way so your child gets a sticker every time they engage in the behavior rather than making it a daily yes/no chart. Bonus points if they can stick and mark their progress directly onto the chart.

Progress

A few months later (one or two), once your child has mastered the target behaviour, you can move to different tasks or phase it out slowly by replacing/removing one or two tasks.

Always remember to tell your kids how proud you are of them and all the hard work they had done!

What is a reward chart?

Reward charts, sometimes also known as behaviour charts, are listings used to track and organises house activities in order to teach values and discipline to children of different ages.

The basic form incorporates a particular positive behaviour to be achieved (the goal), combined with granular actions that reinforce the demonstration of such behaviour.

Parents can choose simple actions like “say thanks” or “say please“, or sometimes age-appropriate chores like “set the table” or “make the bed“.

Here is a simplified example of how a reward chart can be used to stimulate a consistent bedtime routine:

Reward Chart example for bedtime routine

To track progress using the chart it is possible to use ticks, happy/sad faces, or even stickers to make it super visual.

Finally, a reward is also to be set by parents and children together in order to generate the appropriate motivation to reach the expected goal.

General tips and tricks

  • Be positive
    Don’t phrase the goal as something negative like “stop leaving your bedroom a mess”; a positive version of that could be “have a nice and tidy bedroom”.
  • Be realistic!
    Children need time to change their behaviour and they also need (no pun intended) baby steps in order to hit these goals.
  • Be creative!
    Getting the same reward over and over again is a guaranteed recipe for failure in the long run.
  • Be consistent!
    When a reward is set, make sure your children cannot get the same reward in other ways. For example, if the reward is to go to the swimming pool but they will go with the neighbours whenever they decide to go, the effect of the reward is lost.
  • Be timely!
    Children probably will lose interest in the activities and reward if they have to do something hundreds of times before receiving the reward.
  • Be visual!
    Kids are visual learners and naturally curious. You can stick pictures related to their behaviour or the reward to make the chart more attractive to them.

For a more detailed guide, we have also published a more comprehensive text explaining how to use reward charts effectively with children.