This year I have 3 kids in 2 schools that are 15 minutes apart, and have to leave the house a solid 20 minutes earlier than we did last year. This may not sound like much, but believe me, it’s enough. Enough to have made our first few back-to-school mornings pretty much pure chaos. After asking for shoes to be put on 84 times in 15 minutes, you pretty much start to toe the insanity line.
So, with my heart set on taking a step back into the world of the sane, I decided that our morning routine needed a new twist. The chore chart idea is one that I’ve executed before, with varying degrees of success, and I knew it was the approach I wanted to take – but this time I had some past lessons to consider…
When my older two were younger, I got these magnetic responsibility charts made by Melissa and Doug. I loved how clear they were, and that they could last a whole week. I hung them up low on a wall where my girls could reach them. All went well for a week or two, and then I started to realize the folly in using magnets, at least in our family… they’re moveable. Very quickly it became clear that the girls were moving magnets around on their own and their sister’s board, and sometimes removing them completely, as I’d discover them in random places around the house… like in the bottom of the washing machine after they had found their way into somebody’s pockets. Awesome. So, my first lesson learned: no removable pieces.
Last year I made a morning routine chart using a dry erase board – I wrote a list of morning steps and made a column for each daughter using a permanent marker. Then, each day, they could check off what they did with a dry erase marker as we made our way out the door. At the end of the day, wipe off the checks and you’re ready for tomorrow. (I’ve since seen an even easier way to do this, if you have a laminator – just make a chart on a regular piece of paper, then laminate it – it will work just like a dry erase board… see the picture at left.) But this year I have my youngest daughter to figure into the mix, and I know that 3 kids fighting over a dry erase marker to check off their list in the morning is likely to result in more than a few scuffles. Plus, my little one can get a little marker happy, and I don’t want to tempt fate. So, my next consideration: no need for markers.
My other chore chart adventure involved all 3 of my kids. I made a template in Excel for a weekly chart for each kid and printed them out and put them on the fridge. Every time a task was completed, I gave a simple orange circle sticker to be plopped on the chart in the box. At the end of the week, for each orange sticker they had earned, they got a dime for their piggy bank. This system works pretty well for “big” tasks, like cleaning up rooms and putting away laundry, but I didn’t include simple daily things like brushing your teeth and putting on your shoes. Also, it requires that I physically be by the chore chart to hand over the stickers, which is fine sometimes, but not during morning rush hour. And hence, my third consideration: the kids needed to be able to “check off” their tasks themselves, without my help.
Here’s where I landed: a daily magnetic flip chart. I found this one on Pinterest. The magnets are attached, so no pieces to lose. When your child completes a task, they flip up that flap and move on to the next one; at the end of the day flip them all back down and you’re ready for tomorrow.
The example one I found used two magnets for each task, but in my own version I tried to simplify things and taped my kids’ charts to the fridge, so that I only needed the bottom magnet. (I bought a roll of magnet tape at Staples for $6 – if I had some vendor magnets lying around, I would have just cut those up into pieces.) Since my little one can’t read yet, I drew some pictures on her chart to help her figure things out. I also color-coded morning tasks from afternoon/evening tasks, because I’m a nerd.
I have to say, in the week since these puppies made their debut, morning life has definitely gotten easier. The girls love racing to the kitchen to flip their completed steps, and once all three kids are done with the morning routine, the TV can go on until it’s time to head out the door for school. No removable pieces, no markers, and no need for me to stand guard by the charts. Ding ding ding!
We’ll see how long the magic lasts… probably the biggest lesson learned from past responsibility chart endeavors is that nothing works forever. But if I score a month or two of (relatively) calm mornings in exchange for the hour it took me to make these, then I’ll consider it a success.
Have any secrets for keeping your house calm in the mornings? Share them… please.