Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Job Charts You Can Wear

Since January is the time of year when most of us moms decide, "This is it!  I'm getting our lives under control once and for all!"  I'm going show you something that has been helping me control the chaos around our place since November of 2010.  It has worked well.

Over the years, I've tried all kinds of charts and systems to help me get the children involved in our housekeeping chores.  Some have worked better than others, but all had their failings, which meant that I resorted back to just calling the children in and giving them verbal instructions.  As you know....those verbal instructions have their own pitfalls, like both the kids and mom forgetting what they were.  The alternative has been lists on our planning center's white board, which has the advantage of helping me remember, but the disadvantage of the children running back and forth to check on their job list.  Note:

children running back and forth = 
children getting distracted and forgetting that they have jobs

With this in mind, I set out to create a no-fail system.  I now present:

Wearable Job Charts
The first step of this project was the most time intensive.  I considered what jobs I needed the children to do on a daily and weekly basis, then I divided those into categories, zones, and specific tasks (Flylady style).

Our categories are:
For instance, if my children don't do a few things each day to keep their bedrooms neat, then the Saturday cleaning of the bedrooms is a gargantuan task.  If I send them up to their rooms each day with the direction, "Straighten up your room," there are various interpretations of that.  Instead, I created a Bedroom Category made up of five Bedroom Zones, with a short list of specific tasks within each zone.

Here are our Bedroom Zones:

The Floor
Around the Bed
Inside the Closet
Desktops, Shelves, & Tables
Saturday Special

I won't overburden you with the tasks specific to all the Bedroom Zones, but just so you get the idea, here's the task list for Inside the Closet:

Pick up the floor
Put away clean clothes
Put dirty clothes in the hamper
Straighten the shoe shelf

I was careful to make sure that all the tasks together in the zone could be realistically completed within 15-20 minutes OR LESS.

As you can see, once I had my lists of categories, zones, and tasks made, then I transferred those onto colorful, laminated cards with a hole punched in one corner.  Each category is coded by color.  Each zone has a simple picture.  And, many of the tasks are illustrated with a simple picture, too.

Putting the cards together was cheap and easy.  I pulled clip art off the internet to use for my illustrations, printed the black and white lists on my own printer, stuck them on cardstock I already hand, and laminated them at a friends' house, free of charge in exchange for babysitting.
The hole in each corner was so that the cards could be hooked together with a caribiner or some other kind of detachable ring hooky-thingy.  (Also something that I already had.)
Why the caribiner/hooky thingy?  Well, not only does it make it easy when I switch around the zone cards each day, it allows the cards to clip onto a belt loop.  This means that when the children are doing their jobs, they carry their charts with them!  Here is Justone, modeling this break-through fashion statement:
The caribiner/hooky thingy also makes it easy to store the wearable job charts when they aren't in use:
This is Superkid's set, hanging from a hook on our planning center.  I'll tell you about our planning center some other time.  (Please excuse the wonky label that was computer-generated to hide her real name from the crazies.)

Laminating the cards had another purpose, too.  Besides making them durable, it allows the boxes by each task to be checked off with a crayon or dry-erase marker, then wiped clean, later.  So, the kids can carry around their job charts with them, for quick reference, and mark off each task as it is completed.
How do I implement these wearable job charts in our home?

We have a designated job time.  For us, that time is after the dinner table is cleared.  

Each child has three cards to work on during job time, one from each of our categories.  That means that each of them is responsible for a different zone in each of the three categories.  

The children never work in the same area at the same time, because I arrange the cards in a different order for each child.  Sounds complicated, but it is really just a matter of stacking the three zone cards in three ways.  Keeping them out of each others space during job time means the tasks get done faster and with less argument.  

I set the timer for 15-20 minutes while they work on the first card.  Then I set it again for 15-20 minutes while they work on the second card.  And again for the third card.

I have incentives for getting the tasks done before the timer rings.  The children are welcome to move on to their next cards if they finish their tasks early.  Completed zones = Full allowance.  All zones completed early = More free time.

Job time ends 45-60 minutes after it begins.  While it doesn't last very long, keep this in mind:  2-3 hours worth of tasks have been completed within that time, and nine areas of our house have been cleaned our straightened BY THE CHILDREN.  This is a huge time saver for me, and a great way for the kids to contribute to our household operations.      

So, how has it worked for us?  Great!  The kids seem to appreciate the fact that they can do their jobs without a lot of nagging by mom, just by carrying around their job charts.  Most nights, everyone completes their tasks before the timer rings.  I like the fact that because the jobs I've given them are divided into simple, manageable tasks, they generally meet my expectations.  The kids appreciate the fact that doing jobs this way, a few almost every night, has eliminated most of the Saturday marathon cleaning sessions that we used to have.

This system is incredibly flexible, too, which has done wonders in helping me to use it consistently.  I have it set up so that we only use the cards five times a week, giving us two nights (Sundays and our designated weekly "crazy night" that everyone has activities) off from job time.  If a night happens to be extra busy, I can drop the zones down from 3 to 2 or even 1.  Some of our categories have less than five zones, so I can rotate those during the week so that one child doesn't get stuck with the same job.  I can add in new cards as we need them.  And, it is customized to our own house's needs.

Good luck with your own goals, challenges, and changes for 2011!  

Feel free to email me at 
triptoholland {at} gmail {dot} net 
if you have any questions about this project/system.

I'm linking up to the following:

Show and Tell Green

handmade projects



  1. Fantastic idea Ruth! I use small clipboards, but I have been wanting to make laminated cards to use like yours. Thanks for the kick in the butt to get going!

  2. Great idea! I love the portability. My 8 year old reeeeally needs this! ;)

  3. Wouldn't it be easier for the kids to read them while they're attached, if the holes were on the bottom?

    Along similar lines, we used to have a chore chart with the various jobs written on clothespins. A friend who implemented the same system said her boys clipped the clothespins to their shirts until they were done with them.

  4. Such a great and creative idea. Thanks for linking to We're Organized Wednesday. I'll be featuring this later today.

  5. LOL @ Sandy toes comment!!!

    this is brilliant! i especially like the part about having them work different areas at a time. my two always end up arguing or distracting each other. i will have to use this and come up with our own system. thank you for sharing!

  6. I love this idea! Growing up my mom made "chore cards" (each with 4-5 around-the-house jobs) that me and my 3 siblings would tackle before breakfast. (We were home schooled, so mornings worked best for us.) And then the cards were rotated weekly to mix up the responsibilities. I will definitely do the same with future children and love your twist on the idea!

  7. I really like this idea! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I'm VERY interested in more info. I tried e-mailing you but it keeps kicking back to my in box. Would you mind sharing a few more details with me. I have boys and your systems is just what I'm looking for. My e-mail is Thank you so much!