When we first started out in the Airstream it became very clear to us that our kids still needed to do chores. In our sticks and bricks they would vacuum, clean bathroom counters and mirrors, load and unload the dishwasher and help sweep. Putting the silverware away can be done by a 3 year old and we were all about having our kids do more to help around the house. We never paid them allowance as we are of the “you are part of this household and you just have to help out” mentality.
Even though our space in the Airstream is smaller, there is still plenty of work to be done! Have you seen how dusty things get? We devised a chore chart for our fridge and with the help of some vinyl strips from a craft store and a friend with a Cricut vinyl cutter we put it together. We recently upgraded our magnets as well and love that they are a little more hefty than the originals. We bought these Smiley Stars and these 0.5 inch round magnets from Amazon (affiliate links). Once assembled, we used a bit of Mod Podge over the top to seal them.
There are quite a few sections on our chart, and while it looks fairly complicated it break down rather nicely.
We adjust these over time and have occasionally tweaked which chores go together as not all of them get done on the same day. As of now they are:
- Garbage/Walls & Table
- Dry Dishes & Toilet/Bathroom Floor
- Sweep/Mop & Bathroom Sink, Counter, & Mirror
They have to scrub/mop their assigned areas on Monday (i.e. the garbage can and walls surrounding it or bathroom counter, sink, and mirror) and generally keep them tidy the rest of the week. The garbage person is responsible for tying up the bag and putting a new one in. If the dumpster is close they take it all the way out, if not Sam or I throw it in the truck and take care of it later. Drying dishes is both after the breakfast/lunch round and after dinner. I’m still lobbying for a daily sweep but alas, we only seem to get it done 2-3 per week with mopping on Monday.
Last spring I was frustrated with how much I felt I was doing and how little everyone else was (a slanted perspective to be sure) but when we were parked for two weeks with full hookups we tried having Rachel & Andrew trade off washing and rinsing the dishes and they did so well we haven’t looked back! They do the breakfast/lunch dishes and those two magnets just swap between the two of them and Sam and I take care of the dinner dishes. It’s much less frustrating for us as parents because Sam had to interrupt work to do the afternoon dishes or I couldn’t make dinner because the counter was a mess! Now things run more smoothly and the kids are generally better at conserving water than we are. They just hate it when “dry dishes” lands on the same day as “wash” or “rinse” but Cara is slow enough drying that we have no desire to make that her permanent chore.
The kids are also in charge of stabilizers (that would be the S magnet at the top). They have to either put them up or down and then can move the magnet to the next person. If they forget – too bad they have to do it again. I think Cara managed a 3x streak one week and was so upset we started moving the magnet before actually doing the stabilizers so they wouldn’t forget. And yes, its manual. Many people get a drill or other attachment to do it automatically, but we didn’t have enough chores as it was so we stick with the old fashioned way.
We have learned that we are more consistent with family scripture reading over breakfast rather than at bedtime. We are currently reading the Book of Mormon out loud with everyone reading three verses. If there’s a principle or something to talk about, we will elaborate but generally we just read and understand the stories. I fully attribute Cara’s progress in reading to scriptures. It’s amazing the hard words she’s learned to sound out like “Zarahemla” or “destruction”. We get a magnet per day that we read as we reward the kids with a ticket per magnet on Family Store days.
Levels 1 & 2
Pre-travel we met up with a friend who had an amazing responsibility/reward system for their kids. We talked about it a lot and then Sam and I adapted it for our specific goals and situation. The basic idea is that kids have to be done with all “Level 1” activities in order to move on to “Level 2” where they can earn tickets for the family store (I’ll explain that in a second) or have screen time. We chose Chores Done (is the garbage full? Are the dishes done? How’s the floor look?), Room picked up (basically their bed made and everything neat and tidy – nothing on the floor), Teeth Brushed, School Done, and Read for at least 20 minutes (this one is never a problem).
Once they are on Level 2 they can have screen time (if they have any left) and also earn tickets for writing in their journal or doing service for someone else. We also will give out extra tickets for awesome behavior in certain situations or if the kids have particularly agreeable attitudes. This section we’ve used less, but I just added journal writing to their school curriculum so I imagine there will be more magnets up there in the future.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are encouraged to set aside Monday nights as “Family Night” and spend it together. With suburban families, hectic schedules, school, and work this allows parents to have at least one night with their kids in a fun, spiritually uplifting environment where everyone is together. Although we spend more time together than the average family, our kids still LOVE Family Night or Family Home Evening (FHE) as its more commonly known.
We rotate assignments, but the general outline is Song, Prayer, Lesson, Activity, and Treat with the kids’ favorite parts being the Activity & Treat (naturally). FHE can be short or long, and we’ve adapted it to many situations with excursions for ice cream, camping on an island, or just a simple game of cards and strawberry sorbet. The kids have resources to put together a lesson and some go better than others, but overall it’s generally a positive experience. Often they are spiritual, but sometimes we aim for something more practical.
We limit our kids’ screen time pretty severely. For a while they could just play as long as they wanted and we found our kids to be grumpy and irritable. Once we set a hard limit, suddenly there was less grumbling when it was time to be done. They get (4) half hour sessions per week, for a totally of 2 hours. The most we usually let them play in a row is 2 of those, so an hour total. They can buy an extra 3o minutes of screen time in the family store for 7 tickets, but I’ve been surprised at how little they utilize this option. Some weeks they use up all their tablet time in two days, but most of the time they are good about spreading it out.
Family movie nights or long drives don’t count against their tablet time, or if Sam and I just have a lot going on and we need the kids to be distracted we are more lenient. The kids also know that if we get together with friends and the parents just want to chat around the campfire they can usually play an hour or two of Minecraft if they just stay quiet and out of our way! These remain the exception however, but can provide some extra reward for the kids and a little bit of peace for us as parents.
For every tablet time they do not use during the week, we will pay them 7 tickets. If we are super busy with friends one week, or they set their mind to it, the kids have earned all 28 tickets before by not playing the tablet all week!
The Family Store
To motivate all of these changes we adopted the idea of the “Family Store” or a place where the kids could earn things. The store opens once a week, usually on Sunday afternoons unless we forget and then the kids remind us on Monday. We bought a semi-small plastic container with a lid to store the items in, and it fits under Andrew’s bed.
The kids pay us with actual carnival tickets we bought at Walmart. Each item is based on a ticket cost, so if we paid $1.00 for it, the kids have to pay 10 tickets. So essentially a ticket is worth $.10. We will buy items in advance if is something the kids see at a store or a visitor center (stuffed animals were a big one for awhile) but if it’s a high priced item they have to earn half before we will buy it. There’s been a few times where interest has waned and I’m glad I didn’t buy the item up front.
We generally have 1-5 ticket pieces of candy in the store, such as smarties, tootsie rolls, mints, or the movie boxes of candy we can get at Walmart. They can also earn extra tablet time, and occasionally they’ve earned bigger items all together such as an ice cream date, or a trip to the movie theater. That generally doesn’t go over so well, and we haven’t done that in awhile.
They usually have something bigger they are individually saving up for. Rachel has earned a Kindle & cover (1,100 tickets!), they both have earned Harry Potter robes (200 tickets), Cara has earned Kingdom of Wrenly books (about 50 tickets each) and is currently working on earning her Paw Patrol DVD (120 tickets).
When they started saving for bigger items, Sam also introduced the idea of The Bank. For every 10 tickets they put in their bank (aka plastic sandwich bag), they can earn 1 ticket the following week. It’s a ridiculously high interest rate (which we remind them of often) but it makes the math super easy. The biggest lesson taught is about immediate gratification vs. saving for something bigger and better.
Our largest struggle is having the kids earn “stuff”. As a general rule we’ve tried to eliminate a lot of fluff and meaningless stuff in our lives and coming up with consumable incentives or finding a place for the items they want to earn can be challenging.
Earning Tickets Through Outdoor Recreation
In addition to having good attitudes, writing in their journals, not playing the tablet and reading scriptures they can also earn tickets through hiking, backpacking, junior ranger badges, biking, paddling, and any other outdoor activity we do.
The catch is they only get tickets for HAPPY miles. This has severely cut down on the whining, and they know we will dock tickets if there’s a bad attitude on the trip.
- Generally 1 ticket per happy hiking or biking (off road or on) mile. If we mountain bike for 4 miles they earn 4 tickets.
- For hiking we double that if we go over 5 miles. We’ve done plenty of 5-8 mile hikes and the kids LOVE It when we just barely hit 5 and they can double their tickets to 10. There’s been known to be conversations about doing laps in the parking lot to get Endomondo up to the magic number.
- Biking we double if its over 10 miles.
- Paddling (canoeing or kayaking generally) we do 2 tickets per mile.
- Backpacking they get 2 tickets for every mile they hike with a pack. This is whether or not we are over 5 miles. Our Cumberland Island hike was a mix of hiking with and without packs so the calculation was a bit complicated.
- For every Jr. Ranger book they complete, we pay 5 tickets, + 1 ticket for every extra page they do.
While not a perfect system, it really works for us at this stage of our kid’s lives. We do adjust and make decisions based on changing circumstances and skill levels but overall having a system has helped our family run smoother and better!
If you have any suggestions or comments we’d love to hear them! Do you have incentives for your kids? What can they earn? What types of chores do your kids do?