If you need a super simple way to get your kids to help around the house, try using chore sticks! It’s the easiest, best chore system we’ve ever used.
Part of being in a family is working together to take care of the home we all live in. This is something I feel strongly about, but it can be tricky to find a system that works for more than a couple of weeks.
I’ve been there.
I’ve tried a bunch of chore systems over the years, but the super simple plan that we’ve come back to several times—and is working brilliantly for us right now—is CHORE STICKS.
This idea isn’t unique to my family, but I was talking to a friend at the park the other day, and she was so excited about the idea that I thought maybe…just maybe…somebody else could use the reminder, too.
If getting kids to help out has been, well, a chore lately (I couldn’t resist), make yourself some chore sticks!
What are chore sticks?
Chore sticks are wooden sticks (we use craft sticks) with chores written on them. Each day, my kids draw out a chore, complete it, and show me what they’ve done. It’s that simple!
You don’t have to manage a complicated system or remember to keep track of a million checkboxes on a piece of paper. Just grab a pile of craft sticks, write all the jobs you think your kids can help with, and get started!
How do chore sticks work?
On the side of our fridge, we have a magnetized pencil holder that has two compartments. In one side (marked with a green dot) are all the chores that need to be done. In the other compartment are all the chores that have already been done recently.
Each day, my kids are responsible for picking one chore from the “to be done” cup, doing it, and then moving that stick to the “done” cup. Once all sticks have been done, I just grab the whole stack from the “done” cup and throw them back in the first cup and we start over!
What’s so great about chore sticks?
It’s easier for ME. Chore sticks are awesome because they take the pressure off of me to always be able to come up with chores for my kids to do. A lot of chore systems have set chores the kids are supposed to do every day, but this left us with a bunch of things that either NEVER got cleaned or I had to clean myself.
So I switched to having the kids ask me for a daily “mommy’s helper” chore each day. That gave us a lot more variety, but then I was on the spot to come up with a chore every day, and it frustrated my oldest that he had to wait for me to give him a chore (he’d rather get them out of the way first thing).
Chore sticks solve BOTH problems.
The chores are ready to go anytime someone gets the urge to clean (or something like that), and we’re able to rotate through a lot more jobs.
Also, they are easy to change over time. You can easily add a new chore to the mix, or remove a stick that just isn’t working. As kids get older you can add harder chores, and you can add/remove chores for different seasons (like weeding, put away outside toys, wipe down patio furniture, etc.) Ultimate versatility!
How can you use them with kids of different ages?
It’s actually super simple! I have kids ranging from ages 4-10. Obviously, my 10-year-old is capable of more (and different) work than my four-year-old. But that’s easy to manage with this system.
Option 1: color code your sticks. I used a marker to put a green dot on all the chores that I thought were doable for my four-year-old (wiping baseboards, pulling weeds, wiping railings and cabinets, etc.). He knows to pick a “green” stick for his chores. Yes, his brothers sometimes like to choose those, too, and that’s fine. If we run out of green sticks, I just have my youngest be my helper with one of MY chores (like sorting socks from the laundry, or picking up toys from a specific part of the house). He’s kind of my shadow anyway, so it works for us.
Option 2: Assign a different number of chores for different kids. Maybe older kids do two chores a day instead of one. Right now, everybody in our house just does one per day. I wanted to keep things simple this summer, but we will surely make changes over time.
What chores do you put on the sticks?
I’m glad you asked! I have a whole list! Use them all, or choose your favorites and add your own ideas.
One note: I suggest using sticks for chores that go beyond the basics you already expect your kids to do every day. We don’t have sticks for making beds, cleaning your room, etc. Those daily routines are on their daily checklists instead.
I also don’t include chores that have to be done on a certain day or at a certain time (like taking the trash to the curb). All the jobs on our chore sticks can be done at any time.
Here are a bunch of ideas of what we DO put on chore sticks:
- pull weeds
- wipe down kitchen table & chairs
- clean off kitchen island & wipe counters
- sweep front porch
- wipe front porch railing
- clean all bathroom mirrors
- clean all bathroom sinks & counters
- spot clean kitchen cabinets
- dust baseboards
- dust window sills/shutters
- wipe doorknobs & light switches
- tidy and dust mudroom
- clean trash out of cars
- take out all trash in the house
- dust furniture
- WILD CARD (ask Mom or Dad)
Some of the chores listed above are more general, but when I write them on sticks I try to make them more specific by listing an exact number (e.g. – 40 weeds) or specific space (upstairs baseboards…or…dust living room furniture) My goal is for each chore to take 5-10 minutes and be done as independently as possible.
Do you let your kids look through the sticks or is it a blind draw?
I never advertised that my kids could look through the sticks, but they figured it out pretty quickly on their own. It doesn’t bother me. All the chores have to get done eventually, so I don’t care if they want to pick their favorite “easy” chores first. Making them pick at random isn’t something I’m willing to police, and letting them choose incentivizes them to do their chores earlier in the day (before somebody else takes the chore they were hoping to get).
What do you use for sticks?
You can use any popsicle sticks, but I like the 6-inch jumbo craft sticks better than the skinny popsicle sticks. They’re easier to write on, and they don’t break as easily (#wildboys). I got mine at Joann’s, but you can also find them on Amazon, or sometimes even at the dollar store.
Does this work for kids who can’t read?
Absolutely! My four-year-old just picks a stick and brings it to me to read. Not a big deal. You could make picture sticks for non-readers, but that’s a lot more work. I like to stick with simple.
Do you pay your kids for chores?
Yes, kind of. My kids do receive a weekly allowance IF they complete their daily checklist (including a daily chore) each week. They also know that having screen time and playing with friends is allowed only after chores are done. I don’t, however, pay for individual chores. I’ve done that in the past, but for me it was way too much work to keep track of.
What you need to remember when you’re getting started
If your kids don’t have a lot of experience with doing chores around the house, they will need some training on how to do each job in a way that meets your expectation of “clean”. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Have them start as your cleaning apprentice. The first time or two your child does a new job, do the job with them. Yes, this means you might be doing their work, but it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run. Show them how YOU clean a mirror, and talk them through everything you are doing. For example, for cleaning the mirror I had to teach my boys how much cleaner to spray, how far away to hold the bottle, and how to use a flat hand to make big wiping motions all the way from one side to the other, top to bottom. None of this was intuitive to them. It all needed to be taught explicitly.
- Praise more than you criticize. Things are not going to be cleaned exactly the way YOU would do it, at least not at first. I have to bite my tongue regularly when I watch the way my kids do jobs, but I TRY to focus on what they do well more than where they lack. That’s not to say that I don’t ever give them reminders or correct their technique, but I keep my instructions simple (“remember to work from top to bottom” or “make sure to get all the way to the corners”) and remind myself that we’re making baby steps toward high quality cleaning. And, yes, sometimes I go back later when they’re not around and clean up after them.
There you have it! All the details about my favorite easy and effective chore system for kids. What do you think?
Tell me in the comments below: Have you ever used chore sticks? How do they work in YOUR house?
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