April 8, 2009

Our Do-It Door

When we started using Sue Patrick's Workboxes last week, we also introduced the Do-It Door, our family's version of a chore chart.

For a couple of years now, I've thought that some kind of visible chore chart would be helpful to the girls. But I didn't have a clear picture of how to put it together...until I read the workbox book.

The ideas there inspired me to develop a chore chart that was similarly visual and hands-on. So I brainstormed a list of morning and evening routines and chores, all of which the girls were already doing or could easily take on to be active family "teammates." I typed it up, plugged in clipart pictures that Jeff supplied, and - in true workbox fashion! - affixed a velcro dot next to each task.

Each night after the girls go to bed, I attach little laminated X's next to the chores and routines they need to do the next day, leaving blank anything that needn't be accomplished. Then, as soon as they hit the kitchen floor (by 7:30 now, as that's their first "job" of the day), they remove the first X and proceed eagerly through the morning list all the way through to the last item: Be ready for school by 8:45, which effectively marks our transition over to the workboxes until lunch.

Sometime after dinner, they begin a similar pattern of removing plastic X's from the evening list: getting into pajamas, brushing and flossing, choosing a bedtime story. And, intermingled with routines on both the morning and evening lists, are instructions to do some simple but helpful household tasks. For example, the evening list includes directives to straighten the living and dining rooms, two areas where toys often accumulate through the day but which need to be in decent "working order" when my daycare children arrive the next morning. Similarly, there is a spot on each list that says, "Do your assigned chore," tasks which vary from day to day. So far morning assignments have often involved wiping out the bathroom sink and helping to load or unload the dishwasher; in the evening, the girls have helped to empty litter boxes or take out the garbage, and (every Sunday night) they've tackled a "big clean" on their upstairs playroom. I usually stick a post-it note on the chart listing the assigned chores; that way, the girls can breeze through the list even if Jeff and I are otherwise occupied.

Just as the workboxes have helped our official school time to run much more smoothly, so, too, the Do-It Door - so named because the charts are affixed to a door in our kitchen - has transformed the doing of mundane self-care and household jobs. The girls have been excited to get through each list, yet they also do their work well because they know they'll have to repeat anything that isn't done diligently enough. They gain a huge sense of accomplishment by removing the velcro markers from finished jobs, and they can also see their progress as more and more X's disappear. Jeff and I have needed to do a whole lot less policing of these tasks because having the chart has given the girls a more intrinsic sense of ownership over them. And they're doing more than they were before - those assigned chores that used to be hit-and-miss but are now normal expectations they are eager to meet.

A lot of families institute something like this from the time their children are toddlers; I wish I'd done that, too. However, this is definitely a case of "better late than never," and it's been well worth the time and effort to create the lists and train the girls to use them. As I said, I have Sue Patrick to thank for the motivation and inspiration. Her workbox idea has transformed our home environment in many ways beyond "just school."


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