Incentive Charts for Kids

This is something I’ve had the intention of doing for quite some time, but always seemed to put off, because….well, summer got the best of us!  With a 4 year old who is starting to test boundaries and sharpen his negotiating skills (especially at bedtime), it was starting to become more and more necessary to start an incentive system with him, as a way of motivating him to be more consistent with positive behaviors and become more responsible!  I didn’t want to be yelling, losing patience, and letting off angry vibes when he failed to listen, do what I ask, or repeated myself a million times over! I can’t POSSIBLY be the only mom who struggles with opposition, under the breath grumbles, arms crossing, eye rolls…and the likes, right?!

The thing is, he has a younger brother who watches his  every move, so I wanted to be sure he was setting a good example and being a leader in the house!   Plus, let’s be honest….the success of these charts would mean a calmer, more sane mom.  Win-win, you all!

Happy mom = happy kids.

Being a former teacher, I tried to think of a system that would be both exciting for him and something that taught him the concept of “earning” his rewards through hard work and consistency.  I’ll admit, the first week or two started off SLOOOOOOWWW, with a lot of reminding, prodding, and encouraging.  I thought to myself, “Maybe he’s too young…..maybe it’s not the right fit…..or maybe I should just think of a new system.”  But, I decided to give it some time and wait it out.  Good thing, because one day it just clicked & now he brings it up to me, reminding me of all the tasks he has accomplished!

Because I wanted these charts to fit in with the decor of our home and not stick out like a sore thumb, I created them in a natural toned design.  I added pops of color where I wanted to draw his attention, which were the tasks to complete. I created three different charts:




Each one shows a colorful visual with corresponding text.  Although I tried to allow these to be used for different age levels, my son can’t read yet, so I wanted him to memorize his tasks by knowing what the pictures mean…..and he has!  We talked about them and reviewed what each one meant.  Soon, he would run up to the right category and tell me where he earned a star.   A star?  Let me explain how the charts work….Each time he has done of of the tasks listed, he earns a star.  I snagged these magnetic stars in one of my go-to spots! (Anyone?!  Anyone?!)  Yep, the target dollar spot.  It was actually part of a learning board, but there were over 50 magnets included, so I bought it simply to use the stars.  They are the perfect size and happen to be his favorite color (score!)  I also bought the magnetic boards for underneath at Target, too.  Now, I don’t have to use dry erase markers and allow the wear to show over time.  I can simply reprint the charts or make and add new ones, as he gets older!  The only thing I have to make sure is that the stars are out of reach from my toddler, who constantly wants to take them off and hide them somewhere!  The kid gets into EV-UH-REE-THING!

So, once my son earns 5 stars in any category, he receives a quarter to put into a jar, which serves as a mini piggy bank.  He has MANY opportunities provided throughout the day to earn stars, so it doesn’t take long to earn a quarter.  The one category where he earns 2 stars is STAYING IN HIS BED…..because, well….I think you understand how that goes 🙂  My little guy has really become motivated and invested in this system.  He tells me, “Mom, I just earned a star for doing XYZ….”.   He will count his stars and tell me when he has earned 5, and is actually starting to do simple addition/subtraction to figure out how many more he needs to reach 5.  It’s fun to see him take ownership and feel empowered.  Ultimately, I want him to become more consistent and disciplined with these behaviors, without my hounding him all the time.

He has already used some of his money that he earned to purchase little treats, like a $1 matchbox car he had his eye on at the store.  He went in with his jar, chose the item, and walked up to the register all by himself to proudly pay for it, smile from ear to ear.  The following week, he used some of his money to enjoy a small bag of candy at the local popcorn/candy shop in town!  He was SO excited to be able to go!

As with any system/program/incentive plan you set up, it will eventually lose its luster and need to be adapted/modified (that’s the teacher takeaway in me).  The beauty of these charts is I can customize them and change the rewards based on interest, motivation, and such!  For now, I feel like it’s a good place to start in teaching him things I feel he should and needs to know.

*These downloadable charts are available in my printable archives.  Subscribe to retrieve the password for entry *

Are there any ways you’ve successfully motivated your children to do any of these things?  I would love to hear your ideas, whether is a parent, teacher, grandparent, babysitter, etc.!  Would love to hear your ideas!

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