Recently, some friends of ours gave our kids a box of over 1000 stickers.
After peeling the first 78 off of my hardwood floor three minutes later, I decided we needed a more productive outlet for them.
My husband, who is a genius, came up with this fun and simple way of tracking our kids’ activities from day to day. Since they are pretty little (two and four at the moment), we don’t do much heavy academic work, but we wanted to help them be mindful of how they’re spending their time during the day and encourage them to set some goals for themselves.
We came up with ten activities for each kid. Then we made an enormous chart. Whenever they do one of the listed activities, they get a sticker.
Sounds simple, but here are a few things to keep in mind to make a system like this engaging for your kids and sustainable for you.
- Choose a variety of categories. Ours include academic work as well as physical play and some character-building behaviors. When one of my kids is looking for something to do, I just ask him to pick something from his chart. It doesn’t matter what kind of mood he is in; he has options that allow him to sit down and think, run outside, or do something helpful around the house. Some are activities he can do alone, and others he can do with me or his brother.
- Choose at least one or two categories where your child has been struggling. We are really working on self-control in our house, so both of our boys get a sticker if they are able to handle problems with words and a good attitude throughout the day (in other words, “no fits”). They had also really locked themselves into a routine with what foods they were willing to eat. Adding a “Try a New Food” category has thus far gotten them to eat spinach, figs, pears, butternut squash, water chestnuts, and several others.
- Choose categories that are age-appropriate and flexible as your child grows. For our two-year-old, sitting down to read with me for at least ten minutes earns a sticker. His big brother has to work a little harder, either by reading in his BOB books or going through his sight word flashcards. We also have a category for math, but it’s a bit more open-ended since they have several different math games and activities they enjoy and they outgrow them quickly.
- Keep the lowest tier of rewards incredibly simple. When our kids collect ten stickers in a category, they get to pick the dinner menu that day. They don’t know it, but this is actually really helpful to me. They are thrilled, and it doesn’t cost us any extra time or effort. After all, we’ve got to eat dinner anyway, and so far, nobody’s requested filet mignon.
- Reward with experiences, rather than stuff. I’m sure your kids have tons of empty organized storage (ha!), but our cubes are full. Instead of getting them more stuff they don’t need, we celebrate reaching a goal with an experience. They get to pick dinners, choose where the whole family will go on field trips, and — when they reach 1000 stickers — spend a day at City Museum! Quite a thrill for these guys!
- Know your audience and set goals accordingly. Some of these categories are a challenge for our kids, and they would happily avoid those and collect stickers they consider easier to earn. We set up one reward to subvert this: if they get twenty stickers in each category, they earn a new Lego guy of their choice. They’re still collecting stickers for math way faster than they are for rest time, but we have actually had a handful of days when both boys have chosen to grab a pillow and blanket and stretch out for twenty minutes.
Creating a system for encouraging and rewarding your kids is a simple way to help them stay on track during your homeschooling (or preschooling at home) day. Why not give them more reasons to be this proud and excited about a pepperoni pizza? 🙂