Our family is starting the year with at least 9 weeks of remote learning, potentially longer depending on how the next several months go. I know that many parents are finding themselves in the same boat we are – you need to work while helping facilitate your kids’ learning, and somehow keep them entertained and keep yourself sane when they aren’t doing schoolwork. So, I thought I’d write this blog post to share an idea we’re trying. Maybe it will work for your Elementary-aged kiddos too!
We’ve taken a page out of the Kindergarten teacher’s playbook and started a weekly treasure box. Many of us may even remember having treasure boxes when we were younger and in school, so this clearly isn’t a novel concept. What I hope to share with you is how we are managing this at home with our kids, for it to work in our favor for chores, schoolwork, and time management all in one.
First, I found a “treasure” box. I happened to have a prop one on hand from a “pirates and mermaids” themed birthday party, but any box, jar, or basket will do. You could even use an old shoebox! Bonus: Let your kids decorate the shoebox to make it a “treasure box”. It will keep them entertained, and you’ll be able to check off your art for the day, all in one.
Next, I went to the dollar store. Yes, the dollar store, and here is why – I spent less than $15, and I got 34 treasures for our treasure box. With each of our two kids choosing a treasure each week, that’s still 17 weeks of treasures! Four months. Almost two full 9-week periods of the school year. Personally, I think that’s more than worth it for half a year of school and chore motivation for my kids. You can also stretch your dollar even further by choosing multi-packs of toys you know your kids will like. For example, I got a 4-pack of bracelets, but if you found a 6 or 8 pack of something your kids would enjoy, that’s even more treasures, all for $1.
Next, I printed a calendar. I made a calendar for each kiddo, so they don’t get confused, and I’m going to print a new one every month. I spent a few minutes making ours on Canva, which you can easily do if you want it to have the task reminders on it. Or, you can grab a dollar store calendar while you’re out buying your treasures, and it will last you through at least the end of 2020. Finally, I got a sticker sheet to fill out the calendar. Each of our kids will have the chance to earn one sticker per day by doing some of the following items.
- Read a book
- Play outside for 1 hour
- Finish all schoolwork
- Have a good attitude on school Zoom calls
- Clear the table
- Clean up toys
As we go through the year, we may add more tasks to the list, but this is where we chose to start. Each one of these gets them a check on that day, and then you determine how many checks they need to receive a sticker. If your kids are young like mine (Kinder and 1st Grade), they may just need to do school work and 2 or 3 other items. If they are older, the list can be longer, or you could even require the entire list to be done to earn the sticker for that day. Just make it doable for your kids. As a rule, I would not make it any more than the number of years your child is old. That means my 5 year old will only ever have to get 5 checks in a day.
This is where the treasure box comes in. On Friday, if they have gotten 4 out of 5 stickers for the week, they get to pick out of the treasure box. Why 4 instead of all 5? Well, everyone has an off day sometimes. And the point is to encourage good choices, not punish them for being human.
So, for about $17 total, I have set up a system that will last us at the very least through Christmas break. My kids are motivated to get their items done to earn checks and stickers, and I don’t have to nag them to do the things I feel are most important each day. It’s a win, win, win.
Pro Tip: For older children, you could include tickets in the box or jar with rewards like “1 extra hour of screen time” or “A parent does one of your chores today”. I know some teachers use “create your own scratch off” type tickets for this, which adds a fun element of surprise for older children. Not only will those types of rewards be more age-appropriate, they are also totally free and do not clutter up your house with random dollar store toys that will inevitably be lost under the couch or chewed up by your dog.
Finally, I know everyone reading this is doing their very best. Please don’t read this post and feel guilty or think that you need to do more. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or anyone supervising children right now, know that by being there for the children in your care, you are giving them all they need!
If you do decide to start a treasure box for your house, show us on Twitter @learnsynx!