# Around the House

Chore Chart for Young Kids

Chore Chart for Young Kids

At the beginning of the year, I talked about our new dinner chore charts. Six months later, I can happily say they are still working. They work better than I even imagined.

One of my favorite features is still that the kids only rotate chores with each new month. That gives them a whole month to get proficient at their chore. They and I both also love that we don’t have to keep asking who does what chore. We can actually remember when it doesn’t change daily or weekly.

A month ago, I made up a new chore chart to go along with the dinner one. I added in a new chore that gets rotated monthly. They each have a zone for the month. Our zones are backyard, toy area, couch area and upstairs hall.

That is really their only new chore that they have to do. The others on the chart are make your bed, straighten your room, and their dinner chores that they have already been doing. The other “chores” on their chart are read 20 minutes, piano 20 minutes, take a math facts quiz (a summer goal of ours), do a STEAM project, and pay outside 30 minutes.

I added those in, because the deal is that if they do all those things, they can have unlimited screen time for the rest of the day. I figured if they got everything done, they would have already had a pretty full, physical, and educational day. Then, they could relax with movies or play learning games and I wouldn’t be picky about it.

I’d have to say that so far the new charts are working fairly well. Malena is loving it. She really likes getting a check mark to show her accomplishments, and she earns her movie time almost every day. Some kids feel like it is too much to do to earn screen time. They get paid 10 cents for each check mark (yes, even for playing outside), and they all manage to get enough in a week to feel like they accomplished something.

I wanted to give them a way to earn more money too, since I want them to get used to handling money. I wrote more about that after they each bought a stuffed seal at a gift shop. They are also required to buy some of their own craft supplies. I heard of some families requiring older kids to pay for clothes or gas, and I came up with craft supplies since mine are younger. I want them to learn to use their resources efficiently. So far, they haven’t had to replenish the initial supply I bought for them though. Maybe that’s because they are being so efficient and/or using recycled things…look at me go, teaching them to be good to the earth as well.

Oh, I almost forgot! I also started paying them 5 cents per sock collected from around the house. They each have a zip lock bag taped to the dryer to put them in during the week. I’m a total sell out, but I am so tired of picking up socks from all over, I needed some help.

So, that’s how it stands for now. I’ll have to update you in another six months on whether these charts are panning out or not.

What about you? How do you handle chores and allowances at your house?


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# Around the House

How to Build a Solar Oven

How to Build A Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

Inspired by an upcoming trip to Lake Mead last year, during which the forecast predicted temperatures around 115 degrees, the kids and I (well mostly me, but they immediately loved the idea) decided to build a solar oven. There are a number of instructions and tutorials online, so we pulled some ideas from each of those.

We started by finding two cardboard boxes that fit inside one another, with a few inches of gap in between. Then the kids glued black construction paper into the inside of the smaller box.

Solar Oven -  TheEngineersKids

Solar Oven  - TheEngineersKids

Next, we folded the flaps of the smaller box out and inserted the smaller box into the larger one, so the small box flaps were within the gap between the boxes.

The kids raided our paper shredder (but you could use crumpled up paper as well) and stuffed the gap with the paper shreds for insulation. We had part of a sheet of acrylic on hand from a previous project (my husband refurbished the Dance Dance Revolution pad that he had built from scratch in college), so I cut a piece of that for a lid.

Your lid should cover the boxes, but not block the flaps from the larger box from standing up, you need those to stand in a few minutes here.

Cutting acrylic is actually a little tricky. The best thing to do is score it with a box cutter (an exacto knife might work too, but be careful not to break the blade), and then bend it along the score line. It should break along the line easily, although it might not be an exactly clean break. Acryllic seems to be tempermental like that. (Oh, and you should wear safety goggle just in case.) Put a bit of duct tape along the edges of the lid, so they are not sharp.

Next, you line the inside of the large box flaps with aluminum foil. Finally, have fun painting the outside.

Painting  Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids Paint a Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids Colorful Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

When we tried out the solar oven at the lake, I used some duct tape to fan out the flaps of the large box and hold them in that position. Then, I added some more aluminum foil to the gaps between the flaps, so that we could capture more of those rays of sunlight into our oven and raise its temperature.

We had great success at cooking hot dogs. The internal temperature reached over 165 degrees in about 10 or 15 minutes. The kids really wanted to try Easy Mac. Sadly, that attempt ended up with cups of cheesy mush.

Don't Cook Easy Mac in a Solar Oven - TheEngineersKids

Ummm, gross. If I was to do it again, I’d try heating just the water as hot as I could get it, and then add it to the noodles and cheese.

The scientist in me wishes I had tried the oven out when it was a more normal temperature outside. However, my husband threw it out a few months ago while cleaning the garage.

I’ve seen a couple DIY water desalinators floating around pinterest. Now I’m itching to try making one of those. Being so close to the ocean, I actually think it would be nice to know how to make safe drinking water, in case of an emergency.

Has anyone tried those out? Do you have any links to a good DIY desalinator tutorial?

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# Around the House

Own The Mess

Own The Mess -sometimes I'm just happier if I clean it up myself TheEngineersKids

Since we have Saturday chores as a family, the house looks pretty good for the first half of the week. By Wednesday though, the clutter, especially the toys, is getting back to insane mode. Not being able to walk safely through my living room makes me a bit grouchy.

A little back story: My husband and I are extremely organized people. (Didn’t I get lucky to get a clean and organized guy, or what!) Sometimes I long for our first apartment together, where everything was in its place, and the dishes were always done, and one could walk across the room without stepping on a frisbee and sliding into the splits. Ahhh, my brain is relaxing just thinking about those days.

Welcome back to now, when the house is alway full of clutter despite our best efforts to be minimalist in our possessions and clean up after the kids. A second issue I have is that I don’t like cleaning messes that other people make…I mean, who does really. So, I spend a lot of the time trying to get the kids to clean up their own toys, which involves mucho nagging.

Many a Wednesday though, we didn’t get everything done that I wanted, but I just can’t take the clutter anymore. So after the kids are sleeping snuggly in their beds talking and laughing in their rooms after bedtime, I just pile up all the toys in a big pile, set out all the toy baskets and bins, and start sorting…and you know what? My brain sighs a deep sigh of relaxation. Turns out, I actually like organizing the toys, once I do it myself. I still balk a little at doing a chore that should be the kids’, but having all the toys in their nice neat little baskets makes me happy again. (Also, I just ordered a bunch of new bins to help organize our toys, which I am so excited about! I’ll write a post about our new organization system, once I get it up and running.)

I would really like to have the kids be more responsible for picking up their things after they play, and we are working on that, but in the meantime, at least I can recognize that Mommy is the one who really benefits from the house being clean, so I can just own the mess and clean it myself.


Pre- and Post-Dinner Chore Chart - TheEngineersKids
# Around the House, Family Life

Pre- and Post-Dinner Chore Chart

My general philosophy on chores is that in a family you will always be changing your chore systems. Whether the kids have grown older and can take on more complicated chores, you want to change up the allowance or reward system, or you move to a house with a bigger yard, there will always be something that makes you change chore systems.

The kids are now 7, 5, 5, 3 and 1, and I have stumbled upon a chore system for dinner time that is working magically. Without this system, it was me trying to finish up the cooking, while putting away the crafts and homework, while also setting the table, and keeping Eva supplied with Cheerios.

There are two main components that make this system work (for now):

  1. Division of labor.
  2. A monthly rotation of jobs.

My kids enjoy chores a lot more fight and whine a lot less, when they each have their own job. This avoids the “I’m not starting until he starts” argument as well as the feeling that they will never be done. Once their chore is done, that’s it.

Rotating jobs daily, if we skip a day we never know whether to do the jobs from the previous day or move on to the next rotation, and someone is mad about it either way. Rotating jobs weekly, they don’t quite really understand their job before it’s time to switch and I still have trouble remembering who is doing what. Rotating monthly though, that hits the sweet spot. Everyone knows who is doing what, but if they don’t like their current job, they know it will eventually change.

I have been loving knowing which two kids to call first (the toys off floor kid, and the craft/homework supplies off table kid). I don’t have to check the chart each time. The first two come, they clean, they leave. I call the second two in (the dishes kid, and the waters kid). They come, they prep the table, we eat.

After dinner the assignments are sweep by Eva’s chair, put away any food, put away any serving dishes, and wash off the table. Can I just say how much having a once-a-day sweeping of the baby area has been?! I tried to sweep up at least once a day before, but with trying to clean up everything on my own, and rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, it was not happening, and Cheerios were getting tracked all around the house. Plus, that one is their favorite chore!

Here’s the link again to the chore chart. You’ll notice breakfast and lunch chores on there too. We haven’t fully implemented that yet.

How does dinnertime work at your house? What works with older kids, like pre-teens and teenagers?