Now, I don’t want to hype this blog post up or brag too much, but this could be the GREATEST IDEA ANY PARENT HAS EVER HAD IN THE HISTORY OF PARENTHOOD.
As summer began, I quickly realized that a) we couldn’t be on the go every single minute and b) I didn’t want my kids staring at TV or video game screens every minute that we WEREN’T on the go and c) I was tired of patrolling their free time. I needed a solution. Something that made them self motivated to do educational and stimulating activities. I came up with this idea as I was driving home from my mom’s house last week. And it’s my crowning achievement in parenting thus far.
I made a list of activities that the kids could do to earn beads. Simple craft beads that I got at the Dollar Store. For every activity from the list that the kids do, they get one bead. Then, they can choose what and when to cash their beads in for.
This is Bean’s list (2st-3rd grade):
And here is Gracie’s list (K-1st grade):
(Side note: To download an editable copy of your own, click here!!!)
(Side note again: The list of steps to cleaning their rooms is not part of the beads thing, but just a reminder for them of what they have to do when they clean their rooms in order to get the bead. It was just easier to keep it all in one place. The original link to the clean room list is here.)
(Final side note: I looked through my blog archives for a post about which educational apps I use for my kids, but didn’t find one. I’ll post about that soon!)
I keep a small cup of beads on our kitchen counter for easy distribution and then I keep a small baggie of them in my purse, in case they earn any while we are out of the house. The rule about how to get beads is that you have to tell Mom or Dad before you begin working on a bead. So, you can’t just go to your room and read and then come out and announce you earned a bead. They have to let us know so that we can monitor them. If they complete a chore, but didn’t tell us first, then they don’t get a bead.
I couldn’t decide at first what they would keep their beads in. I dug around in my craft box (where I found my beads!) and finally decided on pipe cleaners. They hang on the fridge when we are home, but when we go out, the kids sometimes wear them on their wrists as bracelets, in case I happen to give out beads while are away from home.
I give out spontaneous, unsolicited beads for all kinds of things: using good manners, being kind, sharing, playing nicely together, being respectful, etc. I also give them additional opportunities to earn beads throughout the day, too. For example, they were both kind of dragging their feet about our first day of VBS because they were nervous, so I said anyone who has a great time at VBS can earn a bead. They came home with all kinds of stories to tell me about how much fun they had! I also have extra chores and things around the house that I offer up occasionally, like picking up a mess Daisy made when she shredded her toy the other day.
Not EVERYTHING in our house is done for a bead. Some things I ask them to do without a bead incentive, and they are expected to do it without complaints. So far, that hasn’t been an issue, which is good.
They are so funny about cashing in their beads, too! Bean cashes his in the minute he earns a third bead so that he can play video games. Gracie spent all of her first beads on sleeping with Bean. She slept with him three or four nights in a row!
I also let them work together to earn beads. So, if one wants to go play outside, the other goes. If one wants to take out the recycling, they can try to talk the other into helping them. If one wants to feed the dogs, they both can help. They even helped each other clean their bedrooms the other day! (They each earned an extra bead for that because they were working together so well.)
The kids can also have beads taken away, too. They both lost one the other day because they were bickering in the car and wouldn’t stop. And last week, they both lost ALL of their beads because they gave themselves a bead while Chris and I weren’t looking. (In their defense, they DID complete the chore, but they didn’t tell us about it before hand and because they aren’t allowed to help themselves to the beads.)
So far, the beads are saving my sanity this summer. They give the kids options, too, instead of me just nagging them all the time to “turn off the TV and do something!” Now, they have some choices of what they can do. And the same goes for rewards. Their eyes just GLEAM at the idea of being able to choose WHATEVER THEY WANT! That kind of choice and freedom has been a game changer in our house.