Earning toys

I started to write this morning, because I really wanted to get this up, but then I became convinced/convicted I really should be out there playing with my kids.  So, instead I was good and spent the morning making bugs and doing a science lesson.  It was a blast!

My kids have I’d guess 3 ways they get toys:

1.  The easy method Christmas or birthday presents.  I try to keep it to one or two fun toys, a game, and a book.  That’s my goal.  I like to give presents, that’s one of my primary love languages, that and time spent, so it is a real challenge for me not to give too many.

2.  They earn them by achieving a goal.  These goals are not morally motivated, so they don’t earn toys by telling the truth or by behaving correctly, that to me is a little too close to bribery.  So far they’ve mostly earned toys for potty training rewards.  They’d find a toy at the store they NEEDED to have, did you see that all caps?  That’s how much they needed it, they were going to have a terrible life if they didn’t get it.  I would look at how much the toy cost and then decide the number of times they needed to do something to get their goal.  So, back when we were desperate for Superman to understand going poop in the potty he got a comic for doing so (comics are about $2-3), it was rather extravagant, but we did that once or twice and then it became all day with no accidents, and eventually several days.

Now for bigger toys that are more than $5 I usually put something more.  So when the boys saw a Batmobile they were desperate for that they had to be dry overnight for 25 nights.  It didn’t have to be in a row, it was just be dry.

Princess right now is trying to earn an Ariel toy.  She’s very disappointed the castle she got didn’t come with a  Ariel doll, don’t you understand Mommy?  There’s a picture of Ariel in the bathtub on the box, so she goes in the bathtub and Aurora goes in the bed, because that’s where she is on the box.
But, I digress……..  I’ve heard that a few too many times.   So, we’re going through the potty training torture with her.  She’s fairly good, but doesn’t tend to remember on her own.  So, she’s not really close yet, but we’re getting there.

3.  The final way they “earn” toys is the old-fashioned way.  They work for them.  We have two different types of chores in our family: the ones you do because you’re part of the family, and the ones you do to get paid.  As I split it up in my mind, anything that happens downstairs where people are going to see our house is you do it because I said so.  Upstairs I’m more likely to pay you.

Here’s items I’ve paid them for:
1.  room clean for 1 week: $1
2.  bed made for the week: $1
3.  washing baseboards: $.25 (I got this idea from a friend, they’re at the perfect height).
4.  cleaning outside, which is really lots of fetching and carrying.  They get whatever I feel is fair at the time.  So one time I think they each got $3 for helping with weeding, putting leaves and such in the trash and digging holes.

Honestly, we don’t do all that great on paying them for their chores.  They don’t tend to remember to clean without reminders, and I don’t tend to remember to pay unless they remind me.  I’ve been thinking for a while about hanging up some kind of magnetic chore chart, but I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do.

And for those who are curious our principals are somewhat based off of these two sites:
Dave Ramsey– based off these principals our family is debt free, so I highly recommend him, he’s got classes for most every age group.  I’m going to start the boys on a more formalized chore system in a few months when they turn 5 I think.  Like I said this is a work in progress.

Growing Families International– They’re where I got the idea of earning toys for behaviors that aren’t moral.  We were lucky to take several of their classes and lead a couple of them.  I want to retake the “older kid” class sometime soon, by older I mean preschool to elementary.

Well, hopefully that answered your questions Natalie.

Preschool Corner: Christmas Craft

The Candymaker’s Gift– I read this to the kids about a week or so ago, and they haven’t stopped talking about it since then.

The basic story is a candymaker wants to make a candy to help all the kids know the real reason for Christmas.

Ever since then my kids have been telling me nonstop about how a candy cane looks like a J and a shepherd’s staff.

Supplies needed: red and white pipe cleaners (I had long ones I cut in half)

Christmas,craft,pipe cleaner

This is a great craft to do on the go, and it entertains your kids in the car, while waiting at doctor’s offices……

All you do is hand them a red and a white pipe cleaner and have them twist it to make it look striped, and then bend it into a candy cane shape.

As simple as that.  This is great for fine motor skills and developing those finger and hand muscles.Christmas,craft,pipe cleaner


As you can see this demands great concentration.

And that’s about the extent of our school this week, and for much of this month.  We’ve just had too much life school going on……..

Oh, and for those of you who are curious, my kids did clean up their rice mess and it took the three of them almost an hour:



Sigh, kids……

Chores and Kids

As you no doubt have guessed by now, I firmly believe my kids should do chores. To make sure they are able to help as much as is age appropriate here are some things we’ve done in our house to make it possible.



1. We use mostly plastic dishes. This means they can set the table, and they can put away their own dishes.

2. There’s a cabinet that is at their level that has most of the kid dishes. The kids are in charge of putting away anything that goes in there.

3. The kids can put away silverware, they do not put away sharp knives, but a butter knife will be very hard to hurt yourself with. It takes a lot of skill, even I haven’t managed it yet.
* Caveat to this, if your kids put away your silverware, that does mean that you won’t alwyas be able to find stuff.


I try very hard to ensure that groceries are packed at the store so they’re not too heavy. When we’re unloading everything, anything that is light enough for the kids to carry is put on the ground for them to come get.

I usually do the grocery shopping with the kids, this does mean it takes MUCH longer. But, they can also fetch things off of shelves that they can reach, and are usually quite happy to help me get mushrooms or bananas.



You’ve all seen my kids doing lots of cleaning, and mopping, and general picking up. Here’s things I have them do:

1. Mop. I got our mops here. I regularly drool over their other items, and have a lengthy wish list there. Having my kids mop the floor does mean that it is usually fairly wet afterwards, but I can run my big mop over it afterwards and get the worst of it off.

2. Sweep. I want to get some more brooms for the kids, probably from the above site. The ones we have right now I don’t really like. I saw an idea from a featured site Totally Tots to tape a square to identify where they should sweep to. I’m going to start trying that idea, because I think it will be a big help.

3. Folding clothes. I showed the boys how to do this and Batman loves to fold clothes now. He’s horrible at it. They end up looking more like they’re wadded up, but he loves to do it, and it lets him feel like he’s helping Mommy.

4. A corollary to that last one, putting away their own clothes. All three of them, even Princess are responsible for putting away their own clothes. This is one I have to check up on, because they have a tendency to get distracted and not finish putting them away. But otherwise, they do pretty good. As long as you don’t mind them not always getting it in the right drawer.

So, that’s the chores my kids do. A lot of why I have them do all of this is because I want them to grow up realizing that is part of life, and it must be done. Also, I had more than a few friends in college who didn’t know how to load a dishwasher or cook, or do laundry. It was truly frightening.

Legos and how we play with them

I’ve mentioned before my love of Legos and how happy I am my kids have gotten big enough to use the little Legos, well now let me post for you what we do with our legos that makes it work for me.


Step 1: Sort them out into different types of pieces with pictures of what is in the drawer. We had a similar sort of thing growing up but it was divided much more. I didn’t want to overwhelm my preschool kids. So it’s divided by number of spaces or what it is supposed to do. That’s the first step to making Legos work with preschoolers.


Steps 2 and 3: I have a designated Lego play area. We lay out a blanket on the floor, all Legos are to stay on the blanket. Step 3 is have a large board to play on. The one I have I found at the local toy store, it’s a Duplo board on one side and a Lego board on the other and is AWESOME!

Actually, I do have one step before this. They have to ask to play with them, most of their toys they can get out whenever, but toys that take a while to pick up or have lots of small parts (and Legos fit both these categories) need to be asked before they get it out or they can’t play with it. This ensures a couple of things: 1. I know they’re playing with it 2. I can make sure there is time to pick it up before the next activity 3. less lost pieces.

Step 4: Make them put away the Legos at the end, and put them away in the right drawers. For my kids this is not an independent activity yet, but I think it will be in a few weeks.

For anyone who’s interested here’s my lego label pictures. I printed it out on normal paper and ran it through my sticker maker, but you could also print it on sticker paper or just tape it on the drawers.

Lego Label Pictures