When parents set out to use a behavior chart for kids, they have the best intentions. The goal, obviously, is to curtail inappropriate, frustrating or even aggressive behavior. However, even when behavior charts start off strong, they often wind up leaving everyone back where they started.
According to Annelise Cunningham, clinical psychologist and neonatal intensive care unit neurodevelopmental assessment and infant mental health postdoctoral fellow at Lurie Children’s Little Ones program in Chicago, the problem isn’t the chart necessarily, but instead the execution. “Before using a behavior chart, or any discipline tactic with kids for that matter, parents and caregivers need to make sure they have a strong relationship with the child and a secure attachment,” she explains. “You can have the fanciest chart in the world, but children’s behavior, ultimately, is regulated by their relationship with their caregiver.”
Once a solid relationship is established (which, P.S., is strengthened through focused one-on-one time), here’s what to keep in mind when introducing a behavior chart:
- Make sure goals are attainable. “The child needs to be able to succeed with the chart. Otherwise they’ll feel defeated,” Cunningham says.
- Keep it simple. “Don’t try to tackle everything,” Cunningham adds. “Think about the behaviors that are so challenging that your life would be different if you tackled them.”
- Be consistent. If grandma or a nanny is caring for your child while you’re at work, make sure they know exactly what you’re doing.
- Keep it age appropriate. “When you use a behavior chart, you need to make sure it’s developmentally and cognitively appropriate,” Cunningham says. “For little kids, that means giving them a reward right away. If they do something on Monday and don’t get the reward until Friday, it may as well be a year later.”
If you and your child are working on things together, a behavior chart may be helpful. Here are 18 behavior charts for kids that you can buy, download or make on your own.
Behavior charts you can buy
1. Magnetic and dry erase star chart
A solid choice for parents who want to use a behavior chart for more than one child — maybe for curbing those behaviors that create sibling conflict — and who want the option to fill out both the desired behaviors and rewards.
Where to buy: Magnetic Reward Chart ($12, Amazon)
2. Good choices mini chart
A cute, little chart for cute, little people. This behavior chart for kids encourages children to make good choices, using fun stickers as incentives.
Where to buy: Mini Incentive Chart ($5 for a pack of 30, Quill)
3. Woodland creatures clip chart
When all else fails, let cute woodland creatures do some of the heavy lifting. Use this adorable tree behavior chart from Anthropologie to motivate kids to follow the rules in order to climb to the top of the tree.
Where to buy: Kids Behavior Chart ($54, Anthropologie)
4. Treasure hunt behavior chart
Got a pirate-loving little one? This treasure hunt-themed reward chart has great visuals for motivating kids to get to the prize (A.K.A. the treasure). It’s also open-ended, allowing parents to determine which behaviors they want to address.
Where to buy: Treasure Hunt Mini Reward Chart ($10 for pack of 30, Quill)
5. Magnetic responsibility chart
Sold as a responsibility chart, the Melissa & Doug chart also includes behavioral aspects, such as “keeping hands to myself” and “no bad language.” Best for kids out of the toddler age, parents and caregivers can change up the chart each week and add in chores.
Where to buy: Melissa & Doug Responsibility Chart ($14, Amazon)
6. Wooden reward coins
Not an actual behavior chart for kids, but a great addition to one. This box of 30 coins features fun reward ideas for kids, such as “family movie night” and “breakfast in bed.”
Where to buy: Natural Reward Idea Coins ($25, The Idea Box Kids/Etsy)
7. Fish bowl chart
How cute is this chart?! Every time a child does well with the behavior you’re working on, they get to “shop” for a fish and put it in their bowl.
Where to buy: Fish Bowl Chart ($17, Mainly Charts/Etsy)
8. Personalized reward boxes
Talk about a stylish reward “chart.” These cute, personalized reward boxes let parents, caregivers or kids place a star in their box and get a reward once they’re filled up.
Where to buy: Personalized Reward Boxes ($28, Kit an Kaboodle/Etsy)
Printable behavior charts for kids
9. Unicorn reward chart
It may look like a game, but it’s really just a cute printable reward chart. The best part? Older kids can read their reward at the bottom as a reminder.
Where to buy/download: Printable Unicorn Reward Chart ($3 per download, TPC Partyware/Etsy)
10. Personalized behavior chart
Another printable chart that motivates kids by turning good behavior into a fun game with a reward (of the parents’ choice!) at the end. Plus, it can be personalized with your child’s name!
Where to buy/download: Personalized Printable Behavior Chart ($3 per download, Enchanted Papeterie/Etsy)
11. Single behavior chart
Where to download: Single Behavior Chart ($0, Free Printable Behavior Charts)
12. Tween and teen behavior chart
Another great one from Free Printable Behavior Charts is this behavior chart geared towards tweens and teens. According to Cunningham, if you’re going to use a behavior chart for older kids, make sure the rewards are age-appropriate. “Capitalize on your child’s development,” she says. “For older kids, it can be something as simple as: If you complete your homework Monday through Friday, you get something over the weekend.”
Where to download: Preteen/Teen Behavior Chart ($0, Free Printable Behavior Charts)
13. Kid kash incentive chart
Where to buy/download: Kid Kash + Incentive Chart ($4 per download, Somewhat Simple/Etsy)
14. Rainbow clip chart
Clip charts, like this free behavior chart from Neatlings, are used in school a lot, with most kids starting at “ready for the day.” Depending on their actions, the clips move up or down on the chart — and not surprisingly, they can also work at home.
“After I saw my son’s teacher using a clip chart at school, I started using one at home — it’s been great,” says mom of three Jaclyn Santos of Hazlet, New Jersey. “I love that it’s a bright, visual reminder. And it’s so familiar to my son since he uses it at school, too.”
Where to download: Behavior Clip Chart ($0, Neatlings)
15. Super simple behavior chart
Where to download: Free Behavior Chart Printable ($0, The Mama Notes)
16. Spider-Man behavior chart
Where to download: Spider-Man Reward Chart ($0, Reward Charts for Kids)
DIY behavior charts for kids
17. DIY clip chart
18. “Make it a good day” chart
If you’re computer proficient — or just want to draw this free-hand — you can make this “make it a good day” hole-punch chart like Fit n First Grade. Perfect for staying consistent when you’re on the go!