Months ago (yes – sorry Helen!) I was asked to review Kiddy Charts and jumped at the chance. At the time I was also attending the parenting course that I've written about before here and a whole section of the course was focused on reward charts of different forms and the pros and cons of using them with different children. It seemed the perfect background to give Kiddy Charts a good rigorous review.
So, what exactly are Kiddy Charts? Via their very easy to use website you can create and personalise your own Reward and Chore Charts, Progress Charts, Care Charts (so that children can see their childcare arrangements for the week) and Healthy Eating Charts. A photo of your child can be uploaded and you also get to choose the theme and exactly what you want included. Once you're happy with your chart design you can then either print it out from their website or have it printed and posted out to you.
I opted to make a standard reward chart for Little Miss C, based on the dinosaur theme and using star shapes against each day. She loved the design and the fact that it had her name and photograph printed on it. We chose to concentrate on four different behaviours that we wanted her to work on and the star shapes worked really well as we could use some star stickers that we already had to fill in the stars when she completed a day's good behaviour.
When we covered reward charts on my parenting course some very lively discussion followed. The trainers on the course were talking about what they called a "starry sky" approach to star charts where you simply have a blank piece of paper and just stick stars on it randomly to mark good behaviour. Then when the "sky" is full you do something special with the child as agreed when you started it off – possibly a picnic in the park, or maybe a film together. What they were keen to say is that they don't recommend a promise of physical items like toys in response to good behaviour as that will only encourage some children to expect things like this for a behaviour that you want to be "normal". Praise is what encourages children to continue with good behaviour and that's also much much cheaper than a series of cheap plastic toys!
Parents on the course who had previously used reward charts of some form had mixed views on which style worked best. It seems that for some children a system like the Kiddy Chart Reward Chart where a child gets a star (or similar) is awarded one per day of good behaviour is best, yet for other children a system like the Progress Chart worked better, where a star is awarded for every time a child does something. Luckily Kiddy Charts covers both these ways of doing things.
I was really impressed with how easy and quick it was to create a personalised reward chart with Kiddy Charts and liked the range of designs and the fact that many of them were quite unisex. For the reward charts there were a good range of "desired behaviours" to choose from to include on your child's chart. The only change I would have liked to have seen there was an option to include free text for one or more of the behaviours. This was because I wanted to be really specific about behaviours that I wanted to reward on a chart (like for instance not hitting her brother!), but seeing as LMC can't yet read I ended up just selecting the closest options from the list available and telling her that they meant a more specific behaviour.
If you're after a reward chart to work through with your child then making sure they are bought into the process is fundamentally important and Kiddy Charts really allows you to do that from the start. A child really feels ownership of something they've helped design and that seems to help to encourage them to work towards the good behaviours that you want to see.
I hope that LMC's behaviour improvements mean that we don't need to use them again in a hurry, but I have no doubt that I'll go back to Kiddy Charts if I need to.
Disclaimer: We were given Kiddy Charts credits to create some reward charts for the purposes of this review.