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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Outsmarted by a Sticker Chart

I love charts. Visual organization really appeals to me. Although I struggle to stay on top of my crazy life, I do enjoy making a list, planning a trip, charting progress, or looking at a cool pie chart on my bank statement. As children will learn this week on Sid the Science Kid a chart is: A science tool that we use to record information. This information is called data. Charts can help us remember how many chores we’ve done, tell us what the weather will be, and record how many children are in school. It’s never too early to teach children about charts, I believe, because of the visual nature of how information is organized.
Charts can help parents too. When I was a new mom, and Henry was under two years old, Gerry and I took a number of “parent enrichment classes.” We went to a CPR class, a baby nutrition class, a potty training class, and a positive discipline class. These evenings provided us with good tips, practical strategies, connections with other parents in our community, and a night out. They also provided a ton of great charting ideas: charts for food, charts for how to get dressed, charts for chores (later on), homework charts, and sticker reward charts.
Ah, the sticker reward charts! Our biggest event with a sticker reward chart was with potty training. By the time Henry was well into his third year, I got a little antsy about the potty training. At the potty training class I was comforted to hear that only 80% of boys are potty trained by the time they are 3 ½. Still, I wanted something to kick-start the process. I went online, found a chart, and let Henry pick a Spiderman motif. We bought stickers and I explained to Henry that he could have a sticker every time he peed in the potty. (Along with an M&M to sweeten the deal.) Finally, I told him that he could pick out a new toy when the chart was full. He needed to have stickers in all the little boxes.
And the games began. Suffice it to say that Henry was only mildly interested in the stickers and often forgot about the candy. I reminded him about the final reward occasionally, but Henry didn’t seem to make the connection. That all changed when Henry saw the big plastic Bat Cave.
Henry really wanted that Bat Cave. It was HUGE and came with Batman, Robin, and a Bat car. So my clever little boy got to work on his sticker chart. In ONE day. Yes, one day. Henry diligently went into the bathroom many, many times during the day and peed in the potty. He did not have a single accident in his big boy underwear. I had no choice but to follow along and reward him as I promised. Lots of M&Ms and many stickers. In fact, a whole chart full of stickers.
I admired Henry’s entrepreneurship while fuming at being outsmarted by a three year old. That weekend we were at the toy store. Henry was beyond thrilled. Two years later, that Bat Cave is still one of Henry’s favorite toys. And he is fully potty trained. Touché, young man!
I think charts can be such an amazing resource when used in the correct way. Both boys really enjoy it when Sid conducts his interviews with the other kids and shows his results on a chart. I have to admit that Henry does understand how to make and use a chart. However, I think that in our house, charts will be used purely as informational tools, as opposed to reward systems.
Have you had success with sticker reward charts? How do you use charts in your everyday life with your children?

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo

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