One Kid’z Kanban Board

Sometimes I tell my 6-year old daughter to clean her room. Then she argues, maybe runs to the next room, or she starts to clean up but gets bored, overwhelmed or distracted. Pretty soon she is playing or reading a book. The nagging starts again. This cycle is not fun for either of us.

There are plenty of “chore charts” on the market. They list full projects like “Clean Room” and give you a place to mark when the project is done. While they provide visual tracking, they otherwise do not ease the process. I use kanban at work for software development so I thought I would give it a try at home. Kanban can be used to break down big projects into manageable chunks — sub-tasks within the project. It requires that you finish one chunk before moving to the next.  Kanban has made “problem chores” easier and fun.

How it works
Materials
-White board or chalk board. Our phases are:
Ready – Total backlog of tasks. No limit.
Set – Tasks selected to do next. Limit 3.
Go – Tasks now in progress. Limit 1.
Done – Finished!
-Sticky notes.   We use one large sticky note for the Project and smaller stickies for Tasks within the Project. Can be shown as words or pictures.

Morgan first moves 3 tasks from “Ready” into the “Set” queue. She then pulls one of these into “Go” when she starts it. When the task is complete, she moves it to “Done,” replenishes the “Set” queue and pulls the next task into “Go.” When all tasks are done, move the large Project sticky note to Done.  That’s it!

kidzban chore board

kid with kidzban chore board

Keys to Success
1) The child should have some control. Maybe the parent can specify priorities but let the child pull tasks independently.
2) Involve the kid in the process. They can help come up with the tasks, create the board and the sticky notes.
3) Visible limits. Draw “slots” to show task limits.
4) Tasks should not be too easy or too hard. Set the child up for success.  Each task should be fairly quick. Manageable tasks and a clear completion goal mean the project is not so overwhelming.

Variations
-My daughter loves to race the clock. Use a timer to time each task and/or the whole project.
-For multiple kids, use colored flags or write initials on the board to show who is tackling which task. Joining forces is allowed! Up the limits as needed.
-Multiple projects (Bedtime Routine; Going to Grandma’s; etc) can be handled by adding horizontal lanes.
-If “quality control” is an issue, add a Gold Star lane for stories accepted by mom or dad. Or, put a sticker on the tasks in the Done lane to show this acceptance.

Does it always work?  No.  Sometimes she is tired of the kanban game and just wants to draw on the board. Still, between the traditional system of nagging and the new system of kanban, she typically prefers kanban.