Before implementing a behavior chart, it is important to determine what is appropriate behavior for a preschooler. Some children may be almost reading but not understand social graces, while others may not be as focused academically but are more sensitive to others. Preschoolers will develop uniquely, and preschool behavior charts need to reflect skills each is personally ready to undertake.
Developmentally Appropriate Behaviors
Generally, you can expect a preschooler to be able to do the following when reminded:
- Say "please" and "thank you"
- Pick up toys
- Sett the table
- Abstain from hitting, kicking or biting
- Listen when an adult is talking
- Wash hands after using the restroom
- Use indoor voices when asked
- Follow simple commands
It is important to realize that while preschoolers may be able to grasp the concept of the previously listed behaviors, it does not mean they will do them all of the time or be perfectly behaved. A behavior chart should be a resource for parents to help their children to learn to behave appropriately.
Printable Behavior Charts
The following charts are designed to be a simple visual reminder of behavioral expectations and how children are meeting those expectations. If you need help downloading the printable charts, check out these helpful tips.
Behavior Forecast Chart
This chart can be used for a preschool classroom or at home. It consists of three levels: sunny, cloudy, and stormy. Print out a picture of the child's face, and place it on the sunny level. When they misbehave they get a warning and have to move to the cloudy level. If they continue to misbehave they move to the stormy level. The goal is to stay on the sunny level all day, and they will receive a treat (a sticker, piece of candy etc.). If you are using this in a preschool classroom, the students that are left on the stormy level at the end of the day receive a note home. Every child starts the day with a fresh start on the sun. Children can be moved up or down throughout the day depending upon their behavior. This chart is meant to encourage good behavior and for children to stay on the sunny level.
Puppy Dog Chart
This chart is for preschoolers to learn one specific behavior. It consists of a mother dog having to collect her puppies and get them to the doghouse. After choosing the behavior and explaining it to your child, the goal is for the child to color in one puppy for each day they complete the behavior or task (set the table, pick up toys, no running in the house, etc.) Once the child color all seven puppies, he gets a treat. This chart is a great visual for preschoolers to see their progress and encourage them to behave appropriately.
Sticker charts are a fun and easy way for preschoolers to know what is expected of them. To utilize this chart, have your child place a sticker after the specific task under the day of the week they completed it. Once they have filled up each day of the week with stickers, you can reward them appropriately. A fun reward is to take a shoebox and decorate it, and then add fun items and have the child pick from the "prize box."
What the Experts Say
According to the Center of Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning from Vanderbilt University, providing visual strategies such as behavior charts can prevent defiant behavior in preschoolers. Children with unruly behavior and who challenge their teachers or parents can benefit from these strategies. Experts say visuals can teach appropriate behavior, assist children in what is expected of them and help enhance their memory. Vanderbilt University gives the following tips on how to make a visual chart:
- Use real photographs
- Use written words or numbers
- Use text in conjunction with photographs
- Present visuals from top to bottom or left to right depending upon how the child scans
- Make the visual durable and easy to handle (cardstock or laminate)
Graphics and Pictures
Instead of listing the behaviors children are expected to follow, use graphics or pictures so non-readers can understand. Use simple illustrations to demonstrate things like, setting the table, hugging a friend or washing hands. Alternatively, preschoolers can help make their own chart by using safety scissors and cutting pictures out of old magazines or books of good manners and behavior.
A daily behavior chart that has a "three strikes" policy is a concept most preschoolers will comprehend. When three negative marks are on the chart, a simple punishment should take place, such as loss of preschool television shows for the rest of the day.
The chart can also use "three strikes" to reward exceptionally good behavior. If there are three positive marks on the chart, a child may get to have extra computer time to play on his or her favorite preschool websites.
Discuss with the preschooler the chart at the end of each day. Talk about what they did that was good and what they did that was bad. Explain why particular behaviors were given positive marks or negative marks. Talk about what the preschooler can do differently in situations that resulted in negative marks.
Charts Measure Results
Parents may be hesitant to use a kids' behavior chart, fearing that using one will make them look like "bad" parents who cannot control their children. However, many parenting advice experts will propose using a chart in order to make it easier for both parents and children to see results. Traits of a good parent are teaching children manners and providing loving guidance and discipline when necessary.