How to Make An Inexpensive Behavior Chart

Behavior charts can be helpful for the toddler who doesn't recognize escalation. Some children don't notice the tension rise and don't realize their actions are increasing towards unacceptable. My son is one of those children. He has always seemed surprised when I tell him "that's enough" and I mean it. I know he loses track of himself and lives only in that moment when he's hyper. For that reason I developed a behavior chart.

The behavior chart gives the parent the opportunity to pause the escalating situation. By referring to and walking over to the chart, the parent can allow emotions to settle down on both sides. The child can see their behavior directly causing the change up or down. The negative behavior can be contemplated and the positive behavior can be celebrated.

You will need:

  • Poster paper
  • Scissors
  • Photo of your child
  • Stickers
  • Marker and pen
  • Clothespin
  • Glue stick
  • Command strips

Cut the paper to size

Choose any size and thickness of poster paper. I bought a large poster in green, white, and red from the dollar store and cut 5 8x10 sizes. Green was chosen for good behavior (keep going) and red for naughty behavior (stop what you are doing) while white was neutral.

Identify themes and decorate

I choose a theme for each section which matches my son's current interests. I was able to find high quality stickers from Eyelike and DK Publishing which my son adores. Our themes from exceptional to naughty are Indiana Jones, Astronaut, Fish, Dinosaur, and Shark.

Pin your child

Cut your child's photo to fit on the clothes pin. Use glue to attach. If you think using the photo is a bit much, you can opt to use a sticker picture and write the name instead.

Identify actions for each section

List all the actions that you typically speak to during one full day. Think about the ones that you praise and the ones that you correct. Ask your child which section each of these actions should go. This step includes the child in the making of the chart and gives him some ownership. He will be more likely to be excited and committed when he has invested in the chart. Write the actions on the paper within each category.

Hang and use

Before hanging, I had my behavior charts and the picture laminated by my daycare. I knew this would get a lot of use and I wanted to protect it and make it sturdier. My husband and I debated whether to hang it in his room for privacy or in the living room for convenience. Ultimately we decided to hang it in the living room where we are more often.  I hung it with Command Strips so I could easily take it down or move it later without damage.

The chart has worked wonders for both me and him. He is excited and looks forward to it everyday. Each morning his pin moves to the Fish because "everyday is a fresh start". This has served to start important conversations with him. As I move his pin, I point to the action and tell him why. It has been useful to pinpoint the behavior and not he himself as naughty or nice.