Skip to main content

Toddler behavior charts: Easy ideas to make at home

Ideas to help you and your toddler make a behavior chart

Toddlers can be tough to discipline. Let’s face it: Listening to reason is not their forte.

A combination of curiosity, impulse control, and good old-fashioned boundary testing frequently leads toddlers (generally defined as 2- and 3-year-olds) into moments of mischief, defiance, and even destruction that can confound even the most empathetic of grownups.

But take heart. There are ways to install those much-needed behavioral guard rails. One is a simple but effective tool known as a behavior chart. Not only is this a low-cost way to set and enforce basic expectations, but it can also be an opportunity to allow your toddler to participate in the process — and perhaps instill a sense of ownership in the new behavioral patterns.

Here’s all you need to know about toddler behavior charts and tips for making one at home.

Upset toddler girl
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is a behavior chart?

You might remember behavior charts from the classroom. There is typically a grid-shaped chart and a list of specific toddler behaviors and/or objectives. Sometimes there are stickers, magnets, and color coding — think green for excellent behavior and red as a time to stop — or emojis in the mix.

The goal is to provide your toddler with a clear, predictable, visual, and real-time status report on whether they’re on the right track, or whether they might be flirting with disciplinary action. Many behavior charts, however, focus on incentives and rewards, rather than punishment. (In fact, many people call them reward charts.) But you can create and tailor a chart to your needs and preferences.

Toddler and mother arguing
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When is a behavior chart the right choice?

The short answer: If you need something that works — though you’ll need to give some thought to its purpose and your overall household environment.

According to experts, behavior charts, when properly done, can improve behavior, thanks to the motivational appeal of working toward (and, of course, receiving) rewards. This can help children improve their behaviors. You can customize them based on goals that go beyond toddler behavior, from potty training to basic chores.

However, behavior charts are also controversial. There is a belief that behavior charts can increase anxiety, particularly in a group setting or for children with developmental delays. Research has been mixed, so be sure to evaluate the “audience” for your chart so you don’t accidentally foster negative feelings.

Toddler behavior chart
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are some examples of behavior chart projects?

After you set your goals, the concept is fairly simple — after all, it’s designed for a toddler to understand. Markers on the chart move from “good” to “bad” or toward rewards and praise. Here are some general ideas for different categories of behavior charts.

Looking for specific designs or templates? Some basic web searching will turn up scads of possibilities.

  • Sticker charts: An ideal choice for toddlers. You can let your little person select the stickers that will go on the chart. Just don’t make the behavior chart too complicated and avoid removing stickers once you’ve awarded one for progress.
  • Behavior charts: Keep it specific. Home in on the behaviors you want to see most improve, and add those to the chart. It could be anything from throwing objects to inappropriate physical contact or potty training.
  • Achievable activities: While perhaps not a chart example per se, sometimes charts can be most effective — particularly at the outset — when they contain one or more objectives that should be fairly easy for the child to achieve. This is something you could potentially, to some extent, involve your toddler in. You can add more advanced goals later, as your toddler moves up the proverbial ladder!

Designing the chart is fun, encourages creativity, and could be a positive and useful bonding experience with your toddler. Ultimately, though, the true key is how you use it.

Staying consistent in using the chart over the longer term is what will help the message really sink in — and help the behavior to change. If you become fully satisfied with the new pattern, you can always phase out the behavior chart and move on to your next parenting endeavor.

Editors' Recommendations

Scott Harris
Scott Harris is a freelance writer based near Washington, DC, with more than a decade of experience covering health…
When can babies eat baby food? This is when to make the switch
How to tell if your baby is ready to start solid food
Baby opens mouth at the sight of food

Many parents find it confusing to know when their baby can start eating baby food. Everyone seems to have an opinion about when babies need to start on solid foods, and that can often mean that parents, especially first-time ones, hear a lot of misinformation and feel pressure to feed their babies baby food before they're ready.

Because every baby is different, there is no exact time when babies should start eating baby food, but there are some guidelines to follow to ensure your little one is ready. Keep reading to answer the question, "When can babies eat baby food?"

Read more
Musical baby names that will make your heart sing
Share your love of all things melodic by giving your child one of these musical names
Baby listening to headphones

If you thought picking out a nursery theme was hard — just wait until you start thinking of what you are going to name your baby. It is one of the most meaningful and personal decisions you'll make for your little one, where some people like to carry on familial traditions, certain parents love a musical baby name, while others like to choose something truly unique. It's not uncommon to have the baby's name selected long before they even become pregnant, with others needing the entire nine months of pregnancy to decide on the perfect name.
People also turn to their personal tastes when it comes to choosing a name, and there is no shortage of inspiration if you go with a musical theme. Music-inspired names are great for anyone looking for a boy, girl, or gender-neutral option because the possibilities are endless. If you're looking for a melodic sound to call your bundle of joy, look no further than these musical baby names that will make your heart sing.

Names that come from musical words
Aria is the perfect name for any music lover's daughter because it means "song" or "solo melody" in Italian. It typically refers to a musical solo in an opera and has found quite a bit of popularity over the recent years, thanks to characters of the same name in hit shows like Pretty Little Liars and Game of Thrones.
If you're looking for a more unique name inspired by your love of music, Chord may be just what you're looking for. A chord is a group of notes or sounds strung together. While not a common name, it did become more popular when actor Chord Overstreet joined the cast of Glee.
What better name to give a sweet baby girl than Harmony, which means the "musical combination of chords." It's an ideal name for the child of two music lovers. The name derives from the Greek word "Harmonia," the daughter of Ares (the god of war) and Aphrodite (the goddess of love) and was the immortal goddess of harmony and concord.
Lyric is a beautiful gender-neutral name for someone who wants to express their love of music through their child's name. Lyric derives from the Greek word lyre which is an ancient stringed instrument. While many feel Lyric is a female name, celebrities like Soleil Moon Frye and Jeremy London both have sons named Lyric. Backstreet Boy singer A.J. McLean has a daughter named Lyric, which seems perfectly fitting.
Your baby will be as sweet as a song if you name her Melody. The name, which derives from the Green Melodia, means song tune and is a sweet and feminine ode to music and songs. The name has waned in popularity since it peaked in the 1980s, which means it's the perfect choice for someone looking for something a bit more mainstream yet not uber-trendy.
If you want something a bit more rock-n-roll for your child, Strummer has the perfect pitch. While it literally means one who strums a stringed instrument, it's a match for an edgier name that still carries a musical tune.

Read more
10 incredible baby shower food ideas that will wow your guests
Can't-miss baby shower menu picks that will delight
Baby shower party favors on a table

If you're hosting a baby shower, it's easy to stress about the details, especially the menu. A lot goes into planning a baby shower, but like with most things, simple is best. Simple doesn't have to be boring. Your menu doesn't necessarily have to mirror the theme, either. Don't make yourself crazy trying to come up with Hawaiian food if you're going with a luau. Feel free to include those go-to party favorites like mini tacos and sliders that are always a hit.

When it comes to baby shower food ideas, there certainly isn't a shortage of tasty inspiration. If you're looking for menu items your guests will dive into, let's get cooking. We've got all the ingredients you're going to need to make deliciously delightful food that's easy to make and serve.

Read more