Learn how to use kanban for kids so that you can help them with prioritizing their chores, school work, and so much more. Using kanban with your children will teach you life skill of prioritization and organization.
As an IT project manager by trade, I am all to familiar with kanban boards for managing work. I’ve also decided to bring it home, and teach my kids the kanban method.
Even though I don’t homeschool, my kids still use the kanban method to track their chores and their work. Kanban usage at home with kids isn’t JUST FOR families that homeschool.
If your kids go to school and get homework assigned, they can use kanban to help them manage and organize their work in a visual way.
Kids that are taught this way of thinking will have life skills that will serve them as they get older, get more school work, get jobs, and start getting more responsibilities.
Having a kanban board in our home for the kids started as a really fun experiment and way to manage things, but now it is a routine way for us to manage the tasks and work that our household needs to do.
What is the Kanban technique for kids?
Kanban is the Japanese word that literally means a visual sign or card. It can be physical or an electronic version that will allow kids to visually see the work that they need to get done in a prioritized manner.
Kanban boards allow anyone who uses the methodology to convert a “to do list” into a way to visually see the work that needs to be done. Being able to see it allows kids to be focused and more organized. They can see at a quick glance everything that they need to get done.
It is a parent’s ultimate productivity hack for their kids.
What’s the benefit of having a kanban for kids?
- Chores is no longer a dirty word in our house. The word chores often had a negative connotation and caused instant battles on the kids arguing who should do what, arguments over who should do things first, and it was getting to a point where it was just too much to argue with them. I just wanted them to “do” instead of me having to nag them all the time. Chores now just means looking at the kanban board to seeing what all our family needs to do.
- Kids get a feeling of independence. As parents, we are the task groomers (also known as the backlog groomers), and help establish the priorities. However, the kids get to choose the work they want to do and we as task groomers can see what it looks like from their priority on how complex their stories are.
- Accountability is learned at a young age. Since everyone gets to pick their own chores, they also start feeling a sense of accountability in the work they need to get done. It’s a rewarding feeling for the kids to move things from the backlog to the done column, and acts like a great internal motivator.
- At a young age, they are learning goal-focused, results-oriented management, with the added benefit of a flexible schedule.
- It provides clarity to kids on what needs to be done as well as feeling like they know what they need to track.
- There was no motivation or consequences for chores before implementing the process in our household (except for me nagging). Now, the system is flexible enough to teach kids how they can be punished with double the amount of work remaining the following week if they are not efficient.
How to Implement a Kanban Board for Kids
Here’s how you can start and establish rules for kanban with your kids:
- White Board
- Dry Erase marker
- Sticky Notes
- Create four columns for To Do, In Progress, Blocked, Done
- Write chores in the first column using a sticky note or in the Trello board. Add them to the first column.
- Explain the rules to the kids.
- Rule 1: Parents are task groomers. Parents are the only one that can approve the new chore, if a chore can be broken down into smaller tasks.
- Rule 2: Every week on a certain day, the family gets together to decide who gets to do what work at the house for that week. The family as a team estimates how complex the work is for each task.
- Rule 3: The kids get autonomy to pick their chore. They can only have one chore in progress at any given time, but must complete the same number of total story points as a whole.
- Rule 4: When work starts, it needs to move from left to right. If they do not get their chore done, the missed point not completed gets double for the following week.
- Start the sprint.
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Keys to Success with Kanban Boards for Kids
In order to ensure that your kids get the most out of implementing a kanban board at home and doesn’t become another system you tried (and failed), here are a few things you can do to make sure you get success with your kanban boards at home with kids:
Kids Should Be Involved and Write Up Their Own Ideas for Chores
Your children need to be involved to create the tasks and move the tasks. They should also be the ones moving the tasks from one column to the next. Allowing them to create their own chores will allow them to get more involved. Don’t ever turn down an idea from them, just tell them the idea that they create must help and benefit the family as a whole.
Duplicate Chores Are Okay
There are chores that need to be done multiple times during the week, that’ sokay. You can do that. As long as the kids are contributing their fair share, then just go with it.
Give Some Control
Allow the kids to have some sort of control in a few of the processes. For example, parents can help set the priorities, but the kids need to be able to create the tasks independently on their own.
Ensure the kids have the ability to see the number of items that they can have in each column. This will allow them to ensure that they don’t have to many tasks that they are working on at any given time (WIP).
Task Complexity Appropriate for Age
Similar to the modern workplace, the task should be broken down as much as possible to ensure the kids can feel motivated that they are going to be able to move the task from the left side to the right. Breaking down tasks for creating a book report after reading should have the following tasks for a second grader: read book, find a book report template, outline your book report, write your book report.
Allow Some Grace with Story Points
As a parent, let go of kids overestimating on story points. Even if a bowl is left on the table, give it a point even though it makes you squeal.
Finishing Doesn’t Always Mean Rewards
Rewards should be few and less often. The goal of the system is to benefit the entire family and allow the kids to learn prioritization and organization and “doing their part”. Trust me, I’m one that uses bribery often, but for chores they should be doing at home, they are learning an inherent skill.
Groom and Prune Your Backlog Frequently
The chores during the school year and summer months may be different. As the seasons change, with different schedules, the kanban board can also be modified. Just windle down to what needs to be done, and things that are less important to keep the backlog relevant.
Uses of Kanban for Kids
Here are the following types of tasks you can create for your kids to help them get started:
- Chores around the house
- Daily routines they need to complete
- Nightly routines they need to complete
- Tasks for each school work they need to do
- Practice for extracurricular activities like music, dance, or soccer
- Calling the grandparents
- Taking the dog out for a walk or feeding the cat
- Getting the mail
- Taking the trash can in
Kanban Planner Ideas for Busy Families
I’ve created a video so that you can see how I’ve set up my kanban board for our family.
Trello has an absolutely free version that you can use to help them track their work. Both of my older kids use this to manage their school work. Here’s a screenshot of their work.
You can use labels to see who is assigned to what card. You can also have checklists inside of each card.
I love Airtable because its a web-based tool that is basically a hyped up spreadsheet that you can view in a kanban view. It is that amazing. It’s also FREE (there is a paid version, but you don’t need it).
The “customize cards” feature allows you to add fields so you can see who is assigned and how many points are assigned to each card.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kanban Boards for Kids
What’s the difference between a kanban board and chore chart?
Kanban board and chore charts are very similar. With the kanban methodology, there are a few rules and parameters that need to be established with kids in order to be effective at moving things to the done list. A kanban board is a list
What is the kanban technique?
Kanban essentially is the process of limiting the work in progress so as to limit the number of bottlenecks there are in the production line. By limiting the amount of work-in-progress (also known as WIP), you also limit the number of bottlenecks you can have.
The limits set with kanban is what makes it different than any type of visual board for project management.
Summary for Kanban for Kids
Families get busy, which means kids get busy. Often, they may be signed up for tons of after school activities including added homework and then adding on chores. Being able to manage their workload and see everything they need to do will allow you to help your kids prioritize their work.
Creating a kanban board for your kids is an incredibly simple, yet incredibly powerful tool for managing the responsibilities they have inside the home. Teaching kids at a young age how to prioritize their work and not get overwhelmed is a life skill that will set them up for a lifetime of success.
I hope this provides you as a parent on how you can streamline the work that your kids are doing.