Neatlings Chore Chart System helps parents help children

Robin Barber of Cottonwood displays the Neatlings Chore Chart System she made for her daughters. The chart became so successful, she has turned it into a home business.

COTTONWOOD — Every mother hopes her children will learn to pick up after themselves and be helpful around the house. With the help of Robin Barber’s Neatlings Chore Chart many mothers and teachers are finding that possible.

For years Barber had searched for a chore chart that would help her daughters learn to do the routine things like self care and household chores without the usual moaning and groaning.

“Our house always seemed messy,” Barber said. But most chore charts were not helpful because they were flat boards that ended up having too many slots to fill.

For instance, if one of the girls was to water plants, there were boxes for every day of the week, which was obviously too often for that chore.

Some had magnets children could decorate, but would probably end up just playing with, Barber said.

When their eldest daughter turned 9, Robin said she had a revelation.

“I realized that half my time with her was over,” she said, “and I hadn’t taught her a thing about taking care of herself.”

Having a master’s of business administration and a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Barber’s analytical mind went to work on the problem.

“It really helped to be analytical,” she said. “It really helped me when developing the chore board. Instead of a flat file, it is a three-dimensional data base.”

She sewed pockets on velcro squares and gave them clear label pockets and developed laminated cards with tasks and their pictures. There were also reward cards indicating how many tickets they could earn each day by doing their chores.

Barber said that the title card gave her pause for thought, but when she made it with tabs on the bottom that fit into the pockets, the problem was solved. She found that her daughters responded well to the new system. As each child grew and learned certain tasks, they became a “responsibility” instead of a rewardable chore. Barber said that, as family members, the girls learned that they had certain responsibilities and that those had to be completed in order to earn the reward tickets for the additional chores.

Before the Neatlings Chore Board prototype was completed, it was like they had three zombies roaming around the house, Robin’s husband, Wade Barber, said of their daughters. They were glued to their “screen-time” as the parents called it. So, screen time became one of the rewards they could trade in their reward tickets for, Robin Barber said.

“There was a total transformation with the chore board,” Wade said. “They’re totally motivated now. They’ve even run chore competitions.”

With the success in her own home with the chore board, Barber made up a few more prototypes and asked a couple of friends to test them out. When one of them responded with a thank-you post on Facebook, more people started asking about it. Teachers and parents alike experienced great results, so Robin decided to apply for a patent and market her product.

The Neatlings Chore Board and cards have a patent pending and is being marketed on its own web site and on amazon.com. The cards come in several different colors to accommodate a number of children. The chore board can be added to, to increase its size and also be attached to the wall and easily removed. Chore labels are interchangeable for flexibility.

The cards can also be purchased separately.

“I don’t know how every one is using them,” Robin said, “I only make suggestions.”

Customers also make suggestions.

“Educators and parents have reached out to me saying that this works well with children with disabilities,” Robin said. The visual and hands-on approach is effective.

“I’m working on a line of behavioral cards that can transition from school to home,” she said. “Parents are asking for them; clearly there’s a need.”

Parents’ decks are also being requested, Robin said. Their pockets would read, “Pay the bills,” “Do laundry” and the like.

“I think I’m going to go down that road,” she said.

Barber said she got to the point where she was collating about 6,000 decks of cards for the chore charts by hand, but now they are being done by Advance Opportunities.

“I still package everything in my home,” she said.

Barber, a transplant from St. Paul, moved out to Cottonwood just five years ago when her husband, Wade, didn’t want to commute to the farm near Vesta anymore, and their three daughters were missing out on time with dad because he was on the road so much. After some searching, they found a four-bedroom home in Cottonwood.

The Neatlings Chore Chart System has made a big hit with parents, earning two awards recently. Earlier this week, Barber’s product received the Parents’ Choice Award and a Gold Moms Choice Award.

The Parents’ Choice Award is an award presented by Parents’ Choice Foundation, a non-profit, to recognize “the very best products for children of different ages and backgrounds, and of varied skill and interest levels.”

Moms’ Choice Award honors excellence in family-friendly media, products and services, putting Neatlings in the same high-quality company as Legos and Highlights (educational magazine), among others.

Additionally, Robin said that Kevin Harrington, one of the original sharks on Shark Tank, has invited her and her husband to Florida to participate in a helping-hand session where she will learn to market her product more effectively. They didn’t say how they found out about her product, only that it has mass appeal, she said, and it was innovative and simple to use, as well as having various ways to set it up.

The Barbers are planning to go to Florida in June for this opportunity.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Robin said, “but it’s exciting to know there are opportunities out there.”

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