While I have not yet taken part in Pokemon Go, the Pokemon card game has been a hit at our house for about a year now. Well, the art of the card game has been a hit. The ‘rules’ have been made up on the fly by a five year old with control issues. The kid loves the monsters though. Drawing inspiration from the game du jour, I am rolling out a way to make chores more enjoyable.
You know how parents ruin everything? Yeah, that’s what I’m about to do.
As a long time fan of gamification methodologies, I am torn on getting kids to do chores. On one hand, chores need to be done and they teach kids about the purpose of work. On the other, chores are tedious nightmare beasts and if I have to fold one more pair of socks I am going to scre….deep breath….chores are not fun.
They don’t have to be boring though, they just have to be part of the routine. Here is something I’m going to try with my sons to see if we can’t make chores better received.
Parents start the day by hiding monsters through the house/yard/easily accessible tunnel system.
We have a monster obsession at my house, so we had options for what to use as monsters. I went with cut outs from a monster themed fabric my wife picked out.
Stuffed animals, printed items, toys; anything would work as long as it is tangible and children will see them.
Hide the little beasts in accessible areas. In shoes if you have to:
Probably not light switch wall plates you thought were secured well enough, but turns out they are a solid 1/4 inch off the wall. Repairs incoming!
Next, do some chores. As children complete chores (guide below) they earn tokens.
I have bits of cut dowel at the ready at all times. I do not know why. Coins, paper scraps, bottle caps, again anything they touch and feel and take ownership of will work.
Tokens are redeemed for good to help them capture monsters. The main item, Grab-Orbs are to contain the creatures on their way home, and Tracker Helpers to have a parent/guardian point out where a hiding monster can be found. Too many options and I fear there will be decision paralysis or kids will stop caring. Two options for now. Older kids can introduce new mechanics, like food for the animals or space to keep them. Mine are five years and two years, so one is certainly not playing and the other will play for a week.
Once chores are completed the kiddos get paid. They can redeem right away and begin hunting or bank their stuff and let the monsters remain in place one more day, watching, waiting for their time to strike. I will be putting new monster(s) out daily so the five year old can go on longer hunts. If he does chores and has something to occupy his time, I’m a happy camper.
Finding a way to display the caught monsters will help. Every so often a jail break is probably needed so parents don’t have to keep finding new monsters. When a stable is full (or you run out of monsters), rewards of book store trips or movie rentals or ice cream can justify resetting the collection.
If a kid finds a monster, but does not have a Grab-orb available, give them 30 minutes to complete a chore to earn a token or two to buy one. If the chore is not completed within 30 minutes, the monster runs away. Hide it somewhere else.
Three tiers of token payout
1 token payout – cleaning up toys, putting away dishes, putting away laundry. Generally stuff that they should be doing anyway.
2 token payout– listening to directions the first time asked, cleaning up before moving onto another activity. 2 tokens for doing stuff
3 token payout – doing something nice without being asked, going a day without something violent happening; three tokens for one should require something extraordinary on the part of the child.
Reinforcing desired behaviors is the goal here. Ultimately one wants kids to complete chores for their own intrinsic needs to be met, like feeling good for doing good or knowing they are contributing to the success of the family. I don’t know enough about child development or psychology to make qualified comments on this matter, but from what I know of kids intrinsic motivation is not something they do well. Bribery for the win! If doing a chore leads to having fun, I think they will be better motivated to help out.
Adjusting what earns tokens over time (should this last more than a week) is easy to do. Completing homework, setting the table, asking for help when they need to instead of being stubborn like their father, just going the f* to sleep; chores can be adapted to age and need.
Grab-orb: 1 token
Tracker help – 2 tokens
How does a Grab-Orb work?
Because even a slight Tremors reference is worthwhile, I’m calling the things to capture monsters Grab-orbs (graboids being the menace that tried to eat Kevin Bacon). When purchased, give the kid something that opens and closes with ease. We always have plastic eggs around. One of the great mysteries of the universe. So we’re using eggs.
See the concept in action!
So there’s a quick way to add gamification to your kid’s chores. Not quite as exciting as an augmented reality game, but having tiny monsters running about the property is still pretty cool. Tell your wee ones to get out, do work and reap the benefits. It just may work.