Recently there was a post that went viral informing children that they were grounded and the conditions of their release from punishment.  In order to be allowed out of the house, the children were told that they needed to complete tasks on the list worth a total of 500 points. Tasks ranging from watering plants for 10 points to completing a load of laundry from start to fold for 100 points.

So many parents loved this idea that it carried through the internet aether and found its way to desktops and tablets everywhere.  What most of them probably didn’t realize was that this concept of points is one of the basic three components of games. PBL or “Points-Badges-Leaderboards” is a key component of a concept known as Gamification. (If you’d like to know more about PBL’s here’s a quick primer).

I’m sure that many of us have used games in the past to make things more interesting and fun for our kids.  How many parents used a reward system for potty-training or stars for good behavior? What makes these things work is that there is an added incentive that motivates the child to do the task.  Whether it’s a star for getting homework done that tracks progress toward a special treat, or a sticker worn as a badge of honor for a successful trip to the bathroom, game rewards are great motivators.

A while ago, I posted looking for ideas on how to gamify my household chores  and got some tips from some of our Facebook fans about using a star system or a reward system, which we’ve managed to implement somewhat successfully.

Stars and stickers are a great way to start, they act as both badges and points in a way, and can even be a leader board if you have multiple kids vying for them on the same poster.  The marble method, where you move marbles from one bowl to another, as a reward for good behavior or as a consequence of misbehaving, can provide an opportunity to foster teamwork in gaining these physical point representations.  But what happens when your kids inevitably bore of those simple games and need their next challenge?

Allowance and reward systems can also be introduced as kids get older, and act like a badge system for real rewards.  Using points to be allotted for certain jobs (much like the early example) can net a bonus for the week’s winner that could be anything from a monetary bonus to a free pass to get out of having to clean the toilets the following week.

This concept could also work with a more complete badge system, making cut outs that kids attain at certain levels to display in their room, like “Top Cleaner!” or “500 Points!” that unlock at determined levels of point gain or task completion.  Make your bed every day for a week get a “Now, you sleep in it” badge, finish all your homework without reminders get the “scholar” badge. The easier the task, the more it takes to get the badge, as things progress, you can increase the points needed or add on new badge levels, cleaning your room gets you a “I can see the floor!” badge, but keeping your room clean for a week gains you the “No dust bunnies here” badge or something like that.

Of course, there are simple ways to keep track of this progress, whiteboards listing scores, maybe even a family shared google spreadsheet to track and calculate points… but my favorite by far, is Chore Wars.  Chore Wars acts as a party-based fantasy game where each household member completes “adventures”. Trying quests such as “washing and folding the party’s armor” (laundry),  or “loading the enchanted cabinet of crockery washing” (Loading the dishwasher) gain the completing adventurer gold and experience (XP). They even have chances to meet up with terrifying monsters like Dust Bunnies and  fearsome Tentacles that leave behind magical items, such as the epic Rod of Plunging.

Tasks are fully customizable, right down to the monsters and rewards.  Character creation consists of picking an avatar and selecting the tasks that you most often do.  A chore selection heavy in vacuuming and taking out garbage will likely make you a barbarian, while paying bills and planning parties might earn you a place among the bards.

For $10 you can keep a log, dating back to account creation of all adventures completed for your party (a free account is one week of data) and gets you the ability to upload a custom avatar. Characters can also spend their hard earned gold for external rewards, set by the party.  So, you could say a character can pay 200 gold to get their player some extra time with the Xbox, or 30 gold to get dessert one night.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to gamify your house and to get your kids motivated to gain some enjoyment out of doing their chores.  So what are your methods?  We’d love to hear about your gamified reward systems – how do you get your kids (and even your spouses) motivated to do what has to be done?

By Kelly Allard

Associate Editor

I think one of the hardest things to write about is yourself! Either you sound absolutely insane or completely uninteresting… so, I’ll try to hit the middle ground.

I am a 30-something mom to very vibrant and very intelligent 4-year old daughter who is one of the biggest geeks I’ve ever known. She does come by it honestly, considering her father and I are both just a *little* geeky! Our little family hides in the middle of a city in upstate NY.

By day, I am embedded deep in the culture of corporate America building spreadsheets while I play the eternal game of trying to beat my last latest-and-greatest idea. By night, I’m the intrepid superhero “Gamer Mom” - you know, the one with as many faces as she has ways to beat you in Settlers of Catan?

My educational background is in Math and I love all things science-y, so I try to integrate those loves with my love of gaming! Mostly, I gravitate towards board games these days, as I have been an avid board gamer for as far as I can remember. That said, I also like to tabletop, LARP and have only recently come back to the obsessive hobby that is video games.

Gaming is something that I see as more than just a hobby, it’s a part of life that we only sometimes get to formalize in fun. We play games every day to be more productive, to get that promotion, to convince our kids to clean off the table. We thrive on achievement, on competition, and on cooperation. Whether you’re earning the “Explorer badge” in WoW, or the Longest Rail in Ticket to Ride, or your newest gold star on the Potty Chart, it’s all the same. Games are more than something we do to escape life, they are something we need to understand and master to be successful at life.

So that’s me. Hopefully I can help inspire you to find the fun in everyday life as well.

12 thoughts on “Turning Chore Time into Fun Time: Gamification in the Home”
  1. Oh wow…totally ingenius. I will have to tell my brother and mother about this because I think this would really work on my nephew.

    1. Glad to help! It’s really fun – we’ve been using a version of gamification for a while, but we did enjoy adding Chore Wars (I know my husband was overjoyed to see that it reminded me to clean the litter boxes!)

  2. My oldest is 5 and he is still at the phase where he loves getting praise for a job well done, learning new chores, and teamwork. Last night, I suggested he show his dad how well he can unload the dishwasher, so before my husband could comment, he was being dragged into the kitchen getting instructions on how he could help put away everything that my son couldn’t reach. It’s not really gamified, but it certainly got the job done.

    1. At that age it’s usually easy just to inspire them on the “new challenges” . My four year old loves to do some chores just to prove she can!

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